Veröffentlichung aller Daten in der Entwicklungszusammnarbeit?
Whenever I make presentations about aid transparency some people in the audience will inevitably ask: “But surely, you don't want to publish everything?” In a recent workshop on aid transparency one researchers in development policy explicitly warned against “full disclosure” - some negotiations in development cooperation require secrecy, he suggested. At another occasion people in the audience worried that publishing salary levels of expatriate staff or freelance consultants would cause a lot of criticism among beneficiaries. Full disclosure, uncovering secret agendas and publishing salary levels - is this what aid transparency is about? Are we proposing a Wikileak-style revolution of development cooperation?
Personally, I would probably favour a very broad definition of aid transparency. And in fact, there are isolated examples of governments and organisations being very transparent in specific areas. The Swedish tax administration publishes the income of every individual Swedish citizen. The Brazilian government set up the Portal da Transparencia where the social welfare benefits of each individual citizen can be seen. In the current debate on aid transparency. However, in development cooperation transparency initiatives are far less ambitious.
Generally, transparency in development cooperation refers to either project or activity information or to organisational information. For example the US foreign assistance dashboard offers general data on projects and activities funded by USAID and by the Department of State disaggregated in e.g. years, sectors, activities, partner countries countries and organisational unit. Less visual but more detailed is the public data of the British Department for International Development (DFID). On their website users can find project level information disaggregated in different project components and the name of the implementing agency. DFID actually publishes every expenditure above 25.000 Pounds. In addition DFID publishes organisational information such as senior staff salaries and salary ranges of all staff categories. Similarly the Deutsche Welthungerhilfe (DWWH), a large German NGO, publishes salary levels of its staff.
The most comprehensive transparency initiative in terms volume of ODA covered and in terms of number and detail of data items is the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI). Therefore, it makes sense to use the IATI standard to explain, what aid transparency actually means. So, what should donors publish according to the IATI standard? The following list gives an overview.
- Financial flows: activity budgets, dates of each transaction, volume of expenditure and planned disbursements. The standard allows data to be compiled for different time periods (as opposed to calender years).
- Forward indicative aggregate budget by country to facilitate planning at partner country level.
- Activity description and links to relevant documents for example on policy, conditions, evaluation and outcome.
- Activity status (Pipeline, Implementation, Completed, Post-completion, Cancelled)
- Sector codes (both OECD-DAC codes and donor system code)
- Geographic location and possibly percentages of one project going to different locations.
- Disbursement channel.
- Name and ID of involved organisations so that aid flows can be traced through the system.
- Project ID and full title.
- Flow types: grant, loan, debt cancellation, etc. including types relevant to NGOs.
- Expect and actual start and end date of a project.
- Tied aid status
Does this list of data items look like “Full disclosure”? Is aid transparency as it is currently discussed at an international level about stripping aid agencies naked and publishing everything without restraint, without considerations for security or diplomacy or plain common sense? In my understanding, the answer to these questions is “no”. Instead, it is reasonable for donors to provide information on who is doing what, where, when and how in the aid system. How can we improve planning and coordination and tackle corruption if these basic data is not accessible to all relevant stakeholders?
Of course, with the freedom of information legislation in many countries taxpayers are in principle entitled to this data unless there are strong reasons to withhold it. But surely, aid agencies don't want potential data users to hassle them with countless data requests! Aid Transparency is not unreasonable. We are not planning to hack into your systems and post everything on Wikileaks. Just give us the basics!