World Bank will start sweeping new disclosure policy

New Access to Information Policy goes into effect July 1

World Bank officials have a new disclosure policy going into effect July 1 they say will put the bank in the forefront of open-government changes.

Under previous policies, the bank released information that, upon review, was deemed to be fit for release. Under the new policy, all information will be disclosed unless it is subject to exclusion, based on a list of exceptions to the policy, a news release stated. Staff members' personal information and policy deliberation documents will be on the excluded list, bank officials said June 3.

“The new Access to Information Policy is much more than a simple policy change. It is an enormous cultural shift for the institution, both in terms of how we engage with the outside world and how we view and handle information,” Jeff Gutman, the bank's vice president of operations policy and country services, said in a statement.

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World Bank makes its data available online for free

The new information to be made available on July 1 includes decisions of Project Concept Review meetings, midterm project reviews, minutes of Board Committee meetings, chairman’s summaries of board meetings, summaries of discussion at board meetings, annual reports of board committees, portions of implementation status and results reports, audited annual financial statements of borrowers for projects, country portfolio performance reviews, and concept notes and consultation plans for policy reviews, officials said.

Bank officials said they anticipate problems in tracking down all the information eligible for disclosure and in handling an anticipated surge in volume of requests.

“The Bank will continue beyond July 1 to train staff, complete systems upgrades, declassify eligible historical documents and refine workflow processes,” the news release stated.

The policy was developed in consultation with 33 countries and approved by the bank’s board of directors in November 2009. Since that time, new IT systems and user interfaces and workflow processes have been put into place to help with releasing public information.

The bank said it has been training 10,000 staff members in implementing the new policy and re-engineering in-country public information centers.

The new policy also includes a provision that will allow for the declassification of certain types of restricted information over time and offers a right of appeal to individuals who believe they were unfairly denied access to information.

On May 21, World Bank officials announced they were making available large amounts of bank data online for free for the first time.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.


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