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The Case for Open Contracting in Infrastructure

El caso de la contratación abierta en infraestructura

Les arguments en faveur de contrats ouverts en matière d’infrastructures

Lessons from Reformers

This case study was originally posted in the OGP Global Report.

According to the International Monetary Fund, the inefficiencies in public infrastructure—as measured by the gap between the level of public investment and the coverage/quality of the resulting infrastructure— amounts to around 30%. In addition, only about one third of OGP countries have an open and competitive bidding process for public works, as illustrated by Figure 2. Open contracting can help to address these issues. In particular, the Construction Sector Transparency Initiative (CoST) is an important mechanism for implementing open contracting in infrastructure through the disclosure of information at key stages of the entire project cycle, an independent review process, multi-stakeholder engagement, and channels for social accountability.

OGP commitments focused on implementing CoST have already achieved important results. In Honduras, the government disclosed data from almost 1,000 infrastructure projects, including public-private partnerships. In Ukraine, a review of more than 120 public road reparation contracts led to the identification of several issues, such as poor-quality works and pricing discrepancies. Perhaps more importantly, these commitments have resulted in both greater civic engagement and concrete policy changes.

Example: Civic Participation Makes a Difference in Malawi

CoST Malawi established several channels for citizens to share their concerns about public infrastructure projects. An SMS messaging service and public radio debates allow citizens to share feedback and question decision-makers. CoST Malawi also made an effort to engage the media through training and “Media Awards” that recognize excellent reporting on key issues in public infrastructure. As for impacts, CoST Malawi helped to terminate a contract on a public road that included poor quality work, as well as a price increase. This outcome mirrors those that CoST has achieved elsewhere, such as ensuring that a defective bridge in Ukraine was repaired and helping to stop environmental pollution on a construction site in Honduras.

Photo Credit: CoST Honduras

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