In early March the World Bank board approved an updated disclosure policy, bringing to a disappointing end a secretive two-year long review. Key changes include:
- Board minutes will be made public after they have been approved by the board. Minutes do not provide a transcript of the meeting, and the names of executive directors who object or abstain will only be made public if they wish so. The proposed policy on minutes will exempt “executive sessions,” and permit deletion of material “too sensitive for public distribution.”
- Beginning 1 April, Country Assistance Strategies (CAS) will be disclosed, but only if countries agree to do so in writing. Any information deemed sensitive may be removed. Original suggestions to include drafts of CASs and programme documents for PRSCs were rejected. The World Bank continues to be the only IFI that does not require disclosure of country strategies.
- A programme will be piloted to disclose operational policy reviews simultaneously with their distribution to the board (limited to those reviews which are subject to an external consultation process). The pilot is significantly scaled back from the original proposal.
Wolfensohn punishes whistleblowers
The Government Accountability Project (GAP) has said that several Bank employees who reported misconduct have been personally retaliated against by Bank president James Wolfensohn. The salvo was a turnaround from the US-based public-interest law firm’s report eight months ago which had claimed that the Bank’s whistleblower protections were the best of any international development bank. Bank officials have called the accusations “absolutely false”. The board is to hear a management progress report on whistleblower procedures 13 April.
GAP was heavily critical of the Bank in a response to the US Treasury’s report to congress on corruption in the multilateral development banks. The group censured the Treasury for not commenting on the Bank’s ineffective whistleblower policy and for endorsing the Bank’s Department of Institutional Integrity as a model when “it has been misused to inflict reprisal on whistleblowers”.
the Department of Institutional Integrity has been misused to inflict reprisal on whistleblowers
US pushes anti-corruption reforms
US replenishment of IDA (see page 4) will be contingent on reforms to deal with corruption, according to senate foreign relations committee chairman Richard Lugar. One recommendation under consideration would require mandatory financial disclosure for all World Bank officials and employees whose duties involve them in the contracting or procurement process.