Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 12/2011

Publishing Construction Contracts as a Tool for Efficiency and Good Governance

Charles Kenny

November 2011

Center for Global Development


Construction is a $1.7 trillion industry worldwide, much of which is linked to publicly financed projects. Outcomes from this financing are frequently suboptimal. Cost and time escalation, as well as poor quality, are linked to weak governance and corruption, which are endemic in the sector. There is considerable evidence that transparency and oversight are potentially powerful tools to reduce the development impact of corruption. One comparatively cheap and potentially powerful tool to improve outcomes in public procurement is the regular publication of contract and implementation details. In particular, the publication of government contracts would considerably improve transparency. Publication would also provide a large stock of public intellectual capital which should (i) reduce legal costs of contracting; and (ii) help spread best practices and ease the process of learning lessons from failed approaches. The approach is feasible: some jurisdictions have already introduced it.