IFI governance

Background

IMF Transparency roundtable

Partial note

24 April 2009 | Minutes

Tessa van der Willigen (IMF)

Transparency has a stabilising effect, particularly in crises. It also promotes public debate and also increases scrutiny of IMF which can only improve quality.

Close to 90% of board documents are published and ‘nearly all’ policy papers are published. Most country documents available ofter 5 years on request. Review of transparency policy is ongoing.

Ulric Erickson von Allmen (IMF) – Tranpsarency policy review

Value of transparency is recognised in the fund, but there are also costs – for example, does it mean that reports will be less candid? Currently:

  • policy applies to board documents(country and policy and papers)
  • Publication fo country douments is voluntary but presumed
  • Publication of policy papers is presumed
  • Staff reports are not negotiated or shared beforehand with country authorities. Article 4 reports published, but may be deletions of
    • (i) highly market-sensitive material and
    • (ii) premature disclosure of governments’ policy intentions.

Current trends:

  • 80% of staff reports are published and nearly all policy papers.
  • But long lags for some – 35% of country papers more than 30 days after the baord meeting.
  • Many modifications (30% have modifications or deletions.)

Discussion

Question/ comment

  • Useful to have public disclosure on your administrative costs. Would be useful to have a public audit of this. Every administration faces problems of efficiency
  • Board meetings should be open or transcripts made public. Idea that there is a ‘consensus’ is not credible.
  • Management translate board decisions into ‘staff instructions’ – we should see these.
  • PINs can be translated by those in the know – should just be stated clearly.

IMF response

  • Agree with many points – undergoing a cultural change that is not complete yet.
  • Board minutes don’t get released for years; not the same as many central banks who release within weeks. Should be thinking in the direction.
  • Managment translates board decisions into ‘operational guidance’ – which are increasingly being published.
  • Will look into public disclosure of administrative costs, but not sure that they’re not already published.

Question/ comment

  • Recap recommendations of the GTI: presumed disclosure with strictly limited exceptions where clear tests have been satisfied; mechanism for requesting information, with answers to a time frame and an independent appeals mechanism; extend transparency to all documents; timely release – not just after documents are completed, need to see drafts etc in order to have an input.
  • IEO report surveyed the IMF staff’s opinion of the summary of baord meetings – most board members and staff saw these as often vague or contradictory. Transcripts would be a better way of disclosing.

Question/ comment

  • governments often don’t disclose letter of intentions, with no reason given. Should be the other way round; governments should have to give valid reasons not to publish.
  • Citizens are real stakeholders, not just governments.

IMF response

  • It’s in the IMF Articles of Agreement that governments can withold information – IMF has to have active consent of member. Have tried to change this before, but was not supported by the Board.
  • Recognise this is a problem as inconsistency
  • GTI report raises lots of valid questions.