For aid to be effective it depends on:
- Donors and recipient governments (and institutions) being mutually accountable for commitments and results;
- Recipient governments and institutions being accountable to their own citizens;
- Donor governments being accountable to their own citizens;
- Accountability between donors on commitments and coordination (Mulley, 2011).
Transparency underpins all of these forms of accountability. It is therefore important that donors provide information about the aid they give, and that they make this information publicly available in a comparable format and a way that people can easily understand. More and better information about aid will help to maximise the effectiveness of aid in reducing poverty because it helps partner countries and donor institutions plan and manage aid resources more effectively, parliaments and CSOs to hold governments to account for their use of aid resources and domestic taxpayers to see where their money is going, maintaining public support for development cooperation a time of financial stringency.
Without transparent aid information, countries that receive aid lack vital information to make decisions about domestic budgeting and spending, while donors are unable to judge where aid is most needed and how effective it is. Improving transparency and accountability in aid can also help to support the development of comprehensive and transparent national budgets which are crucial for citizens to hold their government to account in managing public money.
In 2005, under the Paris Declaration, donors committed to “provide timely, transparent and comprehensive information on aid flows so as to enable partner authorities to present comprehensive budget reports to their legislators and citizens”. At the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan in 2011, donors made their commitments more specific, agreeing to implement a common, open standard for publishing aid information, based on the OECD’s Creditor Reporting System (CRS) and the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI). Each organisation that endorsed Busan Partnership was expected to produce implementation schedules by December 2012 and aim to fully implement the common standard by December 2015.
This topic has been developed by Publish What You Fund (PWYF) with contributions from Rachel Rank and Catalina Reyes (PWYF), Paulo de Renzio (International Budget Partnership), Lauren Pfeifer (ONE), George Ingram (Brookings Institution), Carolyn Culey (Development Initiatives) and Laia Griñó (InterAction).
Examples in Practice
15 donor countries and 22 recipient countries have signed up to IATI
The 15 donor countries that have signed up to the IATI are: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. The 22 recipient countries are Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Dominican Republic, Ghana, Honduras, Indonesia, Lebanon, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Moldova, Montenegro, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Syria, Tanzania and Viet Nam.
In their June 2013 meeting, G8 countries – including France, Italy, Japan and Russia – committed to publishing to the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) by 2015, stating in the Lough Erne communiqué that “transparent data on G8 development assistance are… essential for accountability.”
As part of its Open Data strategy the UK government will publish machine readable data on the management and use of EU funds in the UK
The UK has instructed all agencies to open their systems and their data. In the Open Data White Paper from 2012, HM Treasury outlines its initial plans to produce (in a machine-readable format) data relating to the management and use of EU funds in the UK.
Bangladesh has developed a one-stop-shop for all aid related information
The Bangladeshi authorities have developed a home-grown Aid Information Management System (AIMS). Bangladesh AIMS acts as a one-stop-shop for all information related to development aid in Bangladesh and enables the tracking and effective management the aid flows to the country. By June 2015, 17 out of 28 donor agencies working in Bangladesh were using the system, and the remaining agencies are expected to start using it within short. The Bangladesh AIMS was developed over a period of 20 months through a consultative and inclusive process involving the Government, development partners, and civil society organisations.
Bolivia endorsed the Open Aid Partnership
Bolivia endorsed the World Bank’s Open Aid Partnership in early 2013. Reasons for joining the partnership included better visualisation of development projects, more effective cooperation with development partners, improved access to public services, and greater scope for citizens to participate by providing feedback and voice their needs.
Canada has committed to implement the International Aid Transparency Initiative as part of its OGP Action Plan
As part of the Canadian Open Government Partnership National Action Plan, Canada has promised to implement the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI). In Year 1, Canada will review all IATI requirements and publish its plan to make information about the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) activities available and accessible, and in Years 2 and 3, the focus will be on implementation and reporting.
Denmark has launched a comprehensive aid transparency initiative as part of its OGP Action Plan
The Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs has launched a transparency initiative, which will bring detailed information about all foreign aid and development assistance projects and programmes. The initiative includes:
- Send feedback to Danida: Organisations or individuals can directly praise, criticise or raise a complaint.
- Report corruption: Report any suspected irregularity or if you have experienced corruption related to its activities.
- Participate in public consultations: A line-up for the next few months is already posted, with each consultation running for two weeks.
- View documents: See minutes, summaries from meetings of the Council for Development Policy, which provides strategic advice to the development cooperation minister, or proposals for deliberation.
- Access data on projects and programs: Will update its database annually.
Danida also began publishing to the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) Registry and published a schedule to fully implement IATI,
France provides project-level aid information to priority countries on its new open aid portal
Following its first publication to IATI in 2014, France has launched an open aid portal. The portal includes geo-coded project data on aid flows to 16 African priority countries. France is expected to publish data on all African recipient countries by December 2015 and will expand coverage to include Asian and Latin American recipients by 2016. In addition, by 2017, Agence Française de Développement (AFD) is planning to extend coverage to include all small projects (grants and loans under EUR 100,000).
Geo-referencing of aid in Bolivia gives the public access to information on over 30,000 public investment projects
As the first country in Latin America, Bolivia has geo-referenced aid at the project level. The Public Investment Map of Bolivia, which includes project information from over 450 entities at the central, departmental and municipal levels, enables the public to access online and in real time information on over 30,000 public investment projects. Information about the projects can be accessed according to sector, financing entity and geographical area. It is intended to be a territorial and sectoral planning tool based on needs and national public policies as well as a mechanism for transparency and social oversight. The geo-coding project has been carried out by teams from the Bolivian Ministry of Planning, local universities and the World Bank.
IATI country pilots are being carried out or being planned for Colombia, DRC and Rwanda
With an increasing amount of data now being published in the IATI format, the IATI Secretariat is working in partnership with aid receiving governments and aid information management system providers to establish an automatic electronic feed of data from the donors’ record systems to those of the recipient country. Country pilots are being carried out or planned for Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Rwanda.
Malawi is working to geo-code project information
In response to the demand for increased transparency and improved geographic funding information, the Ministry of Finance of Malawi has partnered with AidData, the African Development Bank and the World Bank to geo-code project information. The resulting data of aid activities of nearly 30 donors within the Malawi Aid Management Platform can be explored through an interactive mapping tool. The geo-coded dataset will be made public and will be used by the Malawi Ministry of Finance to generate aid reports, catalyse new conversations with its donor partners, and improve aid effectiveness at the local level across the country.
Malawi is working to integrate its Aid Management System with its overall financial information management system
In 2008, Malawi moved from an ad-hoc aid information system to a formal system of information exchange between the Ministry of Finance and all its donor partners. Information on all aid financed activities in Malawi is stored and analysed through a web-based Aid Management Platform, and aid information is updated on a monthly basis. This Aid Information Management Platform (IAMS) has enabled the Malawian government to track aid disbursements both to on-budget funds and off-budget funds (project which circumvent government systems), and has greatly improved sector planning by the government.
Myanmar has developed an open source Aid Information Management System that enables the efficient tracking of aid projects
Mohinga – Myanmar’s open source Aid Information Management System (AIMS) – was launched in early 2015. By June, 2015, an estimated 80% of official development assistance to Myanmar had been recorded in Mohinga, tracking approximately 1,300 projects. This is a significant increase from the 400 projects that the Government was able to track prior to the development of the information system.
Mohinga was built to be simple to use, removing many of the barriers that can make aid information management difficult and time consuming. The application runs in both English and Myanmar languages and enables users to visualise aid flows via a variety of charts and graphs. Users can also export all of the raw data in .csv format, allowing them to delve into full datasets.
Mohinga is being used for monitoring and decision-making by officials from the Ministry of National Planning Economic Development as well as by international development partners. In addition, the process of making the aid information publicly available has resulted in development partners becoming more proactive at providing more accurate and better quality information and in building confidence in releasing more detailed information over time.
Before developing Mohinga the Myanmar authorities reached out to counterparts in Cambodia, Laos, Nepal and Rwanda to gauge their experiences with AIMS. With support from the European Union, Myanmar officials also visited Timor-Leste to learn from their experiences in managing aid and with aid transparency more broadly. As a result of these exchanges, Myanmar decided to build its own ‘home grown’ AIMS to ensure the finished product would respond to the country’s particular needs, be online quickly, and be able to expand and develop in line with future needs.
Nepal has developed an online Aid Management Platform combining government and donor information
Nepal’s newly launched Aid Management Platform contains reports, visualisation dashboards, and an advanced mapping module of aid activity in Nepal. More than 40 development partners have reported nearly 700 projects into the Platform to date. Moreover, AidData has geocoded (identified geographic coordinates) development activities in Nepal, and this information will soon be included in the Platform. This information enables development stakeholders to visualise where development finance is going, analyse gaps in service and identify duplication of efforts with interactive maps.
Netherlands has developed an OpenAid portal
The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs started publishing data in 2011 on all the development aid projects it finances. This data, published on the OpenAid portal, is in line with the IATI standard and has been made more accessible through a web interface. It is updated every three months.
Rwanda has developed a Donor Performance Assessment Framework
In 2008, the Government of Rwanda and its Development Partners agreed to enhance its mutual accountability framework through the Donor Performance Assessment Framework (DPAF). The DPAF provides a joint tool for the monitoring of donor performance against their national-level and international commitments on the volume and quality of development assistance provided to Rwanda. The DPAF is presented both in aggregate form (comprising all development assistance to Rwanda) and disaggregated by donor to allow for comparison, individual reflection on performance, as well as accountability and peer pressure.
Rwanda, Malawi and Nepal are working to integrate their aid information management systems and financial information management systems
According to a recent study on aid information and budget alignment in recipient countries, Rwanda, Malawi and Nepal are moving towards building automated linkages between their financial information management systems (FMIS) and their aid information management systems. The purpose of this is to (a) provide forward information on aid disbursements aligned with country budgets and (b) to stream information back into AIMS from FMISs on disbursement and execution, or vice versa.
[Source: Fölscher, Alta, Rebecca Carter, Samuel Moon, Gareth Graham and Frédéric Jeanjean, 2012, Study on better reflecting aid flows in country budgets to improve aid transparency and public financial management, Oxford:Mokoro]
Spain is implementing a system to ensure aid transparency in line with IATI
Spain has included three areas of concern to aid transparency in its Open Government Partnership National Action Plan.
- Through Spain’s Official Development Assistance information system (info@OD), Spain is gradually implementing a system to ensure aid transparency in line with the International Aid Transparency Initiative.
- The Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) is committed to increasing its transparency, for example, by publishing an annual report containing information on implementation of the previous year’s budget, the monitoring of the planning, and a report on the actions carried out.
- Spain is increasing the transparency requirements with regard to subsidies granted by AECID. Announcements of subsidies and decisions taken will be published, as well as the criteria for evaluation thereof. This transparency requirement covers all actors receiving Spanish public funds, whether non-governmental organisations, multilateral organisations or governments.
Sweden has developed an Open Aid portal
In 2011, Sweden launched a web-based platform: Openaid.se. Openaid.se is a web-based information service about Swedish aid built on open government data. It is based on data at the activity level of individual aid contributions and is in line with the IATI.
Sweden has launched a web-based platform, Openaid.se to provide access to aid data in open format in line with IATI
Aid transparency features heavily in Sweden’s Open Government Partnership National Action Plan. The three main components of Sweden’s aid transparency agenda are: Open Aid- a reform agenda, a transparency guarantee, and Openaid.se- a web-based platform.
- In 2009, Sweden launched Open Aid, a reform agenda for Swedish development cooperation with the purpose of opening up development cooperation to transparency and ideas from others.
- In 2010, a transparency guarantee was introduced into Swedish development assistance. The guarantee means that all public documents and public information will be made available online. The information must explain when, to whom and why money has been made available, and what results have been achieved. The transparency guarantee applies to all public actors who have been allocated funds under the international development cooperation expenditure area.
- In 2011, Sweden launched a web-based platform, Openaid.se. It is a data-hub providing Swedish aid information on disbursements in an open format, thereby allowing citizens, CSOs and entrepreneurs to use, refine and develop the data provided. The aid information is provided on a global scale, at country level, per sector or by implementing agency. It is in line with the International Aid Transparency Initiative although full implementation of the IATI standard is promised by 2015.
Sweden plans to publish targets and outcomes and evaluations for all aid by 2015
Sweden’s IATI implementation schedule states: “Results summaries will be published for new activities from May 2013. According to our other commitments in Busan around results we also plan to publish indicator-based targets and outcomes and other results and evaluations before 2015.”
Tanzania’s OGP Action Plan includes a commitment to encourage donors to exercise greater transparency
Tanzania has included in its Open Government Partnership Action Plan a commitment to “[E]ncourage donors to exercise greater transparency of donor funding given to Tanzania (Government, Civil Society, and Private Sector) consistent with International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) principles.”
The Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs will conduct public hearings on the design of foreign aid programmes
The Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs will conduct public hearings on the design of future foreign aid programmes, allowing citizens and civil society to contribute input and suggestions to key development assistance issues and budgets of a certain size. This is part of the government’s OGP Action Plan.
The Mozambique government, together with its aid partners, has been working to merge all financial accounts into one single treasury account
In Mozambique much of donors’ and government’s efforts to bring aid on budget over the last decade have focused on bringing aid on treasury. To bring aid on treasury, the government has been working to merge all financial accounts into one single treasury account (Conta Única do Tesouro, CUT), bringing all available sources of funding –both internal and external– under the umbrella of the Mozambican integrated budget and public financial management system. The single treasury account has been instrumental in the process of putting aid on budget in Mozambique and has addressed one of the main causes behind the phenomenon of off budgets: the lack of transparency within the treasury system, which deters donors from using local public financial management systems.
The Swedish government is committed to improve dialogue with civil society on aid management and implementation
Sweden’s Open Government Partnership National Action Plan (2014-2016) contains a commitment to improve opportunities for dialogue and transparency in aid management and implementation. Through this commitment, the Government aims to improve accountability and promote innovative thinking by increasing mutual knowledge and participation. The commitment will mainly be achieved through strengthening channels for dialogue and feedback on aid management and implementation with different parts of society. Concrete activities include negotiating and implementing a compact between the Government and Swedish civil society organisations which enhances dialogue and outlines these organisations’ role in Swedish aid; and supporting initiatives related to ICT that create opportunities for increased participation from a broader spectrum of the population.
The UK Government’s Aid Transparency Guarantee sets standards for transparency in aid
The UK Aid Transparency Guarantee, launched in 2010, sets out how the UK should publish aid information. It states that full financial details should be provided for all Department for International Development (DFID) projects worth more than £500, and that all project information, business cases, new contracts and tender documents for new contracts over £10,000 should be published. In addition, under the Guarantee, data on aid is published under the Open Data Licence, allowing anyone to take and re-use information without paying a royalty.
The UK has committed to publish aid information from all UK government departments who spend overseas development assistance
The UK Open Government Partnership National Action Plan includes a commitment to publish aid information from all UK government departments who spend overseas development assistance in line with the International Aid Transparency Initiative standards.
The UK is establishing a fund to support developers to produce tools to make use of open aid data
The Open Data Strategy for the UK Department for International Development includes the establishment of a fund to support developers to produce innovative and useful tools to make use of IATI data. As part of the Strategy, the UK has also developed the Development Tracker which allows users to find and explore detailed information on international development projects funded by the UK Government. The site uses data published to IATI, and can also import and use data from other publishers. The site also incorporates data published by the Department for International Development’s delivery partners, initially on a small-scale, to prove the concept that aid can be traced through the aid delivery chain using open data.
The US Agency for International Development has a policy to share evaluations as widely as possible
In the United States, the Development Experience Clearinghouse (DEC) publishes a large volume of USAID funded, international development documentation but unless these documents are joined with the efforts and publications of other donors, the findings will limit the user to only a partial picture and not the full spectrum of the outcome of donors’ activities. USAID Forward, the agency’s evaluation policy, sets evaluations to be shared as widely as possible, “with a commitment to full and active disclosure. Furthermore, a summary including a description of methods, key findings and recommendations will be available to the public on-line in a fully searchable form within three months of an evaluation’s conclusion.”
- Automate publication of comprehensive, timely, detailed and high quality information (donors)
- Integrate aid information into domestic budget planning (recipients)
- Publish more detailed information on aid flows including performance information, sub-national location, results and project documents (donors)