Bedrock for better public infrastructure in Honduras

How open contracting is driving more powerful controls — from spot checks to analyzing sector trends

Open Contracting
Feb 7, 2019 · 19 min read
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Walter Ulloa (credit: Kenneth Madrid)

Empowering citizens by opening up infrastructure projects

Local infrastructure can dramatically improve people’s lives and provide economic opportunities. But when oversight is poor, these projects are vulnerable to influence peddling and major delays in the execution of the works. With the federal government far away, local administrators can be indifferent.

Image for post
Image for post
A mural in memory of slain environmental activist Berta Cárceres (credit: disoniador/pixabay)

Early markers of success: How more openness throughout the procurement process has led to reforms

We have seen promising cases and results that show how more transparency and openness throughout the procurement process is beginning to drive change.

Image for post
Image for post

The road to improving Honduras’ infrastructure data

Thanks to legislative reforms, public entities are obliged to publish information about their infrastructure contracts. Since 2015, this is done through a centralized database accessed on a platform called SISOCS, which was developed by CoST Honduras and the World Bank. The public portal contains data and documents on more than 1,000 projects from nine public entities that represent a total investment of 20,471 million lempiras (around US$855 million).

Data publication increases dramatically, from 27% to 95%

To improve the quality and amount of information, trained citizen volunteers and professional observers review the information in the SISOCS system and verify its accuracy by reviewing original documents, and conducting interviews and physical site visits. CoST Honduras sends monthly reports to all public entities on their performance and publishes regular, comprehensive assurance reports that review a sample selection of projects from several agencies in detail and provide recommendations for improvement. To date, 67 public infrastructure projects have been reviewed (out of around 1,000 included in the SISOCS database). As part of the review, any information missing from the SISOCS database is requested from the public entity who respond publicly through SISOCS. This has improved access to the information dramatically. In the four years since these transparency reforms were introduced, agencies included in CoST’s assurance reports, on average, now disclose 95% of the information they are supposed to by law, compared to just 27% in 2014.

Since 2016, CoST Honduras has trained more than 500 citizens to monitor infrastructure projects, and 175 citizens to use the SISOCs data portal. At least two members of every CCT have received training at regional workshops.
Image for post
Image for post
CoST founding member and Minister for Transparency, Alfredo Cantero, with the Chair of CoST’s Multi-Stakeholder Group, Tania Murillo, at the launch of the organization’s fifth assurance report.
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post

Increasing data, trust and impact towards a new culture of public spending in the public eye

For the first time, there is starting to be enough data about contracting processes to alert authorities to possible trends in particular agencies and across the sector, that they can follow up and verify with other investigative methods, controls, and citizen feedback.

Image for post
Image for post
Miriam Varela, Chamber of Construction Industry/CHICO (right)

Image for post
Image for post

Case study 1

Road Fund: Procurement data leads to complete overhaul of road maintenance agency

A severe lack of transparency in the transport network in Honduras has been a particular cause for concern. Most roads are poorly maintained and lack sufficient signage and lighting. Highways usually have a single lane in each direction, and secondary roads are mostly unpaved. Roads in the mountains are steep and winding, while seasonal storms cause flooding and landslides. Road accidents are one of the leading causes of death, with six times the number of traffic-related deaths in Honduras compared to the UK, according to World Health Organization statistics.


Image for post
Image for post
One of the most dangerous airports in the world: Toncontin International Airport is set to be replaced by a new airport, under construction in Palmerola. CoST Honduras is monitoring the project. (Credit: enrique galeano morales/Flickr)

Case study 2

Tourist corridor: Data reveals exorbitant public liability on Public-Private Partnership project

To help bridge the gap between Honduras’ infrastructure needs and the public funds available, the country has turned to public-private partnerships (PPPs). These large projects can be risky and are often complex, involving many different stakeholders and consortia of companies. They last decades and the planning phase alone can take years. This high level of complexity makes it essential to provide transparency throughout the process as well as mechanisms for effectively tracking progress to ensure citizens benefit from these investments.

Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Screenshots from the SISOCS platform. Honduras has recently helped the governments of Malawi and Panama to set up their own versions of the platform.
Image for post
Image for post
Award-winning journalist Josué Quintana

Image for post
Image for post
(Credit: Willie Heinz/Inter-American Development Bank)

Case study 3

Project design: Policy and regulatory reforms address outdated designs

As part of its efforts to increase transparency, Honduras has introduced key regulatory changes designed to improve the long-term management and efficiency of the infrastructure sector.


Image for post
Image for post
(Credit: Willie Heinz/Inter-American Development Bank)

Case study 4

Participation: Policy and regulatory reforms embed social impact and community engagement at the earliest stages

Community engagement and monitoring are now an essential part of the procurement process. Since 2016, professional auditors for CoST along with members of the community from the Citizen Transparency Commissions have been conducting field visits to project sites.

Training citizen monitors to use the SISOCS platform

Open Contracting Stories

This publication will tell stories from around the world…

Open Contracting

Written by

The Open Contracting Partnership works with government, civil society and business to make government contracting transparent through open data and engagement.

Open Contracting Stories

This publication will tell stories from around the world that illustrate how open contracting has changed lives — from value for money to value for many.

Open Contracting

Written by

The Open Contracting Partnership works with government, civil society and business to make government contracting transparent through open data and engagement.

Open Contracting Stories

This publication will tell stories from around the world that illustrate how open contracting has changed lives — from value for money to value for many.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight.

Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox.

Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month.

Get the Medium app