IFI governance


Information disclosure at the World Bank Group

21 September 2004 | Inside the institutions

The World Bank and International Finance Corporation (IFC)-the Bank’s private sector lending arm- are currently revising their information disclosure policies. Both institutions have a responsibility to provide the public with access to information about their projects and operations. Information disclosure not only facilitates public participation in Bank and IFC activities, but also enables the public to monitor how these institutions are meeting their goals of sustainable development and poverty alleviation.

While both the Bank and IFC are supposed to operate under a “presumption in favour of disclosure”, in practice they only disclose those documents which their policies explicitly require of them.

Current disclosure requirements

The Bank’s disclosure policy (2002) requires that it make available information on its basic operations, the activities of its board, and the development of its strategies and projects. The box below outlines some of the information that it must routinely disclose through its website or in borrowing countries.

both the Bank and IFC are supposed to operate under a "presumption in favour of disclosure"

The IFC’s disclosure requirements however, are more limited. It discloses environmental and social information for high-impact projects at least 60 days before board approval and a summary of project objectives and major environmental impacts at least 30 days before approval.

In-country access to information Public Information Centres (PICs) have been established in at least 60 borrowing member countries. Generally these act as regional information centres on the Bank’s activities and receive public requests for information, and provide assistance in finding project and policy-related information on the Bank and IFC.

In August 2003, the Bank approved a strategy to strengthen its PICs, and increase information dissemination and outreach about Bank projects in borrowing countries. Key features of this strategy are to enhance the training of PIC staff, maintain a complete library of information on WB activities in the country or region, help ensure compliance with the Bank’s disclosure policy, and advise on the local translation of documents.

Translation In August 2003 the Bank approved a framework to address the issue of translation more systematically. However this does not include mandatory translation of all documents. Instead, the framework recommends which types of information should be translated, and into which languages. The public can request the translation of any Bank or IFC document by contacting their nearest PIC or the WBG InfoShop in Washington DC. In 2005, the WBG will review the ‘demand’ for translation.

Routinely disclosed information

Information on the board of directors

  • Biannual executive directors’ work program overview
  • Monthly board calendar

Country economic and sector information

  • Country Assistance Strategies
  • Economic and Sector Work Report
  • Sector Strategy Papers
  • Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers

Evaluation documents

  • Operations Evaluations Department evaluations
  • Synthesis reports from Quality Assurance Group

Information on projects and structural adjustment loans

  • Project information documents
  • Integrated safeguard data sheet
  • List of factual technical documents
  • Environmental assessment reports
  • Project appraisal documents
  • Program documents
  • Letters of development policy
  • Implementation completion reports

For more information, contact Bank Information Center.

Key Disclosure Issues

Bank and IFC disclosure policy revisions Whilst the Bank’s revision process is internal and does not solicit public comment on proposed changes, it is expected to address the issues of board transparency and increased disclosure of project documentation. In contrast, the IFC’s disclosure review is open to the public and will involve four international consultations as well as external comment on the consultation paper.

Transparency of the board of directors The board operates almost entirely in secrecy, although limited information about its operations has been made available in the past two years, such as a biannual executive directors’ (E.Ds) work programme overview and a monthly board calendar. E.Ds are currently debating on whether or not to disclose minutes of board meetings and whether individual E.Ds should be able to disclose formal written statements on major project and policy discussions.

Disclosure of draft documents With the exception of environmental and social project information, neither the IFC or the Bank are required to disclose information in draft form before decisions on a project or policy have been made. In this regard, the Bank and IFC have weaker requirements than the African Development Bank and Inter-American Development Bank.

Disclosure during project implementation The public does not have access to how projects progress during implementation, which makes it difficult for the public to hold the institutions accountable to sustainable development goals.

CPIA disclosure The Country Policy and Institutional Assessment (CPIA) ranks a country’s performance in key areas such as governance, macro-economic policy management, social protection and labour, and budgetary and financial management. The Bank currently provides minimal information on a country’s CPIA rating but over the past year has been considering new requirements to increase CPIA transparency.