Public works in El Salvador will soon be subject to oversight by citizens with the goal of preventing corrupt practices involving the construction sector, thanks to an agreement signed Monday 31 August by the national government, civil society and construction companies.
The Citizen Observatory for Public Works in El Salvador was created in response to a request made by the Ministry of Public Works to Transparency International (TI) in June. This initiative is a first step in fulfilling public commitments made by President Mauricio Funes during his electoral campaign, when Funes pledged to follow a transparency and anti-corruption agenda initiated by TI and the Fundación Nacional para el Desarrollo (FUNDE).
“We hope that this first step is complemented by a complete and effective policy for transparency in public administration and that this remains a high-level priority for the current government,” said Andrés Hernández, Senior Programme Coordinator for the Americas at TI. “We are committed to following this process, which if strengthened, will position El Salvador as a regional leader in preventing and tackling corruption.”
The Observatory aims to increase transparency in a sector that tends to be corruption-prone on an international scale, riddled with such corrupt practices as influence-trafficking, conflicts of interest, misuse of privileged information, bribery and kickbacks.
Private sector support within construction and the expressed interest of other public entities to also be observed, point to an unprecedented openness to such initiatives. This momentum should be translated into concrete results in order to fulfill citizens’ expectations for increased transparency and efficiency in public administration.
In spite of this progress, the Observatory will have to overcome important obstacles such as the lack of a law on access to public information, which would help guarantee transparency in public contracting, as well as weaknesses in the legal framework for public purchases.
This initiative’s success will depend on parallel actions: while the Salvadoran congress works toward legal reform, the Ministry of Public Works and the other entities being scrutinised must create their own rules and mechanisms for monitoring transparency in bidding and tenders awarded. These steps must then be complemented by mechanisms for public audits, which are already underway.
Transparency International is the civil society organisation leading the fight against corruption.
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