IDB Launches Review of Disclosure Policy

19 March 2010

The Inter-American Development Bank March 16 quietly announced a “comprehensive review” of its information disclosure policy.

The Bank invited public comments on a 15-page “policy profile” that outlines a proposed new policy.

The IDB did not put out a press release, but instead added the notice, headlined “Public Consultation Begins!”,  to a website page: “Resources for Civil Society.”

The review has been long promised, and recently called for again by civil society groups.  Although the Bank said accurately that the policy was last updated in 2006, that was for a small addition. The current policy has not been subject to a full revision since 2003.

The IDB is seeking initial comments on the policy profile by April 18 and further consultations and public meetings are planned.

“These comments will be taken into account in preparing a draft of a new Access to Information Policy to be discussed during a second phase of public consultations to be held in several IDB member countries in the second quarter of 2010. This review process will give external stakeholders an opportunity to provide their views and suggestions on how the Bank can improve the Policy’s effectiveness.” The policy profile document says this phase for public comments will last 90 days.

According to the announcement, the profile “calls for the strengthening of the Bank’s commitment to transparency in all its activities and maximizes access to documents and information, emphasizing a conceptual shift to a more comprehensive presumption in favor of disclosure. It also proposes setting up for the first time a mechanism whereby groups that are denied information will be able to obtain a review.”

The policy profile begins with four principles:  maximize access to information, narrow and clear exceptions, simple and broad access to information, and explanations of decisions and right to review.

The proposed exceptions would cover: personal information, communications involving Executive Directors, “legal, disciplinary or investigative matters,” safety and security, “information provided in confidence by member countries, private sector entities or third parties,” corporate administrative information, deliberative information, and certain financial information

The profile envisions creation of an interdepartmental Access to Information Committee to make decisions on requests.  It also sketches plans for a new information security classification system.

A three-tiered system for releasing archived materials is outlined, with release after 5, 10 or 20 years possible depending on the material. The IDB now has a 20 year rule.

As for specific documents that would begin to be disclosed, it appears that audit reports on Bank financed, sovereign-guaranteed projects would become available subject to redactions by the borrow to protect confidential material.

Also, “a portion” of “Progress Monitoring” reports would be available, but only the sections containing “objective information” and not “Management comments and any other non-objective information.”

The profile also indicates:

Portions, if any, of an aide-memoire that contains key decisions taken as a consequence of a supervision mission would be disclosed subject to the borrower’s non-objection, in the case of sovereign-guaranteed projects. The policy would also provide for disclosure of the portion containing rankings of borrowers as part of the documentation on Performance-based Allocation criteria for the Fund for Special Operations. In the current policy, only the methodological portion of this documentation has been disclosed.

The review will be handled by a working group under the direction of the Vice Presidency for Finance and Administration, according to the profile.

The second round of consultations will include multiple public meetings, according to the notice.

The policy profile concludes a request by Management that the final draft of the policy be disclosed at the time of its distribution to the Executive Directors.

The last major changes to the IDB disclosure policy came in 2003, effective January 1, 2004, as reported previously on freedominfo.

In July 2006, the IDB ppolicy was amended to include a provision regarding availability of information regarding firms, entities or individuals sanctioned by the Bank, and the sanctions imposed, in connection with finding of fraud or corruption in bidding or participation in a Bank-financed project or other activity.

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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