1 Introduction

The goal of this manual is to provide the basic foundations needed to analyze and visualize Open Contracting data using the R programming language to people that might be interested in pursuing this challenging but worthy endeavor. A basic understanding of computer programming will come in handy when reading this document; however, enough guidance is provided to ensure that less-tech-savvy readers can also follow along.

As a part of this guide, we fetch, clean, analyze and plot samples of Open Contracting data from 4 members of the partnership: Paraguay, Mexico, Uruguay and Colombia. This document was written using R Notebooks, a nifty feature which allows convenient integration of Markdown and R code, and exporting to HTML and PDF. The source code of this project is available here.

The rest of this document is organized as follows:

1.1 An introduction to the Open Contracting Data Standard

By requiring data-sharing in a structured, re-usable and machine readable form, Open data opens up new opportunities for analysis and citizen engagement and participation. The Open Contracting Data Standard was created to apply these principles to the complete contracting lifecycle including planning, tender, award, contract and implementation.

The data standard, designed and developed through an open process, allows governments and cities around the world to share their contracting data, enabling greater transparency in public contracting, and supporting accessible and in-depth analysis of the efficiency, effectiveness, fairness, and integrity of public contracting systems. Additionally, the help desk team, staffed by Open Data Services Co-operative, is available to assist prospective users in their journey towards adoption of the standard.

The intention of this section is to introduce the reader to the standard, the use cases it was designed for and the basic concepts needed to apply it. Most of the content was taken from the official documentation of the standard; for a more thorough introductory walktrough, please refer to the getting started guide.

1.1.1 Users and use cases

The standard was designed with four main groups of user needs:

  • Achieving value for money for government
  • Strengthening the transparency, accountability and integrity of public contracting
  • Enabling the private sector to fairly compete for public contracts
  • Monitoring the effectiveness of service delivery

To find out about who is using OCDS-compliant data around the globe and how they are doing it, have a look at the Open Contracting Partnership website. Four potential use cases for open contracting data are:

  • Value for money in procurement: helping officials get good value for money during the procurement process, and analyzing whether this goals was achieved afterwards.
  • Detecting fraud and corruption: identifying red flags that might indicate corruption by studying individual procurements or networks based on funding, ownership and interests.
  • Competing for public contracts: allowing private firms to understand the potential pipeline of procurement opportunities by looking at information related to past and current procurements.
  • Monitoring Service Delivery: helping interested actors to leverage traceability in the procurement process for monitoring purposes, linking budgets and donor data to the contracts and results.

1.1.2 The contracting process

The standard defines a contracting process as:

All the planning, tendering information, awards, contracts and contract implementation information related to a single initiation process.

The standard covers all the stages of a contracting process, even though some processes might not involve all possible steps. The stages of the procurement process, with example objects that might be associated to each one, are depicted in figure 1.