The Infrastructure Transparency Initiative (CoST)

CoST (Infrastructure Transparency Initiative) is the leading global initiative that works to implement transparency and accountability reform within the built environment space. The major guiding principle of CoST is to enhance disclosure, validation, interpretation and presentation of infrastructure data into much simpler language to empower stakeholders.

This is aimed at reducing mismanagement, inefficiency, corruption and the risks posed to the public from poor infrastructure investments. CoST achieves this through applying various approaches - from conducting independent studies on projects, analyzing disclosed project information, creating awareness through various platforms, holding capacity building training for CSOs, Private Sector, Procurement Entity officials, citizens and other stakeholders.

The infrastructure transparency initiative is built on a tripartite partnership between Government, Private Sector and Civil Society Organizations aimed at initiating and advocating for reforms in addressing challenges that confront public infrastructure delivery. CoST is built on four core features: Disclosure, Assurance, Multi-Stakeholder working and Social Accountability. Pivotal to these core features is an appreciation of the need for transparency in the delivery of infrastructure in the public sector through increased access to infrastructure data, verification of disclosed data through Assurance, as well as dissemination, engagement, advocacy for policy changes and citizen participation.

CoST’s Infrastructure Data Standard (IDS) is currently being implemented in 19 countries, across 4 continents. In addition to working with CoST members at the national and subnational levels, it works internationally with key anticorruption organizations to facilitate the global exchange of experience and knowledge on transparency and accountability in public infrastructure. CoST’s growing list of international partners include, Article 19, Open Contracting Partnership, Transparency International , Hivos and the Open Government Partnership (OGP).

Infrastructure is critical to achieving the sustainable development goals

Infrastructure is a vital component of efforts to meet the most pressing global challenges, including the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
This includes “building resilient infrastructure” (goal 9) and several other goals and targets related to cities and human settlements, where infrastructure is critical to the equitable and sustainable provision of energy, water and sanitation (goals 6 and 7).

Unless society can accelerate the delivery of such quality infrastructure and services, its ability to meet the SDGs, deal with the effects of climate change, improve gender equality, livelihoods and deliver inclusive economic growth will be seriously undermined.

COVID-19 has Magnified the Importance of Transparency, Participation and Accountability

The Covid-19 pandemic has magnified the importance of transparency, participation and accountability. Governments have responded to the chronic under-investment in health services by rapidly boosting public spending on critical equipment such as protective equipment, medicine and temporary health infrastructure, often using emergency procurement measures to accelerate delivery.

This has led to concerns that the principles of transparency, participation and accountability have been compromised in the pursuit of speeding up delivery. It risks becoming the norm, resulting in less scrutiny of public spending and increasing the potential for corruption, mismanagement and inefficiency.

There is great uncertainty about the future, recovering and building resilience against similar crises will require massive investment in infrastructure and services. At the same time, then economic consequences of the pandemic mean that governments will be under huge fiscal pressure with rising levels of debt to gross domestic product (GDP).

Although the challenges are complex, global and defy easy solutions. CoST’s principles of transparency, participation and accountability have taken on increased relevance and are critical to helping stakeholders address these challenges. CoST will continue to monitor these and other developments to ensure the initiative remains relevant and that its tools and approaches continue to be effective.

Working in Partnership

Working with partners both at a national and international level is critical to CoST’s success. For example, partners such as the Open Government Partnership (OGP), Transparency International, the International Labour Organization, the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme and the German Corporation for International Cooperation were critical to building relationships.

CoST’s partnership with the Open Contracting Partnership (OCP) has been critical to the technical development of the programme with the development of the Open Contracting for Infrastructure Data Standard (OC4IDS). This collaboration combines CoST’s knowledge of the infrastructure sector with the cutting-edge expertise of OCP in publishing open data. The two organisations now work in partnership to support the implementation of the OC4IDS. In addition, Hivos has supported CoST programmes in Guatemala and Malawi, and CoST has worked closely with OGP to develop guidance on how CoST can be included in OGP action plans.

CoST’s membership has grown to 19 national and sub-national members and affiliates. In Africa: Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique and Ghana (Sekondi-Takoradi Metropolitan Assembly) are the only participating countries.