The US Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) is the most transparent aid donor in the world, says a new report launched today by Publish What You Fund. The report, the third annual Aid Transparency Index (ATI), ranks 67 donor agencies – like USAID and DFID – based on the information they publish about their development projects, which is then scored on 39 indicators.
We are also very glad to see Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations ranked #2 overall in the Index, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria ranked #6. Their good performance in the ATI proves that in addition to providing some of the most effective health interventions, they are among the most transparent organizations working in developing countries.
This year, donors that were able to provide timely aid information in an easy-to-use format were given a higher ranking. Machine-readable formats like XML get more credit, while information published in PDFs or on websites score lower. Donors that publish in XML under IATI standards – a set of voluntary transparency standards for aid donors – score better on the ATI. In fact, the top 27 agencies in the ATI all publish at least some information in IATI XML.
MCC was one of six US agencies ranked in the index, but unfortunately, those US agencies do not score well. The Department of the Treasury and USAID are both in the Fair category, while the Department of Defense, Department of State, and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) score in the Poor and Very Poor categories. Both MCC and the Department of the Treasury have made large improvements since last year’s assessment.
The US did hit several aid transparency milestones in 2013. The US first published data to the IATI registry in January, and has followed up with more publications in subsequent months. However, the US government is unlikely to meet its own goal of publishing 70 percent of aid flows to IATI by the end of 2013 without publication by the State Department.
In general, large donors perform better overall on the index. Very large donors – those with spending over $10 billion like the World Bank IDA and USAID – have an average score of 57 percent, while very small donors with spending under $100 million score an average of only 12 percent. Multilateral organizations like the World Bank and African Development Bank in general score well, but scores vary significantly.
The 2013 ATI is a very useful way of measuring aid transparency globally, and the Index shows that much more information is needed about aid projects around the world.
Less than 20 percent of the total aid provided by the donors ranked in the Index can be considered Very Good or Good in transparency terms; 42 percent is considered Poor or Very Poor.
Much more information is needed about aid flows to ensure that we know what’s happening and where. Transparent aid flows (combined with more information about the flow of resources in oil, gas and mining, and additional budget information) is necessary for a comprehensive understanding of resource flows – information that can be used to hold governments accountable for those flows, and what they achieve.
Interested in the challenges of aid transparency? Check out this post about mapping aid information.