CoST core feature: Social accountability

The CoST core feature of social accountability plays an important role in ensuring key issues in public infrastructure projects enter the public domain. The feature sees us working closely with stakeholders from across civil society and the media who can influence the public and hold decision-makers to account. And over recent years we have begun to work more closely with citizens, helping to amplify their voice to demand better infrastructure.

CoST tools for social accountability

The assurance process

Media engagement at CoST El Salvador’s third assurance report launch

Our assurance process and the assurance report are major tools which can be used by the media, civil society and others to shed light on key issues. The assurance process turns project data into compelling information and uses language and a format that can be understood by the public. Social accountability actors can then take these key findings and use various means – such as the national press, community events or CSO reports – to put them in the public domain. The assurance report launch is a major event by which to publicise these findings and engage both the public and high-level decision makers through one of the key social accountability actors, the media.

Media training

CoST also has a long standing tradition of holding training events and public engagement sessions, as well as facilitating media debates and establishing journalism awards. After running a bespoke training programme for journalists in Uganda, including a session delivered by a reporter from Uganda’s influential ‘New Vision’ outlet, CoST Uganda launched its first investigative journalism award in 2018. Journalists in attendance went on to publish stories through 18 media houses across TV, radio and print media.

Meanwhile, CoST Malawi has received international recognition for its innovative citizen feedback service, which allows Malawians to log concerns over infrastructure projects by simply texting an SMS number. After the launch of the service, CoST Malawi utilised radio as a tool to engage authorities, who were given an opportunity to respond through radio panel discussions. Continuing to use influential radio stations to reach citizens, CoST Malawi developed 70 radio jingles which were broadcast over 2018 to encourage visitors to its new online disclosure platform.

Citizen monitors

Increasingly, CoST programmes are developing new tools to help citizens monitor the delivery of public infrastructure directly. In June 2019, CoST Uganda launched the Infrastructure Transparency Monitoring Tool to assist community monitors who undertake site visits and assess the level of data disclosure on projects against the CoST Infrastructure Data Standard. The tool has received significant endorsement, shown notably through its adoption by five local governments including Wakiso District Local Government.

Graduates from the School of Social Audit

CoST Honduras works closely with Citizen Transparency Commissions (CTCs) and as of January 2020, has established partnerships with almost 250 CTCs. To strengthen their capacity, CoST Honduras created the School of Social Audit in 2017 to train CTC members on monitoring complex infrastructure projects and conducting ‘social audits’ to measure their impact. As of December 2019, 90 social auditors have been trained through the School of Social Audit.

Public interest in infrastructure development, and appetite for citizen monitoring, has also grown significantly in Afghanistan in recent years. In 2019, CoST Afghanistan held a series of engagement sessions to promote citizen-based monitoring of infrastructure using the information disclosed in government e-portals. With over 330 students from Kabul University attending one session in July 2019, as citizen monitoring increases throughout the country, so too will the levels of accountability in the delivery of public infrastructure.

Community events

A baraza in Wakiso District, Uganda

CoST Uganda has established a series of successful community engagement events called barazas, which have amplified the voice of citizens in the infrastructure decision-making process. One such event in November 2018 allowed Ugandan citizens to tell local authorities about key issues, including insufficient citizen participation and environmental impact assessments, which had resulted in poor waste disposal management along construction sites and in nearby towns. The authorities then took several measures to address these issues.

Drawing on CoST Uganda’s experience, CoST Malawi also convened 250 people at a community event in 2018 to increase understanding of CoST. CoST Sekondi-Takoradi, Ghana held its first baraza in mid-2019 and CoST Tanzania is in the process of taking forward a similar approach.

Once these issues are put in the public domain, pressure is applied on government to deal with problems and ensure they do not reoccur in the future. Ultimately, this results in better quality public infrastructure that enables communities to thrive and trust to furthered between citizens and politicians.

See our impact page for more examples of CoST engagement with social accountability stakeholders.