Independent evaluation at the IMF: Role, recent work and future agenda

21 April 2017 | Minutes


Charles Collyns, Director, IMF Independent Evaluation Office (IEO)

Ruben Lamdany, Deputy Director, IMF Independent Evaluation Office (IEO)

Moderator: Luiz Vieira, Bretton Woods Project


This session will focus on the IMF’s Independent Evaluation Office’s (IEO) work in strengthening accountability and learning at the Fund. The speakers will explain the IEO’s mandate and governance structure, highlight some of the main achievements in the 16 years of IEO evaluations, and lay out the current work program. Participants will have the opportunity to provide feedback on how well the IEO has achieved its objectives and make suggestions on the IEO’s future agenda.

Moderator – Introduction

·        Thank IEO for initiative and for reaching out to civil society partners – we agree that CSO input into the IEO’s work programme is quite useful.

·        This initiative seems particularly timely given the IMF’s recent changes in rhetoric, if not perhaps policy focus on inequality, gender, labour and the dysfunctional state of the international tax regime.

Mr. Collyns:

New to the IEO – three months.

Introduction to IEO.

Established in 2001 as a result of aftermath of Asian Crisis – Need for objective evaluation. Broad mandate – strengthen IMF’s capacity to support global stability.

Not an auditor, or inspection general – assess degree to which IMF accomplishes objectives. IEO has a strategic rather than tactical focus.


1. Support executive board – extremely busy – useful to have a longer-term perspective.

2. Improve learning culture – suffers from institutional inertia – introduce external ideas. Need to better benefit from external views.

3, Strengthen external legitimacy: Increase transparency and information. Bring in outside views into the Fund.


Independent of management and staff. Staffed largely from outside Fund, with some seconded staff.

Director is appointed by the Board – however arms length relationship.

IEO have access to virtually all information. Staff are compelled to speak with IEO. There were some challenges with this during European evaluation. Fallout from the issue has resulted in reaffirmation of fundamental pillar. Establishing a new information-sharing protocol.

Periodic five-year evaluation of IEO.

Some reports have not had expected results. Independent budget – 0.5% of IMF’s administrative budget – however strategic mandate allows for impact.

Bank of England and France are considering similar arrangements.

Aim to liaise with external agents on topic selection. Very important decision.  Once topic is selected, issue paper is launched. Recent financial surveillance concept note is out– comments are welcome.

Current evaluation – Social protection – try to also speak with affected populations.

Report goes to the Board for discussion. Board will endorse or not recommendations. Up to management to develop implementation plan.

Subsequent monitoring function of implementation plan.

Mr. Lamdany:

Reports are available. Views are particularly welcome at development stage of issues paper – prior to report. Encourages input into reports – Inputs unfortunately remain quite limited to date.

New initiative – looking back at previous themes. Less than 10% of previous, initial report. Provides a sense of impact of previous work.

Also has a newsletter.

Few hundred lessons and recommendations – which can be broken down into six general themes:

1. Lack of guidance and oversight

2. Organisational silos – difficult to integrate insights

3. Insufficient attention to risks – uneven – insufficient in developed markets and overly cautious in developing economies

4. Insufficient country specificity – in most countries 1 person – in larger countries up to three

5. Need for even-handedness in analysis and advice across countries – countries are either feel or are treated differently

6. Significant degree of group-think. Fail to see alternative perspectives.

These will always be a perennial struggle for the Fund.

85% of recommendations were endorsed by the Board – in majority of these that has been some action.

25% of 85% there is sufficient action to move on. 25% little to no action.

Fund eliminated structural compliance criteria based on IEO recommendation.

Fund is working to make data more useful, also resulting from recommendation.

Working with Executive Board to do a triage of recommendations.

Two external evaluations to date. Next panel is being created.

Mr. Collyns:

Current work programme:

Three evaluations are ongoing – Social protection responding to increased attention on vulnerable groups, including workers. Macro-critical. Report nearly complete. Board will discuss during the summer.

2. Fragile states – evaluation is just now beginning

3. Financial surveillance – has IMF improved its ability to identify risks? Concept note is now posted. Seeking comments.

Beginning to look beyond these evaluations – limited in capacity, must be selective. Menu of options will be posted.

Issues that remain outstanding:

Some inaction – due to over level of detail

Issues around management of the institution remain challenge.

Recommended that staff remain involved in the same country for three years to deepen understanding. No apparent action

Recommendation of quota reform – for a while recommendation was not implemented.

IMF – Research and policy disjuncture – many times research is not particularly robust – Fund must act quickly.  Fund is not a research institution. In some cases advise to countries can be quite shallow – eg, social protection. Research is in its infancy. Difficult to contextualise research and policies.


Question about the process:

Consultation on stakeholders – has had very limited contact with IEO – represent 181 million workers. Some evaluation area have had massive impacts on workers. What criteria are used for selection.  Support recommendation for additional outreach.  Also no follow-up after discussion on social protection. At times reports miss key areas.

Topics for future consideration – IMF involvement in labour-market reform.

New Rules for Global Finance:

Social protection – any mention of climate issues?

NSW University:

Question of enven handedness – any chance to revisit issue?

IEO: Social protection does not cover climate change – although the Fund is stepping up its work in the area.

Key to balance continued focus with new macro-critical areas.

New policy for even-handedness – in its surveillance – countries can bring attention to these areas. However work remains to be done in loans/ programme situations.

Sorry that it has not reached to ITUC more frequently – consultations are done principally by paper. Will be sure to improve consultation. Face-to-face events will remain limited.

Honduras – Transparency Honduras – Inter-american convention against corruption. Issue concerning IMF role in financial transparency.

Evaluation – HIPC at that time debt was at 2%, now debt has once again ballooned.

Human Rights Watch – IEO – military expenditures . A: no, very difficult to assess military spending. Suggest that CSOs push the Fund to look into the area.

Reports are evidence-based – perhaps only place to raise the issue would be in fiscal expenditure report.