AfDB tops the Aid Transparency Index, “setting the standard” for global institutions

By Jaysim Hanspal

Posted on Wednesday, 20 July 2022 18:52, updated on Thursday, 21 July 2022 09:30
German Chancellor Angela Merkel performs an elbow check with African Development Bank (AfDB) President Akinwumi Adesina next to Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Kristalina Georgieva during a meeting with economic and financial organizations in Berlin, Germany, August 26, 2021. Clemens Bilan/Pool via REUTERS

The campaigners at Publish What You Fund (PWYF) have published the 2022 Aid Transparency Index, listing the African Development Bank (AfDB) as the top global donor institution in terms of transparency.

In the report published on 13 July, the AfDB (sovereign) climbed up four places in the rankings to top the index, “setting the standard for high-quality data publication”, according to the PWYF. The general transparency trend has been showing “significant steps” forward over the past 10 years.

The index rates aid organisations across 35 categories, each corresponding to the availability and accessibility of certain types of information.

The benefits of transparency

The not-for-profit PWYF plays a key role in demonstrating the impact and efficacy of aid, as it is the only independent tool for aid transparency, helping the development community learn from each other’s choices.

Gary Forster, the CEO of the PWYF, commended the publicly funded side of the AfDB, saying, “[The AfDB] have made a real effort to engage with our team to be fully transparent. Their technical staff are evidently supported by the senior management, and they have put in place the processes and culture to ensure accountability.”

The World Bank, United Nations Children’s Fund and Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance – also received a “very good” score – despite the latter facing criticism for the COVAX initiative in an investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

According to Forster, accountability and success come hand in hand. He said: “We have seen that organisations that buy into transparency become more effective in their own right – they can make clearer decisions.”

Steps back

The most significant setback in transparency was for the Global Fund, an organisation which focuses on combatting diseases like HIV, TB, and malaria.

It fell 19 points below its 2020 score, dropping 14 places in the ranking to achieve a “good” rating.

In response to its lower rating, the Global Fund commended the index for its recommendations and impartiality. Its statement reads: “The Global Fund partnership is committed to aid transparency as one of its founding principles. The Global Fund has made significant efforts to continually improve both the quality, quantity and timeliness of what it reports.”

It continued: “In 2022, the organization is taking steps to increase the availability of programmatic data and provide more detail on country summaries through its digital platforms. The Global Fund will continue to address concerns highlighted as part of the latest index.”

The International Finance Corporation received a “fair” warning, amid concerns that over the next twelve months, developing countries will be “unable to service their debt”. In response to the low rating, an IFC spokesperson responded, “we do not agree with all of the findings in this Aid Transparency Index (ATI) and do not believe the report accurately reflects the state of transparency regarding private sector development operations.”

They added, “We appreciate the spirit of the ATI Index, but we recognize the limitations of a tool originally designed to measure institutions against public-sector standards.”

Falling FCDO

The UK’s Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) dropped seven places in the index. The government significantly reduced foreign aid spending in the latest round of budget cuts from the Conservative Party government.

The chair of the parliament’s international development committee, member of parliament Sarah Champion, said she was disappointed by the rating, stating, “Transparency in aid spending is vital. Without high-quality data, we cannot be sure that aid is reaching the world’s poorest people and delivering value for money.”

She added: “The FCDO must explore how to improve the quality of the data it publishes. The committee will continue to hold the department to account on this.”

Global setbacks

Although many institutions have recorded transparency success over the past 10 years – 31 organisations now rank “very good” or “good” (the highest amount since the index began) – numerous global crises have limited wider humanitarian triumphs.

The Ukraine crisis has spurred global inflation levels and increased daily living costs such as food and fuel.

Hunger in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel has also been made worse by climate disasters and local violence.

The PWYF is also suffering from a lack of funding, which may force the only aid transparency index to close.

Forster remains hopeful. He said: “Yes, we are struggling to raise the funding. What the index has ensured is not only the amount of transparency but that we check how good the information they are sharing actually is.”

He concluded: “Without the index, we worry that the global data set will deteriorate unless something else comes along. There isn’t anything else out there.”

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