BRICS Bank Issues Interim Disclosure Policy

1 September 2016

The New Development Bank (NDB) has issued an interim information disclosure policy.

The policy (text) appears generally similar to those of other international financial institutions, stating, “The Bank is committed to a policy of information disclosure in order to promote transparency and enhance accountability in its operations.” This commitment is recognized in the Article 15 of the founding agreement of the NDB established in 2014 by the BRICS states (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).

The 10-page interim policy was announced Aug. 30, along with a raft of other policies, including those on procurement, information technology and the environment. The disclosure policy “shall have an interim character and will be reviewed taking into account all potential inputs as the operations of the Bank evolve,” according to the statement. The policy says the reviews will be annual. Comments or suggestions were invited via e-mail at policy@ndb.int.

Regarding project level information, the policy states:

The Bank shall publish project documents for sovereign loans, sovereign guaranteed loans and loans to national financial intermediaries in consultation with the member country, summary documents for other nonsovereign operations after the approval of the operations by the BoD. In disclosing such information, the NDB shall respect its obligations in relation to borrowers and sub-borrowers who have entrusted confidential information to the Bank. The project processing division will redact as required the confidential information before disclosure.

The definition of “confidential” includes 10 categories, including exemptions for personal information and harm to the national security interests of members.

It also includes several exemptions with broad scope, including, “Information intended for internal use only or classified as confidential under Bank’s guidelines.” The policy does nor appear to elaborate elsewhere on the “guidelines.”

NDB Board deliberations seem well protected with:

Board documents, unless explicit approval for disclosure is given. This includes documents related the Bank’s own decision-making process and related internal documents, memoranda and other materials that are prepared for, exchanged in connection with, or derived from the Bank’s deliberative or decision-making processes.

A footnote indicates that minutes will be released. A section on “governance information” to be disclosed includes, “General information about BoG and BoD meetings, including BoD committees, working schedules and minutes of the meetings.” The minutes will be basic, according to the Bank’s rules, and “summary records of the proceedings of the Board are confidential and shall not be published, except when the Board decides to authorise the President to arrange for suitable publicity on any matter relating thereto.”

Other broad exemptions cover “information that when disclosed might endanger or harm or adversely affect the relations between the Bank and its member countries” and “information provided to the Bank by third party under an expectation of confidentiality, including but not limited to proprietary information.”

A catch-all provision says:

In case of exceptional circumstances and with the approval of the BoD the Bank reserves the right not to disclose information that would otherwise normally be disclosed under this policy.

The Bank pledges responses to requests within 5 days unless clarifications are necessary.

Appeals are possible to the Corporate Secretary. In addition, without details, the policy promises: “The NDB shall establish an effective mechanism for an impartial review of appeals against the Bank’s refusal to disclose information.”

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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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