October 2013 Issue 1
Uganda becomes the 10th CoST country
The announcement took place at Uganda's Joint Transport Sector Review (JTSR) event in Kampala. Guests included Hon. Eng. Abraham Byandaala, Minister of Public Works and Transport, participants from central and local governments, private industry, academic institutions, NGOs and the media.
CoST will be working directly with the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA), who will lead in the implementation of CoST within the country. Implementation of the CoST Uganda programme builds on a Multi-Stakeholder approach used by the Uganda Road Council (URC) with information to be disclosed on ten road projects. It is anticipated that the lessons from this initial disclosure will be used to scale up the programme within UNRA and to encourage other procuring entities to participate in CoST Uganda.
A key issue at the event was the role of civil society and the protection of confidential business information in the disclosure process. Mr. Bekure Ketema Gebremariam, a CoST Board Member and Vice Chair of the CoST Ethiopia Multi-Stakeholder Group addressed these issues by emphasising the importance of all stakeholders committing to working in a close and balanced partnership through the Multi-Stakeholder Group. The Multi-Stakeholder Group contains representatives from government, civil society and business.
Malawi CSO demands the Government address mismanagement in road project
The Malawi Economic Justice Network (MEJN) has demanded that the Government addresses the apparent mismanagement of a road, in Southern Malawi. Construction of the 102km road has stalled since 2008 with its initial cost of $57million expected to exceed $100million.
The demand follows a series of Civil Society Regional Workshops in Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu hosted by the CoST Malawi Multi-Stakeholder Group (MSG). Attended by over 50 participants, the workshops aimed to build demand for transparency and accountability in Malawi's construction sector. MEJN is a civil society representative on the MSG.
The MSG requested that civil society organisations advocate the enactment of legislation that will promote transparency and accountability and to encourage public procuring entities to release project information into the public domain. They also requested that they sensitize the public to demand and act on the project information in order to make the public construction sector in Malawi transparent and accountable.
Lyford Gideon, CoST Malawi Coordinator, stated that the response was overwhelming with participants remarking that CoST is a very useful initiative which will not only curb mismanagement in public infrastructure development but also prevent injury and death as has happened in other countries in the recent past.
Regional workshops were also held for the media with 70 media professionals attending. The participants expressed a lot of enthusiasm for playing a greater role in promoting information disclosure and acting as a 'watch dog' to ensure transparency.
Mexican delegation visited El Salvador, Guatemala and the UK
Representatives from the Department of Public Administration and the Mexican Chamber of Construction recently visited El Salvador to become more familiar with CoST El Salvador's work on enhancing transparency and accountability in the construction sector. The visit was part of a process that will help the Government to decide if Mexico joins CoST.
The delegation was received by El Salvador's Minister of Public Works Gerson Martinez who outlined the concrete measures such as Citizen's Observatory of Public Works and integrity pacts which have been implemented since the beginning of his administration. The Minister also explained how CoST complements these measures. The visit of the Mexican delegation to El Salvador allowed for further discussions regarding the conditions and benefits of CoST membership.
The represenatives also visited to Guatemala and the UK to learn more about how CoST is implemented in each country. The UK visit was hosted by the Institution of Civil Engineers with presentations given on Establishing and implementing CoST in the UK by the UK Multi-Stakeholder Group, Changing UK industry attitudes to corruption by Balfour Beatty and UK Government initiatives by Infrastructure UK. The International Secretariat facilitated a final wrap up session with lessons drawn. The presentations provoked many questions, and the entire visit was very successful in terms of fact-finding on CoST: good contacts were forged, information was gathered and friendships were begun.
CoST attends FIDIC Centenary Conference
Consulting engineers are strategically placed to help improve transparency and accountability in public infrastructure projects. This is the view of CoST Director Petter Matthews, expressed at an 'Integrity Tools' event that formed part of the recent International Federation of Consulting Engineers (FIDIC) Centenary Conference.
Maria Vannari of the World Bank spoke in the same session. She explained that the Bank considers CoST to be integral to its efforts to improve the value for money invested in infrastructure.
The event was chaired by Jorge Diaz Padilla, Chair of FIDIC's Integrity Management Committee. In his closing remarks, Mr Padilla said that improving integrity will remain a high priority for FIDIC and that its members must be willing to work closely with civil society.
Land transparency moves up the agenda
The Overseas Development Institute has published a report entitled 'The possible shape of a land transparency initiative'. The report draws on the experience of other transparency initiatives including CoST and the EITI.
Commenting on the publication, CoST Director Petter Matthews said: 'transparency in land deals could provide a boost to economic growth and development in many countries. Whilst supporting a land transparency initiative, we urge those behind it to consider how this new initiative could be aligned with existing sectoral initiatives to avoid duplication and maximise impact'.
Open Government Partnership focuses on infrastructure
CoST has been invited to organise a high level panel discussion on improving transparency and accountability in public infrastructure, as part of the OGP Summit that will be held in London later this month. More details will be announced on the CoST website shortly.