Citizen Engagement in Public Procurement: A Qualitative Assessment

Government of Bangladesh has been making sustained efforts over the years to bring about a systemic change in the public procurement system. The Central Procurement Technical Unit (CPTU) under the Ministry of Planning is working as a key institution to regulate procurement laws and to improve the procurement system in the country. The Central Procurement Technical Unit (CPTU) under the Implementation Monitoring & Evaluation Division (IMED) of the Ministry of Planning (MoP) is implementing a World Bank-financed project titled: “Digitizing Implementation Monitoring and Public Procurement Project (DIMAPPP)” to is to promote transparency, accountability and efficiency in public procurement by enabling multi-stakeholders’ engagement.

BIGD is implementing a model of citizen engagement in public procurement under DIMAPP in 48 Upazillas across Bangladesh. BIGD is also studying the model’s effectiveness through a Randomized Control trial. Alongside, BIGD researchers are also conducting an in-depth qualitative analysis of the socio-political dynamics of effective implementation and scaleup of the intervention.

Researchers: Dr Mirza M. Hassan; Syeda Salina Aziz

Partners: Central Procurement Technical Unit (CPTU)

Timeline: 2018-2022

Status: Completed

Contact: Syeda Salina Aziz;


Public procurement affects virtually all aspects of our lives—health, education, economic opportunities and overall quality of life. About a third of government budget and 70% of the developmental budget is spent on public procurement. So, efficient, effective and economical (3Es) public procurement is instrumental in building a prosperous and equitable society.

The government of Bangladesh has been working relentlessly over the last two decades to bring a systemic change in the public procurement system with an aim to achieving the 3Es; the Central Procurement Technical Unit (CPTU) under the Implementation Monitoring & Evaluation Division (IMED) of the Ministry of Planning the agency in-charge in this reform process. BIGD has been working with CPTU since 2009 to develop and test a model of participatory governance, in the form of Citizen Engagement (CE) in the monitoring of public work projects, for increasing accountability and transparency in public procurement and subsequently improve the quality of public goods and services. BIGD’s effort resulted in the integration of a CE component in government’s Public Procurement Reform Project (PPRP, Phase-II) and subsequently in the Digitizing Implementation Monitoring and Public Procurement Project (DIMAPPP), both financed by the World Bank.

Based on the lessons learned from the pilots implemented under PPRP-II, BIGD developed a low-cost and politically feasible strategy of CE, which has been integrated with DIMAPPP. The project is being implemented in 12 Upazilas and will be scaled up in another 36 Upazilas by 2020. BRAC’s Community Empowerment Programme is assisting BIGD at the field-level implementation of the CE component.

Alongside a large-scale randomized control trial (RCT) to measure its impact, BIGD is conducting in-depth qualitative research to understand the socio-political dynamics of the intervention.


How citizen engagement leads to positive impact may not have a straightforward answer. For example, from the pilot, we know that absence of commitment from authorities and citizens and lack of capacities, citizen engagement may turn into a ‘tick the box’ type exercise. Using a combination of qualitative methods, the study aims to understand:

  • Why and how do citizens participate?
  • What motivated or de-motivated citizens to participate/engage in the citizen engagement process (attend site meeting, visit and monitor development projects)?
  • How do existing social norms and practices (religious, conservative, social stigma) influence the citizen engagement process?
  • What challenges do the citizen monitoring group members face?

This study is relevant to SDG 16 (Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions), particularly to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.


The interventions are taking place in 16 Upazilas during the first year (2019). Based on the experience in year 1, BIGD may modify the strategies for the remaining intervention period. From Year 2 onwards, the interventions will take place in all 48 Upazilas.
BIGD’s Qualitative research team is exploring context-specific factors affecting citizen engagement using methods such as focus ethnography, key-informant interview (KII) and, focus group discussion (FGD). Sylhet division was chosen for the qualitative study. Twenty-eight KIIs and six FGDs were conducted with citizens, citizen monitoring group members, local contractors, government officials, Union Parishad representatives and civil society members. The information has also been collected from other divisions to support our findings. BIGD is also conducting a systematic process documentation research to capture daily project implementation challenges and responses, which also enrich research.

Findings and Recommendations

Our early findings suggest a significant increase in awareness and monitoring within a short time. Citizens consider the engagement process as a very good initiative for bringing transparency in public procurement.
There is a sense of ownership among the citizen in the citizen engagement process as it directly affects their lives as well as the lives of their children/grandchildren. In fact, the level of monitoring by citizens in both types of interventions depends on the degree to which they believe in the relevance of the construction project to them or their future generation.

Female participation was low in areas where social and religious norms prevent women from engaging in activities that require them to leave the house or interact with other men in the community.
In the case of organized citizen engagement, the ability of field officers to identify the ideal candidate for the groups as well as their capacity to mobilize and build relations affects the level of participation of citizens.
The timing, duration and area covered by the loudspeaker announcement and the timing of the site meeting have an effect on the level of participation in site meetings.

  • Based on these findings, we recommend:
  • Building networks with local political and social elites to engage more citizens in site meetings.
  • Organizing people, who are enthusiastic about monitoring development works voluntarily.
  • Developing a proper guideline for site meeting announcement (e.g. standard time, larger radius and the number of times of loudspeaker announcements).
  • To make women more comfortable and motivated to monitor procurement work, it is necessary to keep female speakers in the site meetings.