World Bank Developing Country-by-Country Database on Access Laws

1 March 2007

The World Bank is well on its way to developing a country-by-country database "on various transparency and accountability institutions in developing countries," freedominfo.org has learned.

The project came to light in a document about implementation of the Bank’s anticorruption strategy, which lays a stress on improving governance and transparency.

The new database, which may be posted online in a month or so, will summarize national laws on asset disclosure, conflict of interest, freedom of information, and immunity provisions. The Bank also has developed a set of "good practices" against which to measure country laws, according to information provided by Bank officials.

The data-gathering effort now covers 78 countries, with an emphasis on developing countries. Of the 78, 53 are so-called IDA countries, a reference to the World Bank’s International Development Association, the facility through which the Bank supports anti-poverty programs in the poorest developing countries with long-term, no interest loans.

"In an initial stage, the project will cover four distinct sets of institutional mechanisms for enhancing transparency and accountability of public administrations and public officials: asset disclosure, conflict of interest, freedom of information, and immunity provisions," according to the Bank. "Additional institutions (e.g., civil service management) may be addressed in a second stage," the Bank explanation continued.

"For each of these institutions, the project will generate three inter-related products that should be helpful for assessing the quality of each of those institutional mechanisms: (i) an inventory of the relevant primary legislation; (ii) a standardized summary of key elements of that legislative framework; and (iii) a detailed set of indices of the quality of the legislative framework governing that institution, as well as detailed scoring of all `good practice’ criteria upon which those indices are based, to allow users to construct indices consistent with their own priors regarding appropriate weighting of the underlying `good practice’ criteria."

In other words, the Bank also has developed a detailed scoring system on the four areas being examined, based on its own assessment of the best features of such laws.

The scoring system is a work in progress. Official have almost completed an initial internal review, but the Bank is not ready to release it quite yet. In the coming month or two, Bank staffers will be coding all the data and preparing a paper explaining the data-gathering effort, the data set, and providing some preliminary descriptive analysis of the patterns apparent in the data.

The conflict of interest data will take a little longer than the other three to complete coding, as it involves coding for four distinct sets of public officials. So, that subset of the data may take a bit longer to come online.

For each of the four areas there are between six and nine broad sets of "good practice" criteria, each of which includes between one and five or so sub-criteria. Many of those sub-criteria also include multiple sub-sub-criteria.

The summary ratings are simple averages of sub-criteria, without assigning weights at this point, although it is contemplated that subsequent research will be used to develop a more sophisticated approach. The database will allow users to construct their own indices by putting their own weights on the different components.

Feedback, after the database is placed on the Bank’s external home page, will be used to revise the set of good practice criteria before updating the data and expanding the sample.

The Bank’s work builds on, among other things, research undertaken by Monica Dorhoi, a Bank staffer developing the database. She wrote about anti-corruption efforts in Central and Eastern European Countries for her doctoral dissertation (Monica Dorhoi, "Anti-corruption Strategies and Fighting Corruption in Central and Eastern Europe," Ph.D. dissertation (Michigan State University, Mich.: July 2005).

The bank’s work is being done in the Public Sector Governance Department, within the Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Vice Presidency. Overseeing the project is Gary Reid.

By Toby McIntosh

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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).
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