Monday, 2 August 2010

Déjà vu all over again

In 2008 I asked 8 large international development charities to provide a detailed breakdown of their spending that year. None were able to.

In July 2010 I repeated the exercise with the same charities to see if anything has improved. It hasn't.

Here's what I requested, for each overseas project funded in 2009-10: 1) the name of the project 2) the location of the project 3) the total expenditure on the project in 2009-10. You can read the original emails here.

  • ActionAid - directed to Annual Report
  • British Red Cross - directed to Annual Report
  • Cafod - directed to Annual Report
  • Care International - no response
  • Christian Aid - directed to Annual Report
  • Oxfam - directed to Annual Report
  • Plan International - no response
  • Save the Children - directed to Annual Report
  • Tearfund - directed to Annual Report
(NB. None of the Annual Reports has the list of all funded projects that I was after)

All the organisations claim to support transparency. ActionAid, Plan, Save the Children and Oxfam are signatories to the INGO Accountability Charter. This states that "By signing this Charter we seek to promote further the values of transparency and accountability that we stand for, and commit our INGO to respecting its provisions." What's the point if they won't answer a simple query about spending?

Others have produced 'Open Information Policies' (lite versions of Freedom of Information) - ActionAid, Save the Children, Christian Aid and Oxfam all promise to release information in response to these sort of requests. But when a request is actually made, they balk.

So it seems that we are in an odd situation where all of the organisations agree with the transparency argument and understand its importance for donors, taxpayers, partner organisations and aid recipients. But they don't know how to change their organisations so that a standard request for information is responded to properly.

PS I'm going to submit formal complaints to the 4 organisations with Open Information Policies - I'll let you know how I get on!

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