The CoST Central America countries – Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama – convened at a regional workshop in Honduras from 3 – 6 September to share experiences and discuss challenges and opportunities facing CoST and how best to strengthen the initiative in the region.
Sponsored by the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office Central America Programme Fund, the workshop was highly interactive, including several break-out sessions and problem-solving exercises. By the end of the workshop, each country had created a strategic action plan for the year ahead which will be used to strengthen the national programmes and help to mitigate current and unforeseen challenges.
Participants included the country managers and representatives from CoST Multi-Stakeholder Groups (MSG) which includes government, the private sector and civil society. Facilitating collaboration amongst these stakeholders is central to CoST, particularly through the MSG which provides a neutral platform for them to pursue the initiative.
CoST Honduras Country Manager, Evelyn Hernandez said, “Bringing together countries in the region to share lessons and their stories is extremely important. Furthermore, it provides an opportunity for the Multi-Stakeholder Groups to hear from and be encouraged by their counterparts on how similar or shared problems have been overcome.”
Among its topics, the workshop looked at the disclosure, assurance and social accountability components of programmes in the respective countries. Common themes found among all countries included how best to institutionalise CoST and increase social accountability, particularly by engaging academia and the media.
Looking ahead, countries will continue to convene for regional workshops on an annual basis, to assess their achievements and discuss how to overcome any challenges faced. An annual regional update will also be put in place to, among other things, build the knowledge and capacity of new MSG members.
At present, Central American countries represent almost a third of CoST participating countries and their successes in enhancing transparency in public infrastructure has been impressive. Recently the Government of Honduras applied a legal intervention to review several contracts awarded by Fondo Vial, the institution which had previously carried out all road maintenance projects in Honduras. The intervention has been justified as being in the national interest and is the result of findings from the CoST Honduras Assurance process which showed Fondo Vial as being one of the most deficient procurement entities in disclosing public infrastructure data.