EIB Rejects Internal Advice, Declines to Release Report

28 August 2014

The European Investment Bank has rejected a request from Christian Aid to publish a report on its investigation into tax evasion allegations against Mopani Copper Mines.

The Bank’s Complaints Mechanism recommended that the report should be published in redacted form, but the Bank rejected that advice.

The EIB investigated whether Mopani Copper Mines (a Glencore subsidiary) in Zambia evaded tax. The EIB in a July 25 statement said the investigation is closed.

In rejecting disclosure, the Bank said the report is not covered by the EIB transparency policy.

Referring to Article 15 (3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFUE), the Bank’s July 25 letter to Christian Aid said investigations into matters relating to the financing of the EIB, which are carried out by the EIB Inspectorate General’s Fraud Investigations Division, “do not fall within the definition of `administrative tasks’ and are therefore not covered by the obligation to disclose.”

“Moreover,” the EIB said, its capacity to investigate its operations and get frank and reliable internal and external advice would be “seriously undermined” by disclosure, “even when the disclosure would follow completion of an investigation.”

The EIB Complaints Mechanism in its advice on disclosure rejected this rationale for nondisclosure.

“It’s time for European governments to drag the bank into the light,” wrote Rachel Baird of Christian Aid in a Guardian article. The European ombudsman is investigating a complaint from Christian Aid over the bank’s refusal to publish.

The EIB is currently reviewing its access to information policies, which have been criticized before by watchdog organizations. A pubic comment period closes Sept. 26. (See previous FreedomInfo.org report.)

“At a time when the case for genuine transparency is clearer than ever and when ministers and international institutions are more outspoken about it as a necessary condition of good governance, the EIB cannot be allowed to lurch in the opposite direction,” Baird wrote.

The World Bank’s Integrity Vice Presidency publishes redacted versions of its reports into corruption and fraud investigations.

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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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