Written by Eleanor Morgan, CoST Communications Manager, this blog was originally published by Open Government Partnership (OGP) here.
We all need better value infrastructure. From the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to the World Bank Group, it is generally estimated that USD$3.7 trillion global infrastructure investment is needed annually yet only around US$2.7 trillion is currently available each year. That’s an infrastructure investment gap of US$1 trillion. That’s communities across the world denied access to the roads, schools, hospitals, railways, airports and more that they need not only to prosper but to survive.
Time and time again though, we see that even available resources fall far short of their potential impact. It is estimated that between 10% and 30% of investment in infrastructure could be lost through corruption. Our experience at CoST suggests that a similar amount could be wasted through mismanagement and inefficiency. With the value of global investment expected to increase by close to 4% per annum, this means that we could see up to US$5 trillion lost annually by 2030. Without significant improvements in the delivery of public infrastructure, the size and impact of the infrastructure investment gap is only going to grow.
There are numerous reasons for the scale of losses in infrastructure, from its uniqueness to its complexity and its scale. These factors make it more susceptible to corruption than other sectors, as highlighted by Transparency International’s latest Bribe Payers Index (Transparency International, 2011). It demonstrates that companies in public works and construction are the worst offenders for bribery and fall far below the average, with a score of 0 being the view that bribes are almost always paid and a score of 10 that bribes are never paid. Furthermore, these findings are consistent with Transparency International’s previous Index in 2008.
We need an international effort to improve infrastructure delivery. But we don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Right now, fifty-one countries are currently co-creating their next OGP National Action Plans (NAP) together with civil society. They’re defining a set of ambitious commitments that advance transparency, accountability and participation – the three core features of CoST. Combining CoST’s experience on the ground of delivering impact, with OGP’s global reach and high-level political leadership, we can create this change together with three simple steps:
- Strengthen transparency by disclosing information in line with the CoST Infrastructure Data Standard (CoST IDS): CoST significantly increases transparency (as highlighted in the graph) by sharing information that countries already collect. The CoST IDS covers 40 data points across the entire project lifecycle, the majority of which are simply taken from official and administrative records. This small step can help all stakeholders – government, industry and civil society – understand how money is being spent and ensure value for money. Check out the CoST IDS in full here.
- Be ambitious and drive transparency and accountability through technological innovation: CoST national programmes in Ethiopia, Guatemala, Honduras and the Philippines are using enhanced web portals as a mechanism for disclosure. These digital platforms provide citizens with open access to data so that they can monitor local infrastructure projects and hold decision makers to account. Though when more than half of the world’s population is still not connected, there are other means of driving innovation. For example, CoST Malawi has established an official toll free text number which allows citizens to report infrastructure delivery delays and mismanagement quickly and easily. These technological initiatives advance government transparency, accountability and public participation for better value infrastructure. Find out more about how CoST is using technology to boost citizen engagement.
- Become a member of CoST and join a global initiative for better value infrastructure: According to the latest OGP report, a striking number of NAPs were not relevant to OGP values. CoST embodies the vision of OGP, which is why El Salvador scored 100% for relevance when it committed to establishing a CoST Multi-Sector Stakeholder Group as part of its NAP. We have a track record of saving money, delivering legal and institutional reforms and building the capacity of stakeholders. For example to date, CoST Guatemala has seen savings of up to US$5 million which is more than a tenfold return on investment in CoST. We can help you reap these benefits in your country, involving industry and civil society in the journey, for sustainable and effective impact. Discover how you can become a member of CoST here.
OGP’s vision is that more governments become sustainably more transparent, more accountable, and more responsive to their own citizens, whilst CoST works for the same goal with stakeholders globally in the infrastructure sector. Working together we will have greater impact, which is why we are delighted to support OGP and its participating countries develop their NAPs for better value infrastructure. If you’d like to find out more about how you can incorporate CoST and its principles into your NAP, get in touch today and follow us on Twitter (@CoSTransparency) for the latest news!