Detailed Reports Finds Weakneses in AfDB Policy

24 June 2011

Obtaining information from the African Development Bank can be frustrating, according to researchers who visited the Bank’s website and went to Bank local offices.

Their experiences informed a detailed study, the results of which have just been released.

It was conducted for the Global Transparency Initiative by Idasa, an Africa democracy institute based in South Africa.

In late 2009 and early 2010, researchers were deployed to find specific documents concerning five regions of Africa.  The new report found problems including:

–          inconsistent interpretation of policy,

–          a weak information management system,

–          poor staff training,

–          problems with the website and search engine,

–          weak disclosure of early-stage project documents  

The detailed report, “African Development Bank Information Disclosure Policy Implementation Research Project,” was written by Lindlyn Tamufor and Gary Pienaar. Tamufor is the Coordinator of the International Alliance on Natural Resources in Africa, and Pienaar is Senior Researcher in Idasa’s Economic Governance Program.

The report concludes with a series of recommendations which come as the Bank is in the midst of reviewing its 2005 disclosure policy.

“Firstly, the Bank should improve the quality, comprehensiveness, consistency and timeli­ness of its in-country information dissemination processes,” according to the report. “There is a need for the Bank to improve the efficiency of its information management system, which underlies and underpins the Information Disclosure Policy.”

“It is clear that there is uncertainty within the Bank’s regional and country offices about whose responsibility it is to ensure that documents are made available to the public in a timely manner,” according to the report. It explains:

Some officials contacted during this research project seemed either to be unaware of the Policy itself, or of which of their colleagues is authorised to take decisions about the release of certain documents, or unaware of which documents should be automatically available. Some justified the unavailability of some information on the basis of their uncertainty concerning the meaning of parts of the Policy.

Training Needed

Another recommendation urges increased staff training, noting that “there appears to be no coherent and consistent guidance available to staff.”

“Thirdly, the Bank should also develop a more customer-oriented approach to its informa­tion dissemination by providing the Bank’s documentation in at least one of the official national or local languages of the people most directly affected by its operations,” the report concludes. It states:

The Bank staff should work in closer consultation with civil society organizations and other stakeholders to proactively and responsively assist people to first identify and then obtain the information they need in a form that is more readily accessible to them.

Disclosure Gaps, Website Weaknesses

The Bank’s website, the report finds, is inconsistent in its posting of project-related documentation, for example, failing to put project documents under the relevant country name. Moreover, the research found a variety of shortcomings with the website.

“Information regarding prospective projects seems to be the most consistently unavail­able on the website and at the field offices,” report states, commenting that “this is probably the most important stage for any project, as this is when affected people have the most meaningful opportunity to express their views and have their voices heard regarding the design and impact of an envisaged project.”

It suggests, “Consideration should be given to whether or not any existing performance management measures are adequate to enable those responsible to monitor officials’ compliance with the Policy.”

In addition, “Information is unevenly available on the website about the institution’s operations at the country and investment level, such as country strategy papers.”

More specifically, the report states: “It is noticeable, for example, that a large gap exists in documentation available regarding projects initiated during 2009, while projects initiated during the early part of 2010 appear to be more comprehensively reflected on the website. However, there appears to be a continuation of the pattern of limited information being available regarding projects under implementa­tion at the Bank, constraining efforts to monitor these activities.”

Other Documents Sought

It is recommended that project appraisal reports, prospective project briefs, periodic pro­ject progress assessment and evaluation reports about project implementation, should be made available, as required by the policy.

The report also calls for the disclosure of  upstream country analyses conducted by the Bank, including economic and sector analyses, country strategy papers and updates, poverty reduction strategy papers, and economic and operations policy papers.

“It  is recommended that the Policy’s requirement that these documents should be dis­closed is adhered to in practice, and that the Bank should create in advance an indicative list of the documents that should be completed in particular situations, or that should be expected at various stages of a particular project, including standard timelines.”

Researchers

The bulk of the report documents in detail the sometimes frustrating efforts of researchers to obtain targeted information about AfDB activities in different areas.

On the other hand, the report also reflects a few examples of country offices where staff were well-informed about the policy and its implementation, and documents and information were readily supplied. A notable example is the Ghana Country office.

The researchers in each of the Bank’s five operational regions were:

Andrew Kumbatira, Executive Director of the Malawi Economic Justice Network (MEJN)

Karim Trabelsi, an academic economist at the University of Tunisia.

Maurice Ouma Odhiambo, a Programmes Officer at Ujamaa Centre.

Moussa Sall, Deputy Head of Communications and PR as well as legal advisor for Groupe APERCO/MAOA, a major fishing company in Mauritania.

Lindlyn Tamufor: Independent Consultant

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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
1-(703) 276-7748