Publish What You Fund Reports Improved Picture

1 October 2012

Publish What You Fund on Oct. 1 reported that “donor transparency is on the rise but continues to fall short of best practice.”

In a report ranking 72 donor organizations on their levels of aid transparency, the organization said, “This is particularly disappointing at a time when transparency is critical to ensuring confidence in aid spending.”

The PWYF campaign seeks to have aid information shared openly in a timely, comprehensive, comparable and accessible way using the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) as a common standard.

The 2012 Aid Transparency Index said the average score was  41%, compared to 34% in 2011, commenting that “aid is becoming more transparent, but progress is slow and uneven.” For the first time, two donors – the United Kingdom development agency and the World Bank — ranked in the top category of “good,” which requires a score of over 80%.

In advance of a launch event in Wasington, the group urged the United States to do more sayign that “when compared to other very large donors, such as the World Bank and the European Commission, the U.S. performs relatively poorly.” It continued, “While the U.S. has made ambitious commitments that would increase aid transparency, they have not been fulfilled, and the U.S. scores reflect that the U.S. is not a leader on aid transparency.”

There was a “wide variety of performance” among the five U.S. agencies examined, ranging from “fair” to “poor.” While jointly scoring a little above the average score  for all 72 organizations assessed, the United States compared  relatively poorly compared to other very large donors.

A U.S. Agency for International Development offical, Don Steinberg, said at a related symposium that the United states by the end of the year will provide an “implementation plan” for further advances. 

However, U.S. officials pushed back a bit at the recommendation in the PWYF report  to move “swiftly,” saying that it is also important to have coherence for the information and to advance systematically. 

U.S Directive on AID Data

The U.S. government on Sept. 25 issued a bulletin setting standards for agencies to maintain its data on foreign assistance.

“This bulletin also lays the groundwork for additional data and information to be published on the Foreign Assistance Dashboard, http://www.foreignassistance.gov/, in an incremental and thorough way. The Dashboard will provide the public with greater access to foreign assistance data and establish a standardized reporting framework for all U.S. foreign assistance, fulfilling the commitments outlined by the Open Government Directive M-IO-06 and the U.S. National Action Plan of the Open Government Partnership. Additionally, the United States is a signatory to the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IAT!) and data submitted in accordance with this Bulletin will be used to satisfy IATI reporting standards.”

The index examines 43 indicators of aid transparency at the organization, country and activity level.  Comparative scores are here. The availability of aid information was assessed by Publish What You Fund working in partnership with 35 civil society organisations and in consultation with donor agencies.
  
The report calls on all donors to sign up to and implement IATI and urges donors to implement the commitments they made at the end of last year in Busan, Korea, at the High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness. The Busan agreement requires all donors to produce implementation schedules for this common standard by December 2012, with full implementation expected to be achieved by December 2015.

“This report finds that aid can be made much more transparent without great difficulty, when political commitment is translated into effective implementation.”

IATI now has 33 signatory donors committed to publishing to its common standard. These donors account for over 75% of Official Development Finance (ODF). “Implementation of IATI is also now under way, with at least initial publication by donors accounting for 43% of ODF,” according to the report, “In addition, over 30 civil society organisations (CSOs) are now publishing to the IATI Registry.”

“As organisations get to grips with publishing to the IATI standard, the quality and transparency of their aid information is improving,” according to the report’s executive summary. “The greatest improvements have been shown by those who have either automated their publication (e.g. the Global Fund, GAVI, the Netherlands) or have already re-published (e.g. DFID, AusAID and EC-DEVCO) and begun to address gaps and inconsistencies, benefiting from the feedback of the IATI Secretariat and information consumers.”

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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