As many as 50 countries have expressed an interest in joining the Construction Sector Transparency Initiative (CoST), following the conclusion of the pilot project in Ethiopia, Guatemala, Malawi, the Philippines, Tanzania, the UK, Vietnam and Zambia. The scheme is being supported by the European International Contractors (EIC) trade association, among other stakeholders.

Per Nielsen of Swedish contractor NCC and a member of the CoST interim Technical Advisory Group (ITAG) said, "CoST is not an attack on the contractor, but a way of improving weaknesses in procurement authorities. CoST is not magic, but it can only help."

CoST is designed to bring greater transparency to construction projects by making information like tender prices, variations, the final price and rationale for the project public. This is designed to make it easier to scrutinise how money was spent as well as deter bribery.

According to Graham Hand, chair of the CoST secretariat, the pilot scheme had covered more than 200 projects in eight countries and involved 29 procurement agencies.

"Quite a lot of inefficiencies and mismanagement have been identified. Major causes of concern are time and cost over-runs and poor competitive bidding processes, although we didn't uncover any major cases of corruption. The pilot has been successful and we think it is applicable globally," he said.

CoST has so far been run under the auspices of the UK government's Department for International Development (DfID). However, now the pilot stage of the project has been concluded, the scheme is expected to be handed over to the World Bank to operate.

According to Mr Hand, some 50 countries have expressed an interest in joining the scheme. The key elements of this would be start-up funding and technical support to put the necessary channels of information in place, along with best practice guidance. Countries would then be able to achieve key benchmarks in transparency and gain some sort of CoST certification.

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