Following a rigorous application process, the Procurement Service – Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM), in collaboration with WeSolve Foundation Philippines (WeSolve PH), emerged victorious in its quest to advance procurement reforms in the Philippines after having been identified as among the only ten “outstanding teams” that earned the support of the Open Contracting Partnership (OCP) through its program, Lift.

Of the 150 proposals from 70 countries worldwide, the Philippines joins Brazil, Chile, Lithuania, Senegal, Thailand, Uganda, United Kingdom, and the United States in this year’s list of grantees eligible to receive financial support and tailored technical assistance from OCP.

According to its official website, OCP is an independent non-profit charity based in Washington, D.C., USA that partners with governments, businesses, civil society, and technologists to make public contracting fair and effective by bringing open data and open government together. Lift is OCP’s accelerator program designed to help the selected teams deliver change by assisting them in redesigning processes, policies, and data ultimately aimed at improving public integrity, sustainability, and inclusion.

In an announcement issued on September 6, 2023, OCP pledged to support the selected teams “as they open and strengthen their procurement systems and build their capacity to deliver on their goals.” The Philippine team, represented by PS-DBM and WeSolve PH, aims to increase transparency and accountability around government purchases and improve value for taxpayer money.

The Problem
When the Lift applications opened in March 2023, OCP simply posed this question: How can open contracting be used to (i) fight corruption and strengthen democratic institutions; (ii) protect the environment or improve climate resilience; and (iii) promote economic and social inclusion?

Due to the controversies that hounded PS-DBM at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, including alleged anomalies in the procurement of personal protective equipment for healthcare workers and laptops for teachers, the Philippine team zeroes in on improving public integrity and anti-corruption initiatives.

The resolution to the problem that PS-DBM and WeSolve PH seek to address is just among the many efforts of the agency to institute transformational reforms and policies geared towards bridging the gaps in the existing public procurement process, which shall prevent alleged anomalous and irregular transactions from happening again.

The Proposal
Deemed as among the teams with the strongest potential for impact, power to make change, and capacity to mitigate challenges, the Philippine team was shortlisted to undergo the pitch and interview portion of the application process. This followed the evaluation of all written submissions from around the world which trimmed the entries from 150 down to only 21.

On July 21, PS-DBM Director for Procurement Group Atty. Genmaries Entredicho- Caong, together with WeSolve PH’s Mr. Lyonel Tanganco, Relationship Manager and Ms. Riz Comia, Senior Associate, presented their proposal before OCP’s Mr. Gavin Hayman, Executive Director; Mr. Andrii Hazin, Senior Data Support Manager; Ms. Bernadine Fernz, Head of Sustainability, Infrastructure and Asia; and Ms. Nanda Sihombing, Senior Program Manager for Asia.

In their presentation, the PS-DBM and WeSolve PH highlighted their proposed solutions to the problems identified. These include the adoption of best practices to identify red flags for corruption; improvement of the current procedure in conducting market price analysis and developing cost estimates; and improvement of strategy in packaging or unbundling the contracts, among others.

Apart from problem identification, solution overview, potential impacts, and challenges, the presenters also elaborated on how OCP through the Lift program will aid in the attainment of goals by providing financial and technical assistance, communicating experience and lessons with international audiences, and building public support and trust for the incumbent leadership and management.

On August 9, an email notification confirmed the inclusion of the Philippine team in the final list of 10 successful applicants.

The Promise
Based on the timeline indicated in the Lift Applicant Handbook, the program is presently at the onboarding and planning stage. Over the next 18 months, the selected teams will be immersed in the OCP landscape through in-person workshops and virtual meetings provided with data and technical support as well as monitoring, learning, and evaluation support.

It adds that by the end of the program approximately between February and April 2025, the teams would have built political buy-in, improved the use of open data and open data systems, implemented contracting strategies including processes and procedures, designed inclusive reforms, and collaborated with stakeholders.

“We look forward with great enthusiasm toward this partnership with WeSolve and OCP to develop fair, just, and reasonable prices. We believe that Lift will help us increase bidders’ participation and strengthen trust by our clients and suppliers,” said PS-DBM in a statement.

The PS-DBM headed by its Executive Director Atty. Dennis S. Santiago and the WeSolve PH headed by its President Executive Director Kenneth Isaiah Ibasco Abante are immensely proud to be part of a community of reformers and are thrilled to commence this journey towards realizing the agency’s vision, that is, to become the trusted and preferred procurement partner of the Philippine public sector.

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