Donor transparency undermined by lack of impact evidence

Significant improvements in donor transparency is said to have been undermined by lack of impact evidence, according to new Aid Transparency Index. The 2020 Aid Transparency Index highlights that there have been significant improvement in aid donors’ overall transparency compared to 2018, with over half of the 47 assessed donors now ranked as ‘good’ or ‘very good’.

“Only a minority of donors are publishing project results with fewer still publishing project reviews and evaluations, limiting the ability of stakeholders to gauge the effectiveness and value of aid spending” the transparency watchdog said whilst launching the Index. The Index is driving behaviour towards greater transparency and openness among aid donors. Produced by Publish What You Fund, the Index is the only independent measure of aid transparency among the world’s major aid donors.

According to the organisation the 2020 Aid Transparency Index reveals an improvement in overall transparency among the world’s major aid agencies, but a worrying lack of transparency on the impact of aid projects. As billions of aid dollars are re-directed to the COVID-19 emergency, it provides a timely reminder of the importance of aid transparency and what can be achieved when it is valued and institutionalised.

The Index places the Asian Development Bank-Sovereign portfolio, World Bank-IDA, UNDP and African Development Bank in the highest category. It stated that donors are publishing increasingly more, better quality data in the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) Standard. All of the donors, except those in the ‘very poor’ category, are publishing IATI data about their activities and policies, meaning their information is open, timely, comparable and centralised, meeting the international standard for aid transparency.

11 donors are now in the ‘very good’ category, an increase of four from 2018. The number in ‘good’ increased by two, to 15. This means that over half of the 47 assessed donors are now ranked as ‘good’ or ‘very good’. “However, there are persistent gaps in publication of performance data. While more donors are now publishing objectives, only a minority are publishing results of their projects. Fewer still are publishing project reviews and evaluations. Without this information, stakeholders monitoring donor projects have no way to gauge the effectiveness and value of aid spending, assess the impact of projects or to extract learning from successful and unsuccessful projects.”

Gary Forster, CEO of Publish What You Fund, said that “the transparency of international aid is more important than ever. As large quantities of aid are quickly reallocated to deal with the COVID-19 emergency, the decisions and actions taken should be open to public scrutiny. Aid transparency is a key way to improve the efficiency of resource allocation, coordination of the response, and for donors to learn from one another’s interventions.”

The Index continues to drive behaviour towards greater transparency and openness among aid donors. The average score increased during the data collection process from 54.4 to 63.4. Alex Tilley, who researched and authored the report, said “the progress that’s been made is commendable and serves to fill many of the gaps in the aid data landscape. However, through this research, and other initiatives at Publish What You Fund, we’re seeing that too often the transparency efforts of major agencies cease at the point of data publication.”

By Zainab Iyamide Joaque