From Lilongwe to Tegucigalpa: CoST countries working together to strengthen transparency

CoST Honduras and CoST Malawi are sharing lessons learnt to strengthen transparency in public infrastructure globally. CoST Honduras hosted CoST Malawi in Tegucigalpa for a peer-exchange programme to build international synergies and share insights from their experience locally.

CoST Malawi delegation meet CoST Honduras representatives (left to right): Lyford Gideon, CoST Malawi Country Manager; Linda Phiri, CoST Malawi MSG – Government representative; Roberto Ordoñez, CoST Honduras Champion and Minister of Infrastructure and Public Services; Joe Ching’ani, CoST Malawi MSG Chairperson; Alfredo Cantero, CoST Honduras MSG – Government representative; Tania Murillo, CoST Honduras MSG Chairperson; Evelyn Hernandez, CoST Honduras Country Manager.

A key focus of the study visit was the development of SISOCS, a subsystem of the national e-procurement portal, established by the Ministry of Infrastructure in conjunction with the World Bank and CoST Honduras. At an international level, CoST is spearheading digital engagement in the public infrastructure sector with national programmes in Ethiopia, Guatemala and the Philippines also using enhanced web portals as a mechanism for disclosure. CoST Malawi recently launched an innovative SMS platform to provide citizens with a real-time reporting mechanism for infrastructure issues affecting their local areas. However, the national programme is now seeking to strengthen this citizen engagement by increasing their access to open data and empowering local communities to hold decision makers to account. CoST Honduras has already seen great success from SISCOS, with a number of citizens forming ad-hoc monitoring groups to assess local infrastructure delivery against information disclosed on the platform.

Reflecting CoST’s multi-stakeholder approach, CoST Honduras hosted dedicated sessions for CoST Malawi to learn how different stakeholders approach the platform. Representatives from the General Directorate of Roads (DGC) provided feedback on their perspective as internal users who upload information to the platform. Representatives from local citizen transparency commissions then provided insights into their experience of the platform as external users who access the disclosed information. Finally, CoST Malawi met with the World Bank’s country office in Honduras to understand their role in the platform’s development, as well as their overall approach to investment transparency as a key player in the infrastructure sector. CoST Malawi was also warmly welcomed by the CoST Honduras Champion, Minister of Infrastructure and Public Services, Roberto Ordoñez. The Minister led on the country’s initial application to CoST and has been instrumental in its development since launching in August 2014. In a meeting with the CoST Malawi delegation, Mr Ordoñez explained how the policy environment was enabled for SISOCS through specific disclosure tools, policies and commitments.

Joe Ching’ani, CoST Malawi MSG Chairperson, said: “When political support is guaranteed, advocating for transparency in construction matters can do anything including unveiling new innovations. CoST programs in Malawi and Honduras have proven this as reflected in the Toll Free SMS initiative from CoST Malawi and the e-procurement portal SISOCS for CoST Honduras. A key lesson that emerged was the need to channel adequate resources into sensitising and empowering citizens to understand the tools available to monitor or question public infrastructure projects. This means if we take out or omit citizen participation, such brilliant programs will be yet another toothless bull.”

Roberto Ordoñez, CoST Honduras Champion and Minister of Infrastructure and Public Services, said: “We welcome CoST Malawi to come back anytime and anything we can share with them they are free to ask – moreover, they should not ask just tell us and gladly we will cooperate with them.”

For more information, check out the press coverage of the trip (available in Spanish).