Publish What You Fund Releases 2011 Pilot Aid Transparency Index

November 15th, 2011

Publish What You Fund, one of the Task Force’s Allied Organizations, has released their 2011 Pilot Aid Transparency Index. The index is relatively unique in that it looks at the donors, rather than the recipients, of aid, and ranks them by how transparent their giving process is. In all, they ranked 58 countries and institutions who collectively give billions of dollars of aid to the developing world.

Among the best performers were the World Bank International Development Association, Millenium Challenge Corporation and the governments of Sweden, Denmark, and the Netherlands. Among the worst performers were not only U.S. Departments of Treasury and Defense and China, but also surprising donors like the governments of Spain and Portugal.

Transparency in aid giving is enormously important in order to hold stakeholders accountable and make sure that aid money actually helps people in need. Countries who are spending large (if not large enough) sums of money attempting to help boost up the world’s poorest peoples should not be actively undermining their own efforts by promoting an opaque system of aid giving. Unfortunately, Publish What You Fund came to the following conclusions:

Conclusion 1: Most aid information is not published
The index indicates that the vast majority of aid information is not currently published, with only a handful of organisations publishing more than 50% of the information types surveyed. The average overall score across all organisations is only 34%.

It is striking that some donors who are traditionally perceived as leading on issues of aid effectiveness or transparency score particularly disappointingly. These include Australia (26%), Canada (31%), Finland (38%), Ireland (29%), New Zealand (30%), Norway (32%) and U.S. PEPFAR (34%). This is because they performed poorly at either the country or activity level, or both.

Conclusion 2: Information is produced but not always published and is far too hard to access and use

The survey results point to the fact that a far greater volume of information is being produced than is being published by organisations (see chart 4 in Annex 2). For 11 information items, less than 10 organisations systematically publish them. These 11 information items include a mixture of basic information (actual dates, contracts) as well as areas where there are extensive commitments (forward budgets, conditions, transactions) and current donor priorities around results and value for money (organisation level audits, activity impact appraisals and design documents). Most of these information items relate to monitoring results and impact and it is likely that organisations collect this information internally. There is no defensible reason for why there is not a presumption towards the publication of this information – particularly given donor commitments relating to monitoring for results, mutual accountability and conditionality.

In terms of accessibility, what is produced is not made available systematically and is hard to find. Even if you speak the organisation’s language, are computer literate with a good Internet connection and are extremely familiar with the organisation’s policies and operations, it can still take considerable time and effort to locate basic information on, for example, organisation procurement procedures, budgets, contracts and evaluations. Websites are often difficult to navigate and information is sometimes provided on more than one website but in varying levels of detail depending on the language and format. The different systems and formats used for publishing the information means that comparing information even within the same donor organisation is a challenge.

Conclusion 3: Achieving aid transparency is possible

The level of transparency of a number of organisations demonstrates that aid transparency is possible across all three levels assessed; these leaders include the World Bank, the Global Fund, the AfDB, the Netherlands, DFID, Sweden and the MCC.

There is good and bad performance across the spectrum, and a range of different organisations and agencies perform well. While some patterns emerge, it is clear that an organisation’s size, how established they are, or whether they are a multi- or bilateral organisation does not predict or determine the level of their transparency. The top 20 organisations are almost evenly split between multilaterals and bilaterals, and while most are more established donors, this does not mean that established donors are all doing well. As a group their average score is 39%; but there are some poor performers in this group, in particular Spain, Portugal, two U.S. agencies (DOD and Treasury) and Italy. This demonstrates that it is possible for a different range of organisations to achieve greater aid transparency.

Read lots more, including some great graphics, at the Index website.

Written by EJ Fagan

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