Posted 23 April, 2013 by Susannah Vila

Citizen Monitoring of Public Works Projects in Peru

This is part of a series of posts from the engine room’s collaboration with the Transparency International People Engagement Programme. It includes 1) the initiative’s strategic plan and 2) ways to get involved

Read this in Spanish here.

Proética’s Ojos A Las Obras is a project in-development that will bring three distinct government transparency portals together to make information about contracts related to public works (parks, bridges, sidewalks) more accessible and user-friendly. The site will allow visitors to find up-to-date information about contracts related to any public works that are in-progress in their area. The search functionality will make it easier for citizens to track these projects which, ideally, will deter malfeasance in public spending.

Audiences, Allies & Targets

Proética has a country-wide community of volunteers called an Anti-Corruption Network. Ojos a Las Obras plans to implement a pilot with network members in two distinct regions. They’ll work with these network members to track public infrastructure projects in their respective communities and produce ‘citizen vigilance’ reports. Then they will push these reports to the media and NGO partners as part of an outreach campaign.

Finding allies is a critical step in identifying the right audiences (and key for an effective pilot). Proética is lucky in that many of its volunteer network members also work with relevant NGOs in their respective regions, and can serve as allies for Ojos a Las Obras during the pilot.

Allies aren’t the only audience for a project like this. It also must build relationships with public officials and turn reports of corruption into a clear case for government action to stop it. The development of the Ojos a Las Obras web application could be a great opportunity to spark collaboration with government. Indeed, there’s a lot of opportunity for improving the government sites. They are relatively unfriendly for both the average user and to developers; they do not allow for easy searching or provide API access to their data. A prototype of the application was built during a recent hackathon, and while it does allow users to (in a very quick and dirty way) search three different sites for public works in their neighborhood, it would be more efficient and usable if it were created in collaboration with the team within the government that manages these portals.

Application Development & Ways to Get Involved

The requirements of the application are that users must be able to search by state, region, and town to see which public works are ongoing and who pays for them, how big the budget is, who was contracted to implement them and when it is supposed to be finished, as well as by keyword. Here’s the prototype again, and these are the three relevant government transparency portals:

  1. The Peruvian Ministry of Finance and Economy’s transparency portal;
  2. The electronic system for government contracts (SEAC);
  3. Transparency portal for the entire federal government.

This project is in early stages and is still very open to feedback. If you’re a developer, don’t hesitate to take a look at these websites and give your two cents. If you and/or your organization have taken on similar projects (and challenges) it would be useful for this initiative to exchange notes with you!

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