World Bank Planning More Transparency for Trust Funds

4 January 2013

The World Bank is planning to allow more access to information about the operations of trust funds it administers, according to a new report evaluating the first 18 months of its revised Access to Information Policy.

The Dec. 19 report, placed on the Bank website without an announcement, reviews the Bank’s performance, providing many statistics.

Besides describing plans for greater trust fund transparency, the report hints at other unspecified alterations of the access policy, which was revised in 2009 (effective July 2010). The information is cryptic:

9. Based on the Bank’s implementation experience, Bank management has identified several aspects of the AI Policy that can be clarified or further developed. Executive Directors have been consulted and are providing input on the matters. Following the conclusion of the consultations, Management will present recommendations to the Executive Directors for consideration.

Overall, the report concludes that the Bank has made “great strides in becoming a greater force of transparency and accountability” and that “successful implementation of the AI Policy will continue to be a work in progress.” It states, “To that end, the Bank continues to refine the systems and infrastructure that support its implementation of the AI Policy.”

Trust Fund Transparency to Be Increased

The report says the AI Policy will be applied to trust funds, indicating that this has been in the works for some time and will begin “in FY 2013.” The Bank’s fiscal year begins July 1.

The report says that “one of the Bank’s objectives is to align the process for disclosing documents related to recipient-executed activities that are financed by trust funds with the process for disclosing documents related to operations that are financed by the Bank.”

The report continues:  “In the first 18 months of the AI Policy’s implementation, the plans for integrating trust fund documents in the operational systems for Bank-financed operations were still under development. As a result, disclosure of certain trust fund related documents had to be handled on a case-by-case basis. While certain trust fund related documents will continue to be made publicly available only upon request, the sponsoring business units (OPCS, CFP, CTR, IMT and LEG) have agreed on a plan to ensure the further improvement of the public availability of documents related to recipient-executed activities financed by trust funds. The advancement of this trust fund business integration initiative is scheduled to begin in FY 2013.”

As of June 30, 2011, the World Bank held $29.1 billion of funds in trust. There seems to be no fiscal 2012 data, but a March Directory describes the trust funds, with 220 listings, including large ones such as the Global Environment Facility and comparatively smaller ones such as the Cambodian Multi-Donor Trust Fund for Trade-Related Assistance.

The report also says efforts are under way to provide more information about the Bank’s pension and other retirement benefit plans. In addition, the Bank is “taking measures to publish corporate administrative procurement awards and operational consultant procurement awards above USD250,000,” with some exceptions.

Denials Run 8.5 Percent

The report provides data on the handling of requests through Dec. 31, 2011. Over the first 18 months, the Bank publicly released close to 24,000 documents and reports, including 458 Board papers, of which 150 Board papers were released before the Board’s consideration. “Also for that period, the Bank’s public Documents and Reports database received more than 1.6 million visits. Users viewed approximately 6.8 million pages and downloaded close to 1.3 million documents.”

In the same period, the Bank handled 1,060 cases filed by the public to request information. The report summarizes:

 The Bank completed 89.6 percent of the cases by the end of December 30, 2011. Of the requests that were properly addressed to the Bank and that provided adequate information for the Bank to provide a response, the Bank fulfilled, in whole or in part, 91.5 percent of the cases, denying in whole only 8.5 percent. The Bank completed 74 percent of the public access request cases within the normal 20 working day standard. The other cases broadly required internal and/or external consultations which justified the need for additional processing time.

The report explains what steps have been taken “to enhance and strengthen the business processes and infrastructure that support the AI Policy’s implementation.”

These include continued development of the Bank’s access to information case tracking system, and the preparation of plans for a future case management system with deployment expected before the end of FY 2013.

Concerning another future plan, the report says: “Development of options for the integration of relevant Bank databases to streamline the processing of safeguards documents for disclosure (completion expected in FY 2013).”

The report notes, without providing figures, that “sampling results indicate that Bank staff members continue to improve in the accuracy of their classification of information.” The report describes streamlined procedures for the release of documents more than 20 years old.

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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
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