CoST Malawi: Strengthening public infrastructure in policy and in practice

CoST Malawi launched its latest assurance report, featuring in-depth analysis on the transparency levels of 26 sample public infrastructure projects. The report revealed that almost all publicly-funded projects (where donors were not responsible for direct disbursement of project funds) suffered from non-payment, delayed payments and cost overruns.

With the report covering a variety of sectors including education, energy, housing, health, transport and water, these projects represent life-changing infrastructure for citizens. In order to support the timely and cost-efficient delivery of public infrastructure, the report recommends that Government consider alternative financing arrangements to avoid these issues. Dr. Saulos Chilima, Vice President of Malawi and the CoST Malawi Champion, expressed hope that report findings and recommendations would be used to bring in positive change in the management of the country’s infrastructure projects (Nyasa Times, 2016).

CoST Malawi’s assurance report also identified challenges surrounding the availability of accessibility of information. The assurance process discovered that Procuring Entities (PEs) often had no institutional electronic data storage systems, with public project information often trapped in individual email inboxes. The report recommends that PEs develop centralised storage systems so that information is available to all, as opposed to a few. CoST Malawi is already working with CoST Honduras to share lessons from their experiences with SISOCS, a disclosure platform for road projects in Honduras created in partnership with the World Bank.

CoST Malawi welcomed the CoST International Board to Lilongwe for the report launch to share its lessons learned and best practices in public infrastructure transparency. As part of the visit, the CoST International Board and CoST Malawi worked with key stakeholders, including the CoST Malawi Champion and Vice President of Malawi Dr. Saulos Chilima, to advocate for the institutionalisation of public infrastructure transparency in national legislation. CoST Malawi and its Champion have long campaigned for a disclosure mandate to support PEs in realising greater transparency in public infrastructure projects. The Government of Malawi has revised the Public Procurement Act to include a CoST Formal Disclosure Requirement (FDR), however the changes are yet to be approved by Parliament. Both CoST Malawi and CoST International hope that the report’s findings will incentivse Parliament to enshrine CoST disclosure requirements in law.

Dr. Saulos Klaus Chilima, Vice-President of Malawi and CoST Malawi Champion, said: “Change does not happen by thinking; change happens by changing. I therefore consider CoST as a catalyst for driving change in the way of doing business relating to construction projects in Malawi. This is why I am committed to championing the CoST agenda, whole heartedly, in this country.”

CoST Malawi will work closely with stakeholders on the ground to ensure their findings and recommendations are taken forward at the local level. Following the report launch, CoST Malawi hosted a radio debate in which representatives from government, industry and civil society responded to citizen’s questions submitted via the CoST Malawi new SMS platform. CoST Malawi’s previous assurance report saw some contracts cancelled and then transparently re-tendered following the report’s findings of financial mismanagement. Stay tuned for updates on the responses and actions arising from CoST Malawi’s latest assurance report.

For further information, please download the latest CoST Malawi Assurance Report.