When Gerson Martínez became head of El Salvador’s Ministry of Public Works in 2009, the organization was notorious for corruption that contributed to poor-quality construction, unfinished projects, and frequent lawsuits. Working with a prominent nongovernmental organization (NGO) and industry representatives, Martínez introduced integrity pacts as monitoring mechanisms intended to prevent corruption. The agreements publicly committed officials and companies to reject bribery, collusion, and other corrupt practices and enabled NGOs to monitor bidding and construction. Although limited capacity and resistance from some midlevel ministry staff hindered the monitors’ work, integrity pacts focused the attention of both the government and the public on problems in major public works projects; and participants said the pacts helped deter corruption in those they covered. In 2012, integrity pacts became part of El Salvador’s Open Government Partnership action plan, in implicit recognition of the tool’s contribution to reform. As of August 2015, the ministry had signed 31 integrity pacts involving five projects worth a combined US$62 million. Although sustaining the initiative proved a challenge, integrity pacts served as a foundation for increased collaboration between government, civil society, and the private sector—and as a first step toward a new institutional culture at the Ministry of Public Works.
Maya Gainer drafted this case study based on interviews conducted in San Salvador in July 2015. Case published in October, 2015. This case study was funded by the Open Government Partnership.