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transparency? August 3, 2012

Posted by Bradley in : transparency , trackback

Transparency is complicated.. Two recent reports illustrate this.

An IMF paper on Key Trends in Implementation of the Fund’s Transparency Policy shows some disparities in publication of IMF documents. A smaller percentage of ROSCs are published than of other documents (61% in 2011), though a note explains that the ROSC category

Includes initial ROSC assessments and reassessments produced by the IMF, as well as the World Bank and, in the case of AML/CFT ROSCs, by FATF and FSRB, issued on a stand-alone basis or in FSSAs. Does not include assessments done under detailed standards assessments.

This isn’t terrbly clear. The document is not drafted to make it easy for readers to understand the data. This note implies that the initial assessments included in the total have an impact on the percentage publication rate. But is that a good or a bad thing from the perspective of transparency? There’s a table which shows the percentage of Article IV/UFR Staff Reports which are published with deletions (but there’s no information on how extensive the deletions are). The document lists those IMF Members which did not publish any Article IV/UFR Staff Reports in 2011 (Antigua and Barbuda, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Libya, Myanmar, Oman, Sri Lanka, Turkmenistan and Vietnam).

The UK Parliament’s House of Commons Public Accounts Committee published a report on Implementing the Transparency Agenda which states that more needs to be done to realize transparency. But the report notes that the Government does not understand the costs and benefits of transparency. And there are other criticisms:

It does not help government to meet the objectives of the transparency agenda when large quantities of raw data are released without ensuring that the data are fit for purpose. Some data are very difficult to interpret, such as on local government spending, and there are important gaps in information, such as incomplete price and performance information on adult social care. We are also concerned about some information not being presented on a consistent basis, again for example in local government.
Poor or incomplete data hinders the ability of users to exercise effective choice, for example on care providers. It also undermines the ability of service deliverers and policy makers to focus on improving quality.

The committee also suggests that there should be more information available about contracts whereby private entities agree to provide public services. And especially in the light of recent problems with GS4′s underprovision of security personnel for the Olympics, and questions about ATOS’ administration of disability assessments this seems like a good idea.

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