As an implementing partner of USAID’s Democracy Strengthening Program (DSP) in El Salvador, Casals & Associates, a DynCorp International company, recently helped launch the Construction Sector Transparency Initiative (CoST), an initiative promoted by the government of the United Kingdom to help countries around the world improve the value of money spent on public infrastructure through increasing accountability and transparency in the management and delivery of construction projects.
On Wednesday, December 11, 2013, the initiative was launched as the framework agreement was signed at an event hosted by the Secretary of Strategic Affairs through the Under Secretariat of Transparency and Anticorruption (SSTA). Casals program director, Carlos Guerrero, and Victor Clark, Chargé d’affairs of the British Embassy in El Salvador, acted as witnesses as the agreement was signed by Gerson Martínez, minister of Public Works, Hato Hasbún, secretary of Strategic Affairs; Ramón Villalta, director of Social Initiative for Democracy, Aurora Cubías, undersecretary of Transparency and Anticorruption; and representatives of the Road Maintenance Fund (FOVIAL), the Salvadoran Chamber of the Construction Industry (CASALCO), and the National University of El Salvador (UES).
Over the course of several months, with CoST’s technical assistance, representatives from each institution integrated an oversight group and coordinated the preparation of the necessary regulations to launch the CoST program. The CoST team will work together to assure that all monitoring indicators are applied, leading to the success of the program, and future public works projects.
The CoST initiative is valuable to El Salvador’s central government as it will be able to effectively measure metrics on public infrastructure projects, contributing to the fight against corruption and to guaranteeing transparency.
“If we want to have an open government we must build an open society upon democratic principles, and transparency is eminently a key pillar toward democracy,” said Martinez, minister of Public Works. “When we work for the State we do not manage private resources but public ones, and this is why it is illegitimate to deny information to the citizenry.”
Benefits of the CoST Initiative
Likewise, Victor Clark, Chargé d’affairs of the British Embassy, reiterated that “the CoST initiative is conceived as a measure to contribute in the struggle against corruption considering that global figures indicate that corruption is a common factor in the construction of public works, resulting in the loss of billions of dollars which in turn impairs sustainable demographic development. Corruption is a problem for everyone to face, not just governments; it is not an easy struggle but transparency is a crosscutting issue to its approach.”
The signing of the framework agreement for the implementation of the CoST-El Salvador Program set a benchmark in transparency for the construction sector, with monitoring processes for public works. The program is supported by institutions representing civil society, and private and public sectors integrating the oversight group. As a pilot program, monitoring under the CoST initiative will be carried out in five concrete projects: the last stretch of the Integral Transport System for the Metropolitan Area of San Salvador (SITRAMSS), the construction of the San Isidro Bridge; phase two of the Precarious Settlements; and the construction of two overpasses in San Salvador- Rancho Navarra and Masferrer Boulevard.