ADB Assesses Positives and Negatives of New Disclosure Policy

21 May 2007


In a detailed report on the first year of its revised disclosure policy, the Asian Development Bank says the rollout has gone pretty well, despite a few gaps concerning project-related information.

One weakness concerned a primary source of information about projects under consideration. The Project Information Documents (PIDs) for proposed private sector projects are supposed to be posted online no later than 30 days before board consideration of the project. However, in the first year almost half (48 percent) of the documents were posted an average of 118 days after the board met.

The disclosure of information on social and environmental issues related to private sector projects also was less complete than originally contemplated. “Only 63% of relevant projects have a summary of social and environmental issues, and only 43% describe the consultations planned or carried out,” according to the data-rich report, which covers the first year after the policy went into effect, Sept. 1, 2005, to Aug. 31, 2006.

In many other areas, the detailed data kept by the Bank indicates that disclosure goals were met.

For example, during the reporting year the Board endorsed four Country Strategy and Programs (CSP). Three were posted on time (within 14 days of adoption), while one was posted 32 days after adoption.

However, the Bank did not do so well with the requirement to issue “consultation drafts” for CSPs and CSP updates. There were four CSPs, and 11CSP updates, but a consultation draft was available only for half of them. Further, the Bank frequently failed to translate the CSPs into the local language within 90 days of endorsement, as required by the policy.

There are some signs of improvement since the first anniversary report was issued. The ADB reported that as of Sept. 1, 2006, it was behind in posting Project Information Documents for existing private sector projects, with only about half being posted. A deadline of Oct. 31, 2006, was set to rectify the situation. Since then, according to an ADB official, the compliance rate is 91 percent.

The Bank report provides extensive documentation on many topics. The chairman’s summaries of Board discussions usually are on the Web site within 21 days. It took somewhat longer, an average of 25 days after Board approval, for the Bank to post the Report and Recommendations of the President for private sector projects.

Quite a bit of information-25 to 50 percent-was redacted to protect commercial business information, according to the report.

In some cases, it appears that required reports may not have been prepared by private sector project sponsors. For example, five of 25 private sector projects processed during the period should have been accompanied by plans concerning how to engage affected people, but no such plans were submitted, according to the report.

For public sector projects, the summary suggests that the introduction of new processes required some adjustment by the ADB staff, leaving some of the PIDs incomplete. The documents that reveal the proposed project design before the Board meets on it, the Draft and Monitoring Framework, should have been posted in 75 instances, but in fact were only available for 23 of the new loans, “representing 31% of those due,” the ADB says.

There are suggestions of continuing improvements. At the time of the report, no PIDSs had been posted for public sector projects under implementation, but now the compliance rate is 82 percent.

Subsequent reports will be done in January (the next one will cover Sept. 1, 2006-Dec. 31, 2007).

An “issues and action” section concluding the 29-page report suggests a feeling of change. “Most important, through Management’s visible leadership, ADB today has a culture that is much more conducive to proactive communications with ADB’s external stakeholders.” To address the challenges of continuing to implement the new policies, further monitoring is recommended, with refined indicators and targets. The Department of External Relations has updated its action plan to help with other goals, such as more strategic approaches to property areas and internal collaboration and cooperation.

Finally, the report indicates plans under way to amend the policy to allow for the routine release of project procurement related audit reports (PPRAs) by the Office of the Auditor General.

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).
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