Select Committee on Treasury Seventh Special Report


Letter from Mr Stephen Pickford to the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund and the President of the World Bank

I would like to draw your attention to a recent report produced by the Treasury Select Committee of the UK Parliament entitled 'The International Monetary Fund: A Blueprint for Parliamentary Accountability'

One of the recommendations of the report is that-

'in the interests of greater transparency and accountability, that the Treasury press the Fund to change its policy to allow its most senior officials to appear on the record before Parliamentary Committees of member countries'.

As an input to the Committee's report, HM Treasury set out their understanding of the current position, prepared in consultation with the legal departments of both the Bank and the Fund. The long-standing practice of both institutions, as we understand it, is that their officials and staff will not normally appear before formal sessions of parliaments of member countries or their committees.

However, in some instances, the IMF Managing Director and Deputy Managing Directors have appeared, on a voluntary basis, before legislative bodies to give informal briefing on non-confidential matters in closed session. These appearances have been premised on the understanding that the officials may not be compelled to disclose information, and are not under oath.

The President of the World Bank has also on occasion appeared before legislative bodies, for example when President Wolfensohn appeared before the International Development Select Committee of the House of Commons in November 2000 (in this instance, the appearance was in open session, with a published verbatim transcript).

I believe that it is necessary for the Fund and Bank to review jointly the current position on the issue of management and staff appearing before legislative committees, in order to clarify the position and ensure consistency between the two institutions. As international institutions, it is important that the policy should apply uniformly across all members and shareholders, and any changes to the policy would have to be acceptable to all.

The UK Government believes that it is essential to respect the policy that appearances by management and staff should remain on a voluntary basis, should be agreed and arranged in consultation with the national authorities, and should contain safeguards to protect confidential information. But subject to these considerations, it believes that the Managing Director and President should have discretion to decide whether they themselves should give evidence in response to individual requests, or whether to delegate the request, perhaps to another member of management, again through consultation with the national government.

I strongly believe that by clarifying these procedures, we will further enhance the ongoing measures to improve the accountability and transparency of the institutions.

1 June 2001

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