The World Bank Board of Executive Directors has approved enhancements to the Inspection Panel toolkit and the Bank’s accountability system, creating an expanded independent accountability mechanism housing both the Panel and a new Dispute Resolution Service.
The World Bank Inspection Panel was established by the Board in 1993 as an independent complaints mechanism for people who believe they have been, or are likely to be, harmed by a World Bank–financed project. The Panel is an impartial fact-finding body, independent from the World Bank management and staff, reporting directly to the Board. The Inspection Panel process aims to promote accountability at the World Bank, give affected people a greater voice in activities supported by the World Bank that affect their rights and interests, and foster redress when warranted.
In August 2017, the Board commissioned an External Review of the IPN Toolkit (“the Review”) to examine whether the Panel required any updates to continue to operate effectively under the new Environmental and Social Framework
Over the last two years, the Board – which represents the World Bank’s 189 member countries – has analyzed the findings of the Review and other inputs and engaged with a broad range of stakeholders, including authorities in client countries, IPN Requesters, civil society organizations and academics. The Board has also consulted with other international financial institutions about the practices of their independent accountability mechanisms.
Establishment of a New Independent Accountability Mechanism:
A new independent accountability mechanism will be comprised of the IPN, which will continue to carry out compliance reviews, and an additional Dispute Resolution Service (see number 7, below), which is expected to be operational in September 2020.
Enhancements to the IPN Toolkit
The review resulted in a set of enhancements adopted in 2018, and others adopted in March 2020.
1. Updated procedures for sharing the IPN’s Investigation Report with Requesters
- Allows those who filed a Request for Inspection to view the IPN Investigation Report shortly after it is submitted to the Board but before the Board meets to consider the report.
2. Formal recognition of the Inspection Panel’s advisory role
- Authorizes the Panel to provide advisory services in the form of lessons from its cases to support learning across the World Bank.
3. Formalization of the Panel’s current practice to coordinate with the accountability mechanism of co financier(s) to process complaints in the most efficient and effective way possible
- Formalizes IPN’s current practice of coordinating with the independent accountability mechanisms of other international financial institutions on complaints involving co-financed projects to increase efficiency and avoid duplication.
4. Management clarification on the use of Bank-Executed Trust Funds (BETFs)
- BETFs support the Bank’s work program.
- Management clarified the scope of activities that can be undertaken with financing from BETFs. (For example, analytic and advisory work, systemic diagnostic and other knowledge products)
5. Extension of the time limit for bringing complaints to the Inspection Panel
- Stipulates that any complaint filed up to 15 months after the closing date of the loan, credit or grant that financed a World Bank project can be registered by the Panel. Previously, complaints could not be registered by the Panel if 95 percent or more of a project’s funds had been disbursed or the project was closed. Applies prospectively to projects approved by the Board after the change takes effect.
6. Verification of Management Action Plans independent of Bank management
- When approved by the Board, provides for independent and proportionate risk-based verification of Management Action Plans by the Inspection Panel and/or the Bank’s Group Internal Audit unit.
7. Dispute resolution that is independent of Bank management
- Provides an option to resolve complaints in addition to the existing compliance-review process. After a complaint is found eligible by the Inspection Panel, complainants and the borrower may both agree to a time-bound dispute resolution process instead of a compliance review.