UPDATE: For 2013 Aid Transparency Index scores, please see here.
The 2011 Pilot Index assessed the transparency of three EC departments (Directorates-General): Enlargement (DG Enlargement), EuropeAid Development and Cooperation (DG DEVCO), and Humanitarian Aid (ECHO). The Service for Foreign Policy Instruments (FPI) has been added to the analysis for the 2012 Index. The FPI has been set up in response to the establishment of the European External Action Service (EEAS) and operates under the responsibility of Baroness Ashton in her role as Vice President to the EC. The service is responsible for implementing EU external cooperation in relation to Common Foreign and Security Policy issues such as jointly managing the Instrument for Stability (which includes global security and development spending). Although DG DEVCO is considered to be the main implementing agency for EU external assistance, substantial flows and/or activities are managed by the other departments, such as the FPI.
The EC should be congratulated for leading on aid transparency internationally and internally. It is an original signatory to IATI. Its implementation schedule, published in May 2011, covered publication of aid information from DG DEVCO, representing 75% of the EC’s ODA. DEVCO began publishing to the IATI Registry in October 2011.
The 2012 Index shows a significant range in performance amongst the Commission’s departments, from DG DEVCO — 77.0%, near the top of the fair group — to the FPI’s 29.4%, rated poor. DEVCO’s publication to IATI helped it to achieve an overall ranking of 5th. ECHO came second amongst the EC’s departments, which reflects the strength of a comprehensive online database. It is notable that a number of departments have performed less well than in 2011 owing to the fact that the EU’s current budget cycle is coming to an end in 2013, meaning that three-year forward budgets (up to 2015) are often not published. Negotiations are currently under way for the EU’s next Multi-Annual Financial Framework (MFF) for the period 2014—2020.
The relative strength of all the departments’ scores at the organisation level is perhaps an indication of the longer-established norms of publishing a set of organisation-wide documents and annual reports, collectively covering strategy, budget, procurement and audit. It also reflects the EC’s role as a multilateral organisation, accountable to European Member States and the European Parliament.
The forthcoming negotiations on the EU’s seven-year Budget provide a critical opportunity for ensuring that the Busan commitments on aid transparency are fully integrated into the EU’s next MFF and 11th European Development Fund (2014—20). To date DG DEVCO has played a significant role in leading the EC’s implementation of the common standard, however other EC departments managing the EU’s external aid budget such as DG’s ECHO and Enlargement and the new FPI Service now have a responsibility to publish their information in line with the common standard.
The European Commission should share lessons learned and best practice by communicating the benefits of comparable, timely, comprehensive and accessible aid information to its staff across the DGs to encourage improvement in data quality and greater coordination in programming and implementation.