EIB Disclosure Policy Needs Reform, 17 Groups State

22 September 2014

Seventeen civil society organizations have called on the European Investment Bank to make major improvements to its disclosure policy.

The policy, a slightly revised draft of which is now under review, “does not adequately reflect key international standards and principles relating to transparency,” according to a 24-page statement issued Sept. 22.

The policy is likely to go to the EIB governing directors in February, but the Bank has no indicated whether provide for public comment in a second draft, as called for by the groups.

Broader Application Suggested

The groups urged the EIB to apply the policy to both the administrative and non-administrative tasks of the EIB.

The significance of this distinction emerged recently when the Bank 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 Bank maintained that 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.” (See previous FrredomInfo.org article.)

Open Meetings Recommended

The CSOs recommended “that more information about governing body meetings should be available, and Board of Directors meetings should be opened to external observers.” Documents should be made public well in advance of Board hearings, generally at the same time as they are sent to the Board, the analysis says,

“Full public disclosure should be the norm, subject only to the regime of exceptions in the policy,” groups said. “All of the exceptions in the policy should adhere to strict standards of harm,” the groups wrote, adding that the Bank should make it clear that member States and other third parties should not have a veto over the disclosure of information.

Public Interest Override Urged

“All exceptions should be subject to a public interest override,” according to the groups.

Commenting on the Bank draft, the statement specifies, “The proposal to create a presumption that harm exist in relation to the excep?tion to protect the purpose of inspections, investigations and audits should be ?dropped and harm should need to be shown, as for all exceptions.”

“Public disclosure requirements should be made part of binding language in all ?contracts, partnership agreements and legally binding documents between the EIB and others, and a commitment to include such language should be set out in the Transparency Policy,” the statement says.

Further, “As a public institution with a commitment to transparency, the Bank should not do business with financial intermediaries which refuse to make data on their beneficial owners or their investors publicly available.”

Inform Affected Communities Early

The new policy “should impose a direct obligation on the EIB to provide information to communities affected by EIB projects in a manner and format which is accessible to them,” the groups suggested. “Complete and timely information should be made available at the local level and key information should be produced in an accessible language and form.”

The groups recommended that the Bank establish “mechanism for early public notice” for affected communities and “require that such communications form an integral part of publicly available preparatory project documents.”

The creation of an independent and authoritative appeals body was proposed, with the burden of proof put on the EIB, not the complainant.

“For both internal and external whistleblowing mechanisms to be truly effective, individuals need to be provided with adequate, clear and accessible information on how to report so-called ‘Prohibited Conduct’, and to be aware of how the information they report will be dealt with by the EIB,” the groups said.

EIB should fully implement International Aid Transparency Initiative by the end of 2015.

The preparation of the statement was coordinated by the Secretariat of Counter Balance, Brussels. Signatories are: Action Aid International, Africa Freedom of Information Centre, Arab NGO Network for Development, Article 19, Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio and Communication, Both ENDS, CEE Bankwatch network, Centre for Law and Democracy, Christian Aid, Center for International Environmental Law, Counter Balance, Eurodad, Freedom of Information Center of Armenia, Institute for Development of Freedom of Information, Publish What You Fund, Sherpa, and Transparency International (European Union office).

 

 

 

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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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