NGOs Seek More Information About World Bank ATI Plans

29 June 2016

The World Bank needs to provide more concrete answers about its stated commitment to access to information, according to the leader of an ad hoc coalition of 130 nongovernmental organizations.

The Bank has eliminated the three staff positions of persons who worked on global freedom of information issues, sparking a letter of concern from the groups. (See FreedomInfo.org report, and article on the NGO protest letter, and an article on the World Bank response.)

After evaluating the Bank reply, the NGOs are seeking more detail and a consultation meeting, according to a letter June 27 by Gilbert Sendugwa, Coordinator and Head of Secretariat of the Africa Freedom of Information Centre. “We would like to share feedback of civil society leaders from all regions,” wrote Sendugwa, the organizer and lead signator on the original letter.

“We welcome World Bank’s reassurance that it remains committed to the advancement of citizens’ access to information as a key pillar for good governance, fiscal transparency, sound public financing management, and citizen engagement in the development process which are vital for boosting shared prosperity and realization of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” according to the letter, which also praised several other points made by the Bank.

“However, while noting that transfer of certain ATI support roles from the centre to regional units may increase accessibility to the bank’s support by CSOs and clients, a number of areas remain unclear,” Sendugwa’s letter states. He elaborated:

a) Will the World Bank continue to effectively engage on ATI at global level on key platforms like SDGs, open government and open contracting without staff at the centre, how will this work from regional units?

b) Civil society appreciates the bank’s support for ATI in 20 operations in Africa and other regions. Do these cover specific technical assistance for governments to implement ATI or funding for civil society to demand transparency accountability?

c) One of the World Bank’s strategic support has been facilitating Special Rapporteurs, government and civil society leaders to engage key process to augment ATI, will this continue and how effective will this be with coordination being at regional centres?

d) With more countries enacting ATI laws, the World Bank started an important initiative of elaborating ATI implementation methodology. This is timely in relation to SDG 16.10.2. How this will be transmitted to regional offices for their use and deployment, will there be dedicated staff and budget for ATI?

“Civil society ATI advocates are deeply concerned that while they have had long standing valued collaboration with the World Bank, they were not consulted on the closure of the bank’s ATI central unit despite its likely negative impact on national, regional and global transparency agenda,” continued the letter.

“Finally, recent civil society efforts to obtain information regarding the World Bank’s new ATI strategy have so far not yielded fruits. In view of the above civil society request:

  1. Copy of the World Bank’s new ATI strategy
  2. A meeting to obtain clarity on the above issues and discuss the World Bank’s ATI agenda

World Bank Replies to Freedominfo.org

The World Bank has provided FreedomInfo.org with a list of ATI-related projects in Africa.

Walliser’s letter stated, “In Africa alone, the World Bank is implementing 20 active operations worth over $540 million that include components or subcomponents that focus on ATI, as well as varied analytical work and technical assistance.” The list was not included as part of the initial response to the NGOs, but was sent in response to a FreedomInfo.org request.

The list of 21 projects includes titles such as: Economic Governance & Citizen Engagement, State & Local Governance Reform and Public Financial Management Enhancement Project.

FreedomInfo.org has not completed an examination of the projects for their ATI components.

Nature of ATI Review Unclear

The Bank has not expanded on its statement in the reply letter from Jan Walliser, the Bank’s Vice President for Equitable Growth, Finance & Institutions, that “over the past months” the Bank has “reviewed the arrangements for the implementation of ATI work programs.” He wrote, “Regional units (as compared to central units) now have greater responsibility for supporting country-level reforms including fiscal transparency and ATI.”

Asked to say more about this review, Bank spokesperson Nichole Frost wrote:

What ATI review are you referring to?  The letter stated that “we have reviewed implementation arrangements”.  This was part of the regular portfolio review work we do within our management teams.

Asked for more detail, she said, “The Bank’s portfolio includes all of our pipeline, active and closed projects.”

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Filed under: IFTI Watch

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