On Monday 15 April, CoST and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) held a workshop in Mozambique to discuss the benefits of increased transparency and accountability in infrastructure governance within the country. The workshop focussed on the CoST core features of assurance, disclosure, social accountability and multi-stakeholder working and their potential impact on Mozambique’s infrastructure sector, which is currently in significant need of extra resource and investment.
There was an excellent turnout from members of various government departments in Mozambique including the Ministry of Public Works, the Ministry of Economy and Finance, the Ministry of Education and Human Development, the Ministry of State Administration and the Ministry of Transport. Such widespread attendance highlights the commitment in Mozambique to advancing its infrastructure sector, which is all the more pertinent in the wake of Cyclone Idai’s devastating impact throughout the country. Development partners present included the World Bank, the African Development Bank and DFID, as well as private sector representatives.
The purpose of the workshop was to explore how increased transparency and accountability within the infrastructure sector can build resilience and efficiency, and attract investment. To this end, the workshop kicked off by exploring the standards already in place in Mozambique which have proven effective, and those which have not. Starting at this point allows for greater knowledge sharing between actors, from government to private sector, and means that discussions reflect the plurality of infrastructure governance as opposed to amplifying one voice only. CoST promotes the principle of multi-stakeholder working for this very reason: solutions must be collaborative to succeed. In Mozambique, we found that steps to enhance transparency and accountability are often already in place, but being implemented in a fragmented and unsystematic manner. CoST’s value in this respect would be to align these efforts, join up approaches between government departments and reduce duplication across the whole of the sector.
The workshop also explored key issues which are faced by those trying to improve transparency in Mozambique’s infrastructure sector. An area of concern raised by attendees was the fact that international contracts are usually written in English and are often too costly to translate into Portuguese. This means that citizens wishing to monitor the contract stage of the project cycle are missing the information to do so, leaving them highly limited in their ability to hold decision makers to account. The CoST principle of social accountability emphasises citizen and media engagement in the project cycle because of the obvious benefits to accountability that they bring: unless contracts are accessible and open to them, transparency will always be limited and opportunities for corruption will remain.
However, there was also a clear commitment to furthering disclosure at the workshop, and any future reform in this area would build on current freedom of information legislation which has been in place since 2014. This would be an apt time for a reform of disclosure methods in Mozambique, as CoST has recently launched the Open Contracting for Infrastructure Data Standard (OC4IDS) with our partners Open Contracting Partnership. Mozambique could be one of the first countries to use the OC4IDS launched last week and take advantage of the support it offers for government, civil society and citizens alike.
This was a highly encouraging workshop which demonstrated cross-societal commitment to the reform Mozambique needs to strengthen its infrastructure sector. As well as mitigating the impact of any future natural disasters such as Cyclone Idai, this will ensure public funds are used to help the country reach its full economic and social potential.