Chile’s state procurement agency ChileCompra has launched a new data portal which will help entrepreneurs as well as taxpayers to see how much, who and what type of products and services are traded by the state.
Launched this week, the agency says the portal (Datos Abiertos ChileCompra) makes use of the internationally recognised Open Contracting Data Standard.
César Hidalgo (pictured above), professor of the Collective Learning Group of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) who helped put together the DataChile site, described the portal as “more advanced than in many countries of the world".
Using pictograms and easy-to-read tables to display data, the portal (see screenshot below) displays such things as the six biggest contracts or purchase orders per sector won in each month of a particular year (data goes back to 2007).
One is also able to navigate to see what contracts in recent years, each state entity, department of municipality has given out, the details and value of the contract, how many bids were posted for it and who the bid winner was.
Likewise you can view a list of the suppliers of winning bids and such data as the value of contracts that went to what size firm in each region.
Routed in open data
The portal is routed in an open data policy that the agency began 10 years ago, with the aim of providing a source of valuable information for public procurement decisions in the development of public policies.
ChileCompra director Trinidad Inostroza says the new site is based on the latest available technologies and the best practices in user-centered design, according to the needs of the buyers and suppliers of the State.
Contracts to SMEs grow
E-procurement has helped the Chilean government to not only save millions of dollars in cutting unnecessary red tape, but has also made tenders more accessible to small firms.
In 2016 in all 60.2% of the amount in contracts facilitated by the portal went to SMEs (45.1% of all procurement went to micro and small firms), show statistics on the agency’s website.
This, while ChileCompra has grown from servicing 33,000 suppliers in 2003, to 123,000 in 2016 facilitating $10 million in transactions.
A report by ChileCompra last year revealed that the percentage of procurement channelled to small and micro enterprises has increased over the years - having grown from 33% of the value of contracts in 2007, to 45% in 2016.
In 2007 small and micro firms made up 89.6% of the over 59,000 contractors winning bids. This too has grown – to 92.4% of the 77,000 contractors winning bids.
The size of a company generally dictates how successful it is at winning a contract. Big firms win just over a third of their bids, against about one in five bids for small busineses.
Yet, interestingly while big firms have upped their success rate between 2007 and 2016 -- from 33.5% of bids to 37.1%, micro firms are out performing small businesses.
Small businesses had their success rate grow from 20.9% to 22.3% of contracts. Micro firms however now win 24.3% of the bids they go for, against 20.2% back in 2007. Researchers don't say why micro firms have become more successful than small businesses.
But an e-procurement portal alone isn't enough if citizens (including those running small businesses) are unable to determine who is getting what contracts. Publishing accessible and easy to view data such as ChileCompra has done will do much to fight graft.
Other emerging market countries - in particular those battling corruption such as Brazil, South Africa, Malaysia and India - could do well to look to the example of ChileCompra.
*The Chilean government is not stopping there. In a news report on 22 January 2018 the state said it would seek to promote more use of electronic procurement, as one of 11 measures to boost investment in the country.
Timm is a South African who writes on small business and has visited Chile various times. Follow Small Business Insight on Twitter at @Smallbinsight.
Stephen Timm is a