World Bank Proposes Loan for Tunisia With Access Clause

7 November 2012

Improved access to information is a goal and condition of a proposed $500 million loan for Tunisia soon to be considered by the World Bank Executive Board.

The goal established is for Tunisia to have granted “at least 25 requests for information by citizens” by the end of 2014.”

This goal would be established if the Board on Nov. 27 approves the “Governance, Opportunities, and Jobs Development Policy Lending (DPL) Project” for Tunisia. The lengthy document covers many topics and was released in advance of the meeting in accordance with the Bank’s disclosure policy.

In addition to describing the access to information situation in the country, sometimes in critical terms, the document lays out projected reforms.

The objective of the Governance, Opportunities, and Jobs Development Policy Lending (DPL) Project for Tunisia is to help the country lay the policy foundations for a more competitive business environment, a strengthened financial sector, more inclusive… The overall objective of the loan “is to help the country lay the policy foundations for a more competitive business environment, a strengthened financial sector, more inclusive and accountable social services, and more transparent public governance.”

Access Challenges Described

The section on access to information describes how the government in 2012 issued a circular to specify the procedures for the implementation of a 2011 decree regarding public access to documents held by public agencies.  The circular “will be complemented by a detailed action plan for the implementation of this reform and including a training plan,” the Bank said. “This is to strengthen the effective implementation of the new policy of transparency and access to information.”

 In addition, “The Government is also working to establish an independent commission of experts (‘Information Commission’) which will be in charge of monitoring the implementation of the right to access to information and to provide opinions/advice and to deal with citizens’ complaints.”

The Bank comments that “effective implementation” of the access decree “requires disclosure of specific rules for officials and the establishment of clear procedures and standards both within the administration as well as towards the public (form, request and complaint procedure).” It continues, “Similarly, senior managers should be appointed in each public body and receive precise terms of reference for the implementation of this law. Finally, a monitoring and evaluation system must be established.”

According to the Bank, “Despite early efforts of proactive dissemination of information on the Government’s website (statistical, administrative procedures, information on public finances) this new policy is still little known within the administration and the public.”

The Bank notes that civil society and the media are “very critical about the limited results of this policy and the absence of clear and transparent rules to enforce it.”

 “Challenges remain,” says a footnote, describing the Bank’s efforts to help the government on implementation and to work with civil society organizations “to sensitize and stimulate the demand side for this reform.”

The circular will enable the effective and large scale implementation of the decree, according to the bank description. It states, “It is expected that thanks to the systems put in place as a result of the Circular at least 25 requests for information by citizens will have been granted by end-2014.”

Budget Transparency Addressed 

Another section of the proposed loan document addresses budget and financial transparency. It reviews weaknesses in the disclosure of budget information, observing among other things that “the absence of public disclosure of timely and detailed public expenditure data reduced the government’s accountability and affected negatively the perception of economic operators.”

The Minister of Finance “has issued a Decision to strengthen fiscal transparency,” the document says approvingly.

The goal established is that the draft budget and the budget execution reports “are published on a regular basis. Public expenditure data is available online, including the mapping of regional investment projects.”

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