(Washington, DC) – The International Monetary Fund should include anti-corruption measures in all its Covid-19 related emergency funding, 97 human rights and good governance groups said today in a letter to IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva. The IMF should take concrete steps to empower and assist independent groups to monitor these funds to help stem government corruption.
“Egypt is asking the IMF for emergency funding, but Egyptians can’t raise concerns about where the money is going without risking arrest,” said Sarah Saadoun, business and human rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The IMF should protect Egyptian organizations’ ability to make sure any funds it gives Egypt are used to help the millions at risk of going hungry because of this crisis.”
The IMF has already approved almost US$15 billion in emergency financing to over 65 countries and is considering requests from at least an additional two dozen to help governments whose economies are reeling from the Covid-19 pandemic. Most loan agreements include few or no government commitments to mitigate the risk of corruption, and the Fund appears to be taking a largely retroactive approach that relies on the good faith of governments and the assistance of independent monitoring groups, the organizations said.
Some loan agreements, such as a $147 million disbursement to Gabon, include transparency and anti-corruption measures, including a post-loan independent audit and a requirement to publish procurement plans with the names and beneficial ownership information of companies awarded contracts. This suggests that it is possible to do so without undue delay, and the Fund should apply such measures consistently to all emergency funding.
Moreover, the IMF apparently expects nongovernmental groups to informally monitor the use of its funds as part of an anti-corruption strategy. This would require measures to protect and strengthen groups’ ability to exercise such oversight. The groups are asking the IMF to:
- Require government transparency. The Fund should consistently apply transparency and anti-corruption measures to all loans, such as requiring governments to publish procurement plans, including the names and beneficial owners of all companies awarded contracts.
- Protect civil society groups’ ability to operate. The Fund should require governments to commit to respecting the rights of civil society groups and repeal or amend laws that prevent groups from safely monitoring government actions.
- Formally recognize the role of independent monitoring groups. The Fund should formally recognize independent monitoring organizations as stakeholders in loan agreements and establish a channel for them to report allegations of wrongdoing. It should consider engaging select groups as independent monitoring organizations in contexts in which corruption risks are especially high.
- Strengthen civil society groups’ capacities. The Fund should conduct virtual training to help build organizational capacity to monitor funds and consider providing willing groups with necessary resources, especially in countries where there are few groups with the resources to monitor government spending.
“It is good that the IMF’s $3.4 billion loan to Nigeria includes transparency requirements, such as publishing the names and owners of companies awarded contracts and a post-loan audit,” said Rev. Fr. Dr. Godswill Agbagwa, founder of CSAAE, a Nigeria-based youth-focused organization. “But nongovernmental organizations like mine need resources to verify the information the government publishes and monitor implementation of projects by government contractors.”