With this commitment, we consolidate the transformation towards an open government – one of the pillars of the Solis Rivera Administration. We know that infrastructure has historically been one of the most opaque and socially conflicting sectors, so we celebrate this step to improve these projects
Ana Gabriel Zúñiga Aponte, Vice Minister Political Affairs and Citizen Dialogue, Ministry of the Presidency
Prior to CoST: Public infrastructure in context
In 2019, Costa Rica’s economy was ranked 62nd globally on the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Index. At the same time, Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index has placed it 44 out of 180 countries with a score of 56/100, rising four places since 2018.
Costa Rica’s commitment to transparency is enshrined in its second Open Government Partnership (OGP) National Action Plan and it was one of the first countries to involve the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the state in the design and implementation of its open government agenda.
However, like many countries in the region and beyond, Costa Rica suffers from a severe underinvestment in infrastructure. In 2016, according to Infrastructure Intelligence, the country faced an investment gap of 2.6% GDP in relation to infrastructure needs. In addition to investment challenges, bureaucracy and inefficiencies have been highlighted as impediments to the development of public infrastructure for social and economic growth.
- infrastructure is the third largest sector in public procurement, totalling 11.7% of procurement procedures
- 66% of officials surveyed were unaware of any corruption risk-assessments carried out in their departments
- 86% of citizens interviewed believe that Costa Rican society is tolerant of corruption
- 64% of citizens interviewed believe that the public are the main actors responsible for preventing corruption.
CoST Costa Rica: How it all began
Costa Rica was one of the six participating countries in the 2015 CoST Latin America multi-stakeholder workshop. The Costa Rican participants worked together to explore CoST principles and develop an action plan for infrastructure transparency. Following the workshop, Costa Rica redrafted its ‘Transparent Infrastructure’ commitments under the National Strategy for Open Government (based on its OGP National Action Plan) to align with CoST principles.
Participants continued to drive forward the agenda for infrastructure transparency at the national level after the workshop, as highlighted in this blog from the Ministry of Public Works and Transport’s former Vice Minister for Reform, Mauricio Gonzalez
On 27 March 2017, CoST Costa Rica was officially launched at a public ceremony featuring representatives from government, industry and civil society. Ana Helena Chacón Echeverría, Vice President of Costa Rica, signed the Memorandum of Understanding, which committed to strengthening transparency and accountability in public infrastructure.
Costa Rica’s CoST membership forms part of the country’s plans for OECD accession, bringing its national policies and practices closer to those at an international level.
The four features of CoST
The core features of CoST: disclosure, assurance, multi-stakeholder working and social accountability provide a global standard for CoST implementation in enhancing infrastructure transparency and accountability.
Disclosure in Costa Rica
The disclosure process ensures that data about the purpose, scope, costs and execution of infrastructure projects is open and accessible to the public, and that it is disclosed in a timely manner.
In 2016, CoST Costa Rica and the Government of Costa Rica launched a national version of the Inter-American Development Bank’s (IADB) open information platform MapaInversiones. As of October 2020, the platform holds information on 583 infrastructure projects. MapaInversiones allows citizens and other stakeholders to geo-reference public infrastructure projects for quality, timely and reliable information in line with the CoST Infrastructure Data Standard (CoST IDS). MapaInversiones includes wide ranging information covering budgets, expected delivery dates, contractors and project objectives, allowing:
- government to gain quality insight to improve the efficiency of public investment
- private actors to gain valuable commercial knowledge into investment levels and contract awards
- citizens to monitor in real time how and where the government invests.
A report from the IADB demonstrates the impact of disclosure via MapaInversiones: three months after the platform was launched, the financial progress (i.e. the proportion of the budget used) of projects disclosed increased by 18 percentage points. Meanwhile, the physical progress (i.e. the percentage of the project completed) increased by eight percentage points, as compared to unpublished projects. After one year, the financial progress of the published projects was 15 percentage points higher while physical progress increased by one percentage point.
As of October 2020, work is being carried out to enable greater scope of information on MapaInversiones relating to:
- the National Development and Public Investment Plan 2019-2022 (PNDIP) – this module will hold information on strategic projects implemented through the PNDIP
- Covid-19 investments – stakeholders will be able to consult, monitor and follow up investments made in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
We promote accountability through the CoST assurance process – an independent review of the disclosed data by assurance teams based within CoST national programmes.
CoST Costa Rica published its First Assurance Report in 2019, at a high-level event attended by the first lady of Costa Rica and CoST Champion, Señora Claudia Dobles Camargo, alongside other representatives of government, private sector and civil society. The report shows average data disclosure by procuring entities to be 51%, with two entities – the Costa Rican Social Security Agency and the Institute of Aqueducts and Sewers – marking high rates of 82% and 71% respectively.
Despite the encouraging disclosure levels registered, rates of disclosure are not consistent across project cycle stages and tend to decrease as the cycle evolves. For example, 71% of the information related to project identification and preparation is ‘proactively’ disclosed (disclosed by procuring entities on their electronic portals) but this figure drops to 29% during contract implementation. As such, some of the key recommendations include institutionalising standards to increase proactive disclosure, as well as increasing transparency in planning stages of the infrastructure project cycle.
CoST brings together stakeholder groups with different perspectives and backgrounds from across government, private sector and civil society. Through each national programme’s Multi-Stakeholder Group (MSG), these entities can guide the delivery of CoST and pursue infrastructure transparency and accountability within a neutral forum.
The CoST Costa Rica MSG provides leadership and direction over the initiative’s implementation. With representation from government, industry and civil society, the MSG brings stakeholders together to improve the value, efficiency and effectiveness of public infrastructure delivery.
The CoST Costa Rica MSG is comprised of representatives from:
Government: Ministry of Public Works and Transport, Ministry of Planning and Economic Policy, Ministry of Finance
Private sector: Union of Chambers and Associations of the Private Business Sector, the Chamber of Construction and the National Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Business Associations of Costa Rica
Civil society: Costa Rica Integra, Consumers’ Association, Federated College of Engineers and Architects.
The Comptroller General of the Republic, the Ombudsman’s Office and the National Laboratory of Materials and Structural Models of the University of Costa Rica and The Ministry of the Presidency serve as Observers of the MSG.
The social accountability feature of CoST ensures that information on public infrastructure projects are in the public domain. CoST works with stakeholders such as the media and civil society to promote the findings of the assurance process and ensure decision makers are held to account.
CoST Costa Rica and the Ombudsman’s Office (Defensoría de los Habitantes, DHR) will work together to implement social accountability activities throughout 2021. This will include training local communities on monitoring local infrastructure projects using MapaInversiones, and representatives from civil society on the CoST approach.
What’s next for CoST Costa Rica
CoST Costa Rica plans to publish its second assurance report in 2021, and will develop a new module on MapaInversiones which features all CoST data points. The programme will seek to implement a legal mandate for a minimum level of disclosure, alongside the aforementioned social accountbality activities with DHR.
Get in touch
CoST Costa Rica Country Manager
For further information please visit: www.gobiernoabierto.go.cr/cost
CoST Costa Rica Assurance Reports
Video interview – Ana Gabriel Zuniga Aponte, Vice Minister Costa Rica: “CoST helps us empower citizens”
Welcome Costa Rica, the newest member of the CoST family!
Blog – Why Costa Rica needs CoST now
CoST workshop in Peru to develop infrastructure transparency in Latin America