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2012 Aid Transparency Index

Executive Summary

The state of aid transparency

Aid is becoming more transparent, but progress is slow and uneven. This report finds that aid can be made much more transparent without great difficulty, when political commitment is translated into effective implementation. Transparent aid means information being shared openly in a timely, comprehensive, comparable and accessible way. The International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) offers a common standard for publishing aid information that satisfies all of these elements. Only then can aid and related development activities be made truly effective, efficient and accountable.

Gaining momentum

Over the past decade, transparency has been driven up the political agenda in countries and organisations all over the world. Citizens expect to be able to hold governments to account and know where their money is going. Open government initiatives are helping to promote aid transparency, partly driven by the possibilities of new technology. However, much of the current momentum comes from the aid effectiveness agenda. After grappling for years with difficult issues – including coordination of aid activities, recipient country ownership and predictability – donors, recipients and civil society alike have realised that very little of the aid effectiveness agenda can be achieved without greater and systematic transparency.

At the Accra High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in 2008, donors committed to make aid more transparent. In response, a group of 14 donors launched the International Aid Transparency Initiative. By early 2011, IATI had been developed to provide a practical method for making aid transparent, via a common standard for publishing information. The emergence of a comprehensive and workable data standard made it possible to turn rhetoric into reality.

Busan: the tipping point

Political pressure mounted before the Busan High-Level Forum (HLF-4) on Aid Effectiveness in late 2011. Donors were exposed for showing very little progress on key commitments made in the Paris Declaration in 2005. A civil society coalition, led by Publish What You Fund, launched the “Make Aid Transparent” campaign, to demand progress on IATI ahead of HLF-4. In partnership with many partner countries and donors, the campaign successfully called for time-bound commitments in the Busan agreement to implement a common, open standard. This common standard framework incorporates the whole of IATI, along with the OECD’s Creditor Reporting System (CRS) and Forward Spending Survey. The Busan agreement requires all donors to produce implementation schedules for this common standard by December 2012, with full implementation expected to be achieved by December 2015.

In an effort to create some positive momentum on the eve of the Busan Forum, several IATI signatories joined DFID, the World Bank and the Hewlett Foundation in publishing to the IATI Registry. These new publishers included the Asian Development Bank, Australia, EC-DEVCO, Finland, the Global Fund, Spain, Sweden and the UNDP. Several other prominent donors signalled their conviction by signing IATI in Busan, most notably the U.S., Canada and the IADB, which commits them to developing a schedule for implementing the IATI standard.

IATI delivers

For aid to be fully transparent, donors must publish information to IATI.
IATI now has 33 signatory donors committed to publishing to its common standard. These donors account for over 75% of Official Development Finance (ODF).

Implementation of IATI is also now under way, with at least initial publication by donors accounting for 43% of ODF. In addition, over 30 civil society organisations (CSOs) are now publishing to the IATI Registry.

As organisations get to grips with publishing to the IATI standard, the quality and transparency of their aid information is improving. The greatest improvements have been shown by those who have either automated their publication (e.g. the Global Fund, GAVI, the Netherlands) or have already re-published (e.g. DFID, AusAID and EC-DEVCO) and begun to address gaps and inconsistencies, benefiting from the feedback of the IATI Secretariat and information consumers.

Aid Transparency Index

Publish What You Fund monitors the transparency of aid organisations in order to track progress, encourage further transparency and hold organisations to account. In 2010, we produced the Aid Transparency Assessment, a first attempt at undertaking a methodical review of donors’ aid transparency. This assessment of 30 organisations demonstrated the lack of primary, timely and comparable data. A more robust evidence base was required in order to monitor progress over time.

The methodology piloted in the 2011 Aid Transparency Index shifted to collecting the primary data, in partnership with 49 CSOs. This primary data was used to assess the availability of 37 specific types of information, or indicators, grouped in three different levels – organisation, country and activity (project). The fact that this information is often not published was one of the main findings.

An important outcome of the 2011 pilot was the building of an evidence base which can be used to monitor donor progress regularly over time. Although we have made some minor changes to the methodology in 2012 (adding some new indicators and moving some to a more appropriate level) the majority of the indicators remain the same, making it possible to compare individual donor performance with 2011.

For the 2012 Index, 72 organisations were selected. As well as bilateral and multilateral agencies, selected climate finance funds, humanitarian agencies, development finance institutions and private foundations have also been included, in order to test the applicability of the methodology to wider development activities.

The Index relied largely on CSO partners to survey 41 of the 43 indicators of aid transparency, based on what is available on agencies’ websites. The 2012 Index substantially follows the 2011 Pilot Index by not awarding additional points for the format that information is provided in or how accessible it is. In recognition of the importance of high quality aidinformation, the Index methodology will be revised in future years. Our aim is to increase its ability to assess how closely organisations’ data conforms to best practice, in terms of coding, comprehensiveness and accuracy. This will allow constructive feedback to organisations on improving the quality of their data.

As in 2011, each of the three levels has an equal weight of 33.33%. While different groups and constituencies require and value various aid information types differently, it was decided that no level should have a higher weighting than any other.

A tool is provided on the Publish What You Fund website which allows you to reweight the data in line with your prioritisation and assessment of the importance of different types of information: http://publishwhatyoufund.org/index

There is a wider variation in the 2012 results, with scores varying from 91% to 0%, as compared to 78% to 0% in 2011. At the top end, two organisations appear to be pulling away from the rest: DFID (91.2%) and the World Bank-IDA/IBRD (87.9%) are fully 10 points ahead of the next highest donor, the Netherlands (77.4%). As in 2011, larger and more established donor organisations generally perform better. Multilaterals also tend to score highly, with over two thirds of multilaterals scoring 60% or more.

Some organisations have made big improvements in 2012. DFID has increased its score substantially, rising from 5th (out of 58) in 2011 to 1st in 2012. GAVI has leapt from 35th to 13th. This is largely due to the publication of high quality, current activity data to the IATI Registry. In 2011, the Netherlands improved its rank from 30th to 4th in the course of the data collection process, and it has moved up again to 3rd place in 2012.

36 organisations showed improvement against 2011, with some organisations making particularly notable improvements. These are mainly found in the top three groupings: DFID’s score on like-for-like indicators increased by 33 percentage points, GAVI’s by 28 percentage points and EC-DEVCO’s by 18 percentage points. In the moderate group, several organisations improved on this basis by over 10 percentage points: Australia, U.S.-Treasury, U.S.-PEPFAR, New Zealand and USAID. Though more modest in their improvements, three organisations in the poor category improved significantly on the basis of comparable indicators: UK-CDC (by 11 percentage points), U.S.-DOD (by 10 percentage points) and Poland (by 10 percentage points).

The poor group is smaller than in 2011 but still contains nearly a third of organisations, including some of the world’s largest and most prominent donors: both German agencies, GIZ (39.7%) and KfW (26.2%); France’s AFD (35.1%); two U.S. agencies, Department of State (31.1%) and Department of Defense (23.5%); and three UK institutions, MOD (26.1%), CDC (22.5%) and FCO (21.3%). As a bloc, EU nations performed poorly, with 12 Member States represented by national institutions in the poor group.

The very poor category is also smaller, but still contains some significant donors: France’s Ministries of Foreign Affairs (MAE) and of Economy, Finance and Industry (MINEFI) scored 14% and 6% respectively; combined they are responsible for over USD 3 billion of French bilateral ODA.

Multilateral organisations tend to score reasonably well, with over two thirds of them ranking good or fair. Bilaterals as a group perform poorly compared with other groups. In every single group – from good to very poor – organisations performed best on indicators at the organisation level. Two donors, DFID and Sweden, scored 100% at the organisation level. By contrast, 12 organisations scored 0% at the activity level, including established donor agencies like France-AFD, Germany-KfW, Portugal and Switzerland.

Conclusion 1:

Progress is being made

The 2012 Index shows that aid transparency is on the rise, though progress is modest. The average score was just over 41%, compared to 34% in 2011. 16 of the surveyed information types are systematically published by more than half of organisations – an increase from only eight information types in 2011.

Some organisations are trail-blazing. For the first time, two organisations (DFID and the World Bank) were given a good rating. Six organisations4 – all multilaterals – also rose in 2012 to join nine others in the fair grouping. 36 of the 58 organisations surveyed in 2011 showed improvement in 2012. IATI signatories (including most U.S. agencies) and multilaterals are strongly represented in this group.

A combination of political will, increased pressure from civil society, technological progress and cultural change within institutions has contributed to this improvement.

Conclusion 2:

Much more comparable information needs to be published

Although progress is being made, most aid information is still not published. Aid transparency is falling far short of best practice. The poor and very poor groups are smaller than 2011 but still contain nearly half of all organisations surveyed, including some of the world’s largest donors.

Donors are still not prioritising the publication of information at country and activity levels. This appears to be because they are motivated mainly by domestic accountability requirements at the organisation level. It is particularly disappointing to see supporters of aid effectiveness performing so poorly on timely activity level information. Comparable activity data is essential for aid coordination, accountability and mapping to partner country budget classifications, via the forthcoming IATI budget identifier.

Conclusion 3:

IATI is the most effective vehicle for delivering aid transparency

The Index shows IATI works. It is no coincidence that the top 16 organisations in the 2012 Index are all IATI signatories. Some of the biggest increases in organisations’ scores and rankings in the Index resulted from their decisions to start making information available via IATI publication. These include GAVI, AusAID and EC-DEVCO.

Nine of the top 16 have begun publishing to the IATI Registry, significantly improving the availability of timely and comparable information. Publishing to the IATI Registry is a learning process – organisations that excelled in the Index tended to have been through several rounds of publication. Moreover, IATI signatories often have a track record of transparency, so start from a higher base.

While donors can improve their aid transparency without publishing to IATI, it is hard to achieve high scores in the Index without publishing high quality information across all of the three categories – a process made far easier by building IATI into information systems.

Recommendation 1:

Deliver on your commitments by moving swiftly to implementation

It is now time for implementation. Donors should publish ambitious implementation schedules, in line with their Busan commitments, by the end of 2012 – and start publishing in 2013. Aid transparency commitments should be institutionalised at the national or agency level. This timeline is essential if donors are to deliver on their Busan commitment of full implementation by December 2015.

Organisations that have already started implementation should work with their peers and lead by example by improving and extending their IATI publication. Cultural change within organisations will also be vital.

Recommendation 2:

Publish now, then improve and automate

Donors should employ a “publish what you can” approach to test the capability of their existing systems to produce high quality, timely information. By the end of 2013, all organisations should have published some information in the IATI format and should be improving the quality and timeliness of their data.

The next step is to increase the quality, frequency, accessibility and detail of publication, to deliver IATI’s unique benefits: the comparability and traceability of information on international development activities throughout the delivery chain. The IATI budget identifier will complete the link to partner country budgets, increasing their transparency.

Organisations should eventually automate publication to the IATI Registry to reduce data-entry errors, cost and time, and increase the sustainability of aid transparency best practice. This will also help to increase the ease and coherence of publication to multiple reporting requirements, by publishing once, using often.

Recommendation 3:

All development finance actors should engage with IATI

All organisations managing or implementing international activities that have an impact on development should work with IATI to ensure that the IATI standard reflects their specific activities.

Publication to the IATI standard has been undertaken by a wide range of actors, from large bilateral, multilateral and private donors to CSOs. Every field that has been finalised in the IATI standard is now being published by at least one organisation, demonstrating its feasibility.

The Index included many organisations that do not perceive themselves to be traditional aid donors, including climate finance providers, development finance investors, South-South Cooperation partners, humanitarian agencies and private foundations. Many are already publishing some of the information items and a few of them have committed to IATI, including OCHA, ECHO and UK-CDC.

IATI captures the information needs of developing countries, donor organisations and CSOs. These needs apply to non-concessional flows, climate finance, humanitarian relief, technical assistance and philanthropy, as well as to ODA. All such activities will incur transaction costs for the partner and can benefit from the increased coordination and collaboration that comparable information sharing allows.

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