EU states lagging in aid transparency: watchdog

BRUSSELS Mon Oct 1, 2012 2:41pm EDT

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union member states France, Germany and Italy should be more open about their financing of aid and development projects, a survey of international aid donors, published on Monday, said.

London-based watchdog "Publish What You Fund" ranked the European Commission's development branch fifth out of 72 organizations in its 2012 report on financial transparency in aid.

German state development agency GIZ (Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit), ranked 39th, and 44th-ranked French development agency AFD (Agence Francaise de Developpement) were criticized for not publishing detailed financial data.

France dropped 15 places in the annual report, which said the country's public bodies don't make enough effort to be open to outside scrutiny.

The report noted that unlike many EU members, France and Germany have not signed the Open Government Partnership, a pledge by more than 50 governments to increase transparency.

The survey graded agencies on access to their information, including how often they publish their aid allocation, strategy, and budget.

Agencies that have established online databases and worked closely with the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), which runs an online aid registry, were graded more favorably.

Other EU member countries came out well, with the top spot going to Britain's development agency DFID.

The report praised DFID for their culture of open information. The European Commission, the EU's executive, was also singled out for leading on aid transparency internationally and internally.

"EU aid is regularly under scrutiny of many organizations: we are sometimes challenged - which helps us to keep improving our impact and procedures," said Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs.

Eloise Todd, Brussels director of charity group ONE said the report showed that EU funding is among the world's best and should be maintained.

Aid groups worry that the European Union could make cuts to proposed development funding of 51 billion euros ($65.82 billion) in its next seven-year budget, which is slated to be adopted in a November summit of EU leaders.

"At a time when these essential funds are under threat of cuts in negotiations over the next EU budget, European governments should stand up to protect the 5 percent of the EU budget that has such a huge impact on the world's poorest," she said. ($1 = 0.7749 euros)

(Reporting By Ethan Bilby; Editing by Michael Roddy)

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