Multilateral development banks top aid transparency rankings

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The 2022 Aid Transparency Index reports a gradual improvement across many organisations as it names the AfDB, World Bank, IDB and ADB the most transparent. 

The Publish What You Fund global campaign for aid transparency has reported some improvement in aid transparency since 2020. A growing number of organisations have now been judged good or very good despite a small dip in average scores amid reporting difficulties during the pandemic.

In the last two years, the report notes that the majority of major aid organisations are now publishing standardised aid data that meets important use cases, but that there is a need for constant vigilance against the backdrop of the pandemic and the decision by some aid organisations not to join transparency efforts.

Among organisations ranked ‘fair’ or ‘poor’, the report warned that there appeared to be a lack of improvement, indicating a lack of concerted effort to embed a culture of aid transparency and systems for the publication of high-quality aid data.

There are also signs that the non-sovereign portfolios of development finance institutions scored significantly lower than their sovereign portfolios. But the rise in good and very good organisations is indicative of improvements underway.

High performers

The most transparent aid organisation, assessed by 32 experts against the index’ criteria, was the African Development Bank (ADB). It was given a score of 98.5%, having adopted a great many of the available best practices to ensure the transparency of its financing activities.

ADB president, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina said: “I am elated to learn of this outstanding recognition from Publish What You Fund. It is a testament to the relentless efforts of the more than 2,000 personnel across our organisation who work tirelessly to accelerate Africa’s progress. Maintaining razor sharp focus, they consistently deliver top quality under the highest levels of scrutiny. I am incredibly proud of them. I commend Publish What You Fund for their important mission, combining robust research and technical expertise with targeted advocacy and engagement to make aid and development efforts more transparent and effective.”

Alongside the AfDB at the top of the rankings, were the World Bank (2nd), the Inter-American Development Bank (3rd) and the Asian Development Bank (4th), suggesting that where they make a clear commitment to do so, the multilateral development banks really do lead the way on aid transparency.

Complacency takes a toll

Even among previously high performing organisations, complacency and the fraught nature of pandemic response has presented a risk, with three previously ‘very good’ organisations slipping out of that category.

The Global Fund was the biggest faller, scoring almost 19 points below its 2020 score and dropping 14 places in the rankings. Global Affairs Canada scored almost ten points less than in 2020 and is now in the middle of the ‘good’ category, while the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office fell 13.5 points compared with its predecessor, the UK Department for International Development, in the previous index.

These examples illustrate the importance of continued effort and prioritisation of good quality data publication in order to maintain standards and avoid backsliding.

Growing ‘good’

The biggest category of organisations is now ‘good’, meaning that good and very good organisations make up more than 60% of the index.

The US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief increased its score by almost nine points compared with 2020, moving up from ‘fair’ to the middle of the ‘good’ category. The French Development Agency and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation achieved similarly important improvements to move from ‘fair’ in 2020 to ‘good’ in the newest report.

Four newly assessed organisations also achieved a ‘good’ rating. These include the ADB’s non-sovereign fund, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development’s non-sovereign fund, the World Health Organisation and the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Problematic organisations

Some organisations have fallen into the ‘poor’ category over the past two years. These include Saudi Arabia’s KSRelief, Norway MFA and Japan’s JICA. The report suggests that these organisations may not have sufficiently prioritised the improvement of their data and they did not act on recommendations from the 2020 Index.

Two new entries are also in the ‘poor’ category – Germany’s Federal Foreign Office and IDB Invest. Both are, however, publishing standardised data for their activities and the report expresses the hope they will therefore build on their scores from this first assessment.

China MOFCOM, UAE MOFAIC and Turkey TIKA are at the bottom of the rankings in the 2022 index. These organisations do not publish standardised data and continue to make only limited information publicly available through their websites. The report hopes they are able to publish standardised data about their ongoing activities in the near future since their current absence from the global aid dataset is seen as a significant gap.

Recommendations

The report sets out several recommendations for the aid sector in the year ahead, including:

■ Publish more project budgets to enable good planning and coordination.

■ Implement government entity references and develop referencing approaches for private sector companies to facilitate the networking of data and tracking of aid flows.

■ Publish more financial and performance data about non-sovereign portfolios.

■ Publish comprehensive data about project performance, to show whether objectives have been met and to share learning.

■ Publish project budget documents, project procurement information (contracts and tenders), conditions and pre-project impact appraisals to assist project monitoring and accountability.

You can read the full report by clicking here