Core feature: Assurance

A site visit conducted during CoST El Salvador’s second assurance process

The CoST assurance process helps stakeholders to understand the data published on specific infrastructure projects in the CoST disclosure process. The process is carried out by an independent assurance team appointed by CoST members who highlight the accuracy and completeness of data – turning data into compelling information – so that key issues are put into the public domain and are easily understood. As of December 2019, our members have reviewed over 370 public infrastructure projects as part of the assurance process.


In sum, the assurance process looks at:

  • Monitoring compliance of the procuring entities of infrastructure projects in accordance with a country’s legal provisions on disclosure or with the CoST International Data Standard
  • Highlighting issues of concern
  • Carrying out a more detailed review of a sample of projects or referring projects to an independent authority.


How does CoST select the data?


In the initial stages of a CoST programme only a handful of procuring entities and a small number of projects are selected for inclusion in the assurance process. If the data highlights key issues or if there are gaps in the data, the procuring entities in question are then targeted in successive assurance processes.
Once a programme enters a longer duration, countries move towards gathering more extensive data and they begin to look at aggregating data by procuring entity, region, project type and/or across a sector. An example of one programme which has done this is CoST Honduras who moved to record data on an online procurement system, SISOCS, which categorises data in this way.


Summarising the findings: The CoST assurance report

Attendees at the launch of CoST Afghanistan’s Second Assurance Report


The assurance process culminates in the production of an assurance report which focus on:

  • The accuracy and completeness of disclosed information
  • Common performance issues across projects
  • Issues of concern on specific projects
  • An evaluation of the issues and common themes
  • Recommendations


The assurance report uses language and a format that can be understood so that the social accountability feature of CoST can work in the best way possible and decision-makers are held to account.

 

 

 

 

Moving to accountability: Using the assurance report to demand better infrastructure


Once the assurance report has been produced, the social-accountability component of CoST comes into play with civil society and the media helping to promote report findings and recommendations in the public domain. As the media highlights from CoST Assurance Week 2019 show, the key findings of assurance reports are easily picked up and disseminated by news outlets.

The ongoing attention which is sparked by assurance reports has the potential to result in lasting change: after the launch of Afghanistan’s First Assurance Report in 2018, issues identified contributed to the establishment of a Design Review Unit overseen by the Ministry of Public Works to improve project preparation. According to the Minister of Transport, H.E. Yama Yari, by 2019 this already ‘’has saved millions’’.

The CoST Uganda MSG meets the Physical Infrastructure Committee

In addition to this, each country’s multi-stakeholder groups (MSGs) continually reference assurance reports when engaging with relevant authorities such as national audit offices, anti-corruption commissions or procurement authorities. For instance, when CoST Uganda established a formal relationship with the Physical Infrastructure Committee of Parliament in 2019, it was agreed that the MSG would share assurance report findings with the Committee in order to keep members abreast of key issues from the assurance process. Crucially, this will be in tandem with engagement on a variety of topics which can arise beyond the assurance process, such as contract management and citizen engagement. A consistent approach will help the MSG as it builds a strong, long-lasting relationship with the Committee and advocates across government more widely.


CoST Assurance Week


CoST Assurance Week is an annual celebration of the assurance process. CoST members mark the week by publishing assurance reports, promoting their findings at launch events and engaging the media, civil society and public on key issues which have been uncovered. Take a look at our blog for Assurance Week 2019 for more information and the impact that we’ve seen.


Further information on the assurance process


For further information on the assurance process download Guidance Note 7: Designing an Assurance Process. In 2020 we will be launching the CoST Assurance Manual: a comprehensive, step-by-step guide to producing assurance reports. The Assurance Manual is designed to support CoST country managers in the formulation of clear, concise and accessible assurance reports which are adaptable to country-specific contexts.


Useful links

CoST Assurance: Step by step
Digging deep into CoST Assurance: The data, key issues and promoting sector reforms
Turning infrastructure data into compelling information: How CoST Assurance adds value to open government and open contracting
CoST Assurance Week 2019 – how did the media react?
Assurance Week 2019: Highlights and what’s in store for 2020
CoST members to launch five assurance reports during CoST Assurance Week 2018