The future of Africa lies in its capacity to generate its own finance towards the development of infrastructure needed to outweigh poverty in order to promote economic transformation.
Upon all the benefits of infrastructure development, West African countries and Africa as a whole keeps suffering from corruption and poor investment in the sector, and thus lagging 25 years behind transparency and infrastructural development.
In order to spur better value from public infrastructure investment by increasing transparency and accountability in Africa was birthed CoST, the Infrastructure Transparency Initiative that works with governments, industry and local communities around the world in that endeavor.
CoST is a global multi-stakeholder’s initiative launched in 2012 with the support of the World Bank.
CoST approach relies on constructive engagement between government, private sector, civil society and citizens to address challenges of the infrastructure sector which will ultimately result in better performance of public funded projects as well as trust and accountability.
According to CoST’s findings, “During the last decade, Africa states have made concerted efforts towards institutional reforms and transparency in infrastructure with focus on policy and institutional frameworks. This has been enhanced with the launch of the Open Government Partnership in which governments work with citizens to address commonly identified challenges. However, realisation of commitments, weak policies, and limited citizens participation remain outstanding problems.”
In line with the achievement of this, the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC) in partnership with the Infrastructure Transparency Initiative (CoST), organized a stakeholder round table to chart the way forward on revitalizing infrastructure investment in Ghana, on Tuesday 30th July, 2019, at the coconut groove hotel in Accra.
Speaking at the meeting, Professor George Ofori, Vice Chairman of CoST International Board, noted that, transparency was key for the attainment of the vision of government of Ghana which is the “Ghana Beyond Aid” agenda.
He said, CoST believes that, in supporting governments to improve disclosure of information on construction projects while ensuring that the information was reliable and understandable, citizens would be informed and empowered to hold decision-makers to account.
Prof. Ofori, emphasized that, Ethiopia, Malawi and Tanzania were part of a three-year pilot programme which tested the viability of a new transparency and accountability process in public infrastructure in eight countries.
He disclosed that, since its implementation, CoST has successfully influenced and conducted changes in legislation, institutionalization of the infrastructure Data Standard in a number of countries and the officers concerned to take assurance reports seriously.
In his presentation on the relevance of Infrastructure Transparency to the Sekondi Takoradi Metropolitan Assembly (STMA), Mr. Isaac Aidoo, the Development Policy Officer and also the
CoST Manager at the STMA, indicated that, STMA joined CoST in order to enhance open government commitments and as well as harmonize infrastructure transparency.
He disclosed that, CoST Board in approved STMA’s membership in February 2019, and upon the approval, the Assembly made its public announcement in March 13th 2019.
Mr. Aidoo, further noted that, STMA also joined the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Subnational Pilot Programme.
The OGP is a global partnership of reformers from government and civil society making government more transparent, participatory, and accountable in order to serves citizens.
According to him, the media and civil society plays a crucial role in ensuring transparency in the execution of projects. Therefore, STMA intends to institute a media award scheme for outstanding works in reporting important issues on public infrastructure projects.
Mr. Isaac Aidoo, reiterated that, as part of efforts to ensure transparency in execution of projects, the STMA would develop and launch an Information Platform for Public Infrastructure (IPPI) portal and and as well as build the capacity of the media, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), private sector and community champions to monitor and report on infrastructure projects.
In his keynote address on the challenges and opportunities of advancement of performance of infrastructure projects in Ghana, the deputy Minister of works and housing, Hon. Eugene Boakye Antwi, who is also the MP for Subin Constituency in the Ashanti Region, stated that, infrastructure funding happens to be an important issue that bothers on the wellbeing of the citizenry.
He indicated that, the key hindrance to infrastructure improvement in the country was finance. Explaining that, “Although, poor planing operation and maintenance of such infrastructure play a role, however, the most significant constraint is funding.”
According to him, “The country’s capacity to fully absorb and benefit from increased investments and new technology depends a great deal on the availability of quality and efficiency of more basic forms of infrastructure. The infrastructure sector comprises the port, roads, rail, aviation, electricity, water supply, transportation and telecommunication sub-sector.”
Hon. Boakye Antwi, added that, there was the need to come together to bring about significant change in the country’s infrastructure provision for the wellbeing of all Ghanaians.
However, he said, Ghanaians were ready to engage in more meaningful ways with government about what they want their infrastructure to achieve.
Mr. Boakye, reemphasized on the need to maximizing opportunities for the private sector to contribute to meeting the infrastructure challenges where it could add value. He noted, “Government’s will always be key players in infrastructure investment, particularly for projects that can deliver high net public benefits, but may not deliver acceptable commercial returns without some level of private involvement.”
He further said, there was the need to recognize that, there often will be cases where privately-provided infrastructure will be necessary and desirable.
Mrs. Beauty Emefa Narteh, the Executive Secretary of GACC, also said, “That is why we have always been pushing for CoST to be in Ghana, not because it is a panacea to the solution of anti-corruption, but we believe that it can make some additional impact on the works that we are doing.”
She however, adduced that, there could not be a talk about anti-corruption without mentioning transparency, integrity and value for money.
“We also recognized that, when it comes to construction it is a bit technical to even citizens, and even civil society organizations do not understand. We were supported in the past by world bank to implement a four year project in Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leon and Liberia. It was a contract monitoring and procurement monitoring, and this initiative helped us to get citizens involved. But unfortunately, because it is a project, it elapsed when the funding elapsed. But GACC, we also had an innovative way of making it sustainable by getting an initiative called Local Accountability Networks,” She disclosed.
This network, she said, holds contractors accountable to ensure that, there is value for money.
Mrs. Narteh, further asserted that, “Ghana can progress, but it can only progress when we all own it and we are able to demand accountability at our various levels.”
According to the Auditor-General, Mr. Daniel Yaw Domelevo, all their audit reports conducted on road infrastructure in the country proved that, they were below international standards.
According to him, it’s about time the rules in the country worked. Saying, “There must be consequences for abuse of public funds….., there must be consequences for nonperformance, otherwise, we are not going to go anywhere. Like rules are obeyed in other countries, let’s build systems and the system will correct our attitude in this country.”