2014 Inspection Panel Secretariat Crisis
In February 2014, the World Bank’s board of directors approved of a proposal – one that came from the current panel members – to change the rules governing the independence of the panel’s secretariat. The proposal was not a public document and was not been subject to any public consultation or debate. While former panel members have fought hard to preserve the panel’s independence, the 2014 panel is proposing that the new executive secretary of the Inspection Panel be someone who comes from within bank management and then is permitted to go directly back to work for the bank after a five-year term ends. In other words, the 2014 panel members opened a revolving door between those supporting investigations and those being investigated.
See Accountability Counsel’s blog at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Former Panel Members Lambast Current Panel
On 28 January, 2014, seven highly respected former members of the Inspection Panel, horrified to learn of the proposed changes, took the unprecedented step of sending this joint letter to the panel accusing the current panel members of undermining the panel’s prized independence and effectiveness. The current panel members’ response, dated 30 January 2014, demonstrated their lack of understanding of even the basics of the panel’s need for independence of its secretariat or an interest in its preservation.
The president of the World Bank also submitted a response to former panel members, briskly discounting their views, and referencing an external review from 2011 that made a recommendation that supports the former panel members’ argument for more independence within the secretariat. For more information, please see the relevant paragraphs of the external review.
41 Groups Demand an Independent Secretariat
Accountability Counsel worked hard to ensure that the bank’s board turns down this attempt to entrench a conflict of interest in the panel’s secretariat. On 13 February 2014, Accountability Counsel, joined by 40 civil society organization from around the world, sent a letter to the Inspection Panel, demanding transparency around any changes to the panel’s secretariat and a commitment to cooling off periods to avoid a conflict of interest.