Inter-American Development Bank Announces Consultation on Disclosure Policy

1 January 2003

The Inter-American Development Bank Jan. 14 announced a public “electronic consultation” on a major rewrite of its Policy on Information Disclosure.

The Bank issued a 16-page description of its proposed policies, the first significant revision since 1994. The changes “would considerably broaden the scope of the kinds of information that Bank management would regularly make publicly available,” according the announcement posted on the IADB Web site.

The proposed policy reaffirms the Bank’s commitment that information concerning the Bank should be made available “in the absence of a compelling reason for confidentiality.” The document specifies what documents will be made public, and which ones will be made available only with the consent of the affected government.

Further, it lays out a number of general exceptions to disclosure, such as for “sensitive” information. The Bank proposal indicates that the exemption for sensitive information can be invoked “by the government of a member country, the donor of a trust fund or cofinancing resources administered by the Bank, or by the Bank.”

Describing additional reasons to bar disclosure, the Bank states: “Likewise, the restrictions recognize the Bank’s obligation to preserve the confidentiality of business information received in connection with projects financed in the private sector. In addition, there is a need to preserve the integrity of the deliberative process and to ensure that there is an open and free exchange of ideas and communications, and so there are restrictions on the availability of documents and information prepared within the context of these principles.”

Document by Document

The Bank’s proposed policy, organized by the different areas of the Bank’s work, indicates what documents will be released, when, and under what conditions.

Among the documents to be released after Board approval are: operational and sector policies, and sector strategies; economic situation and perspectives documents (known by the Spanish acronym “SEP;” an annual report on public sector projects; materials related to loans under the Heavily Indebted Poor Country Initiative (with some exceptions); staff assessments of Poverty Reduction Strategy papers; and Sector Policy Letters.

Loan proposal documents will be released after Board approval, “with the exception of loan proposals prepared for private sector operations and Donors Memoranda regarding operations of the Small Enterprise Investment Fund of the MIF.” The Bank l indicates that an “abstract” will be prepared about approved private sector operations.

Consultation System, Private Sector Loan Exception Criticized

“We are concerned that the revised policy will not hold the Private Sector Department to the same information disclosure standards as the rest of the IDB. The Private Sector Department lends public money and should be held to a public’s right to know standard concerning the operations it is investing in, rather than trying to emulate the standards of a commercial bank. The IFC (a private sector branch of the World Bank Group) holds itself to a higher information disclosure standard than is contemplated for the IDB’s Private Sector Department” said Amy Gray who directs the Latin America program of the Bank Information Center, a multilateral bank watch-dog group based in Washington, D.C. “We also do not consider that a 45 day internet-based consultation is a good faith effort by the IDB to encourage consultation by the interested public in Latin America. The IDB’s own statistics show that Internet use in Latin America is still extremely low.”

Governments May Determine Disclosure of Some Documents

For many documents, governments will continue to have veto power over their release.

IDB country strategies, also called country papers, will be released “with the respective country’s non-objection” after Board approval. Government consent also will be necessary for country and sector analytic work; reports on compliance with contractual conditions, and certain environmental impact assessments.

Most IDB evaluation materials will now be disclosed, one clear change from the present policy. Documents from the Office of Evaluation and Operations will usually be made available after the Board completes its consideration. In the case of Country Program Evaluations, however, release could be stopped if a government objects and the Board agrees.

Some documents will be disclosed before Board action on loans, according to the proposed policy. Certain environmental assessment material for both public and private loans falls into this category, with the proviso that a borrower’s objections will be taken to the Board for decision. The Profile II documents that summarize proposed public sector loans, and the Environmental and Social Impact Briefs that summarize proposed private sector loans, will be released before Board action.

The proposed policy also addresses the handling of materials generated by the Bank’s Independent Investigation Mechanism and its Oversight Committee on Fraud and Corruption.

Senior management approved the proposal in December of 2002. No consultation meetings are planned, but the Bank is seeking online public comment-in English, French, Portuguese or Spanish to infocounsult@aidb.org. No fixed deadline is provided, but the notice states that the consultation will last a minimum of 45 calendar days. Putting the deadline at approximately Feb. 28.

The notice indicates that after the public comment period closes all comments will be summarized and forwarded to the Board of Executive Directors for their consideration. It does not indicate whether the comments themselves will be made public available, or if the summaries will be made public.

The Bank’s announcement is posted at: http://www.iadb.org/exr/pic/consultation.htm

By Toby McIntosh

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ABOUT IFTI WATCH

In this column, Washington, D.C.-based journalist Toby J. McIntosh reports on the latest developments in information disclosure in International Financial and Trade Institutions (IFTI).
Contact: freeinfo@gwu.edu or
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