New Report on Aid Transparency: Not Available! Not Accessible!

20 October 2009

Madrid, Spain — Transparency NGO Access Info Europe released a report on October 20 entitled “Not Available! Not Accessible!” to coincide with the opening of the International Aid Transparency Initiative’s conference of donors and recipient governments in the Hague. The report shows how donor governments are failing to make available the information needed to prevent corruption in international aid projects.

Lack of transparency prevents taxpayers from evaluating the effectiveness of aid spending. “Without donor transparency aid cannot be effective and will continue to be plagued by corruption. People from developing countries cannot take ownership of their futures while they are denied information,” said Helen Darbishire, Director of Access Info Europe.

Even though Access Info decided to set the transparency bar low, the study found a very low level of availability and accessibility of information. Only half (52%) of the very basic information which should be published on aid agency websites is available according to the report “Not Available! Not Accessible!” The study evaluated information on the websites of five leading aid agencies: Canada, France, Norway, Spain, and the UK. Norway’s aid agency ranked lowest with just 30% and the UK’s Department for International Development provided most information, achieving a score of 68%.

Findings for Overall Transparency of Aid Agencies

The monitoring, which focused on tracing aid flows to five recipient countries (Afghanistan, Kosovo, Mozambique, Peru, and Sierra Leone), found a series of problems including:

  • Invisible decision-making: it is not clear who takes decisions on aid spending and how; there is negligible evidence of consultations with stakeholders (Norway, Spain);
  • Current financial information is inaccessible: for example, the UK’s current aid budget was buried in an annex of the previous year’s annual report;
  • Inconsistent financial reporting: for example, a €430 million discrepancy between a press release claiming Norway gives 1% of GNI in aid and their overview budget;
  • Absence of Anti-Corruption Mechanisms: the typical integrity mechanisms which donors promote in developing countries such as corruption risk assessments, gifts registers, assets declarations, and whistleblower protections were missing from the websites of the five agencies surveyed;
  • Aid spending cannot be traced: poor information on contracts and silence on subcontracting (France, Norway, Spain).

“Aid agencies need to think accountability and traceability before window-dressing their websites. We need to move beyond tokenistic transparency to give the public access to significantly better and more detailed information about aid flows,” commented Lydia Medland, the study’s lead researcher.

According to the report, “Access to information is a prerequisite for stakeholder empowerment which in turn is essential sustainable development. It is therefore high time that the aid sector come under the focus of the access to information movement.”

The report calls on donors to take urgent steps to increase the quantity and quality of information made available about aid activities and funding in order to begin to meet commitments made in Accra, Ghana, in 2008, when donor governments pledged “We will make aid more transparent.”

Access Info Europe calls on donors who are part of the International Aid Transparency Initiative to adopt strong transparency standards as set out in the Aid Transparency Principles which have been developed by Access Info in collaboration with aid and anti-corruption NGOs.

LINKS

Not Available! Not Accessible! Report

Not Available! Not Accessible! Report, Annex B

Aid Transparency Principles

Accra Agenda for Action

 

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