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World Vision responds on transparency

Editor’s note: we are posting the following note received in its entirety from World Vision.

World Vision Statement

In response to the Aid Watch post: The Accidental NGO and USAID Transparency Test

World Vision has investigated allegations posted on August 18, 2010 by Till Bruckner, a guest blogger.  The blog post charges WV and other NGOs with lack of transparency in responding to Bruckner’s request to the U.S. Agency For International Development (USAID) under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for program budgets for the Republic of Georgia.  Mr. Bruckner alleged that World Vision “apparently requested that USAID black out all information in their budget except for the grand total.”

World Vision has checked thoroughly with all of its relevant offices and found no record of having received notification of this FOIA request by USAID or any evidence that WV asked USAID to redact information in the documents requested of USAID by Bruckner.  After contacting USAID officials, we learned that the redaction was made independently by the USAID FOIA office, not at the request of WV.

The reasons for the redactions done by USAID were detailed to Bruckner in a letter from USAID dated July 14, 2010.  World Vision has obtained a copy of this letter and has verified that USAID did not state or imply that World Vision asked that this information be withheld.

We regret that Mr. Bruckner did not get all the information he was seeking.  It is also regrettable that he chose to suggest in his blog that WV had withheld that information when he had no evidence to support that accusation.

As a member of InterAction (one of the largest associations of nongovernmental organizations), World Vision is “committed to full, honest and accurate disclosure of relevant information concerning its goals, programs, finances and governance.”

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11 Comments

  1. Harold wrote:

    I assume they will provide the info now

    Posted August 21, 2010 at 11:22 pm | Permalink
  2. anon wrote:

    ^ don’t count on it. They were just smart enough not to leave a paper trail.

    Posted August 22, 2010 at 8:21 am | Permalink
  3. Adam Baker wrote:

    Yes, the thing to do in this situation would be to attach a copy of the letter in question, or at least the text of the level. Somebody at AidWatch perhaps has the clout to send a follow-up email?

    Posted August 22, 2010 at 10:52 am | Permalink
  4. Transparency Hawk wrote:

    Dear World Vision,

    Since you also have access to the information that was blacked out, could you please release it now? I don’t think you will have any problem with this request since WV is committed to full, honest, and accurate disclosure of relevant information.

    Thanks.

    Looking forward to seeing this information in the coming days.

    Posted August 22, 2010 at 11:57 am | Permalink
  5. Andy wrote:

    So what does World Vision think of USAID blacking out so much of their information? Do they condemn this act as hypocritical or support it due to the highly “competitive” nature of NGOs bidding for funding?

    Posted August 22, 2010 at 12:03 pm | Permalink
  6. Mozza wrote:

    I am concerned with the methodology of Mr. Bruckner after reading this:

    “The reasons for the redactions done by USAID were detailed to Bruckner in a letter from USAID dated July 14, 2010.”

    That is not what he reported:

    “Since according to USAID every piece of blacked-out information was withheld on request of the grantee…”

    Could we have the wording of the USAID letter? Does it say that it withheld the info because of WV or for other reasons, as WV implies? It would not only restore the credibility of Mr. Bruckner, but also inform us on the policies of USAID.

    Posted August 22, 2010 at 9:48 pm | Permalink
  7. Ciaran wrote:

    I don’t see any reason why World Vision should publish anything.

    The letter is between USAID and Bruckner. It’s up to one of these two parties to release it.

    Neither is the responsibility of World Vision to release any redacted information (assuming USAID didn’t do this at World Vision request).

    Posted August 23, 2010 at 6:25 am | Permalink
  8. Curious wrote:

    Till – you messed up.

    This is transparency porn!!

    Posted August 23, 2010 at 11:11 am | Permalink
  9. H2o wrote:

    Ciaran wrote:

    “I don’t see any reason why World Vision should publish anything.

    The letter is between USAID and Bruckner. It’s up to one of these two parties to release it.

    Neither is the responsibility of World Vision to release any redacted information (assuming USAID didn’t do this at World Vision request).”

    Well, WV does have an obligation to release the redacted information if they want us to take their own professed principles seriously.

    Two days ago WV claimed that it was “committed to full, honest and accurate disclosure of relevant information concerning its goals, programs, finances and governance.”

    Unless you are saying that budget information (how WV spends its money) is not “relevant information,” then yes, it does need to disclose this redacted information.

    In the blog post the WV spokes-person is quite high and mighty. They imply that they never would have withheld such information. That is was USAID that withheld this information. Then they tell us how transparent they are. So, walk the walk. Produce the goods.

    Posted August 23, 2010 at 8:42 pm | Permalink
  10. Ciaran wrote:

    @H20
    Bear in mind though that the FOI was to USAID, not WV.

    I would imagine, if it’s USAID’s policy to redact this info, WV probably aren’t in a position to publish it themselves.

    Still, I suppose no-one can say much without having seen the letter detailing the reasons why the info was witheld.

    Which really makes me wonder why Til didn’t publish this in the first place (?!?)

    Posted August 24, 2010 at 4:22 am | Permalink
  11. H2o wrote:

    Ciaran,

    I am happy to agree with you that USAID or Bruckner ought to produce that letter. No disagreement. But you don’t address the issue of blatant hypocrisy on the part of WV. If they want to live up to their professed transparency principles, they could publish that information today on this blog. If it is illegal for them to publish that information, because it would violate a USAID regulation, then they should say so. They do not claim that they are legally constrained in their snooty rebuttal of Bruckner. If they are not so constrained, they should publish now. If they don’t publish now, then people won’t take them seriously. See the other comments above for the obvious reaction.

    Posted August 24, 2010 at 7:19 am | Permalink

3 Trackbacks

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by William Easterly, Archie Law, Conduit Journal, Inside USAID, r3publican and others. r3publican said: World Vision responds on transparency – Editor’s note: we are posting the following note received in its entirety… http://bit.ly/bHxUx3 […]

  2. […] meaning of transparency isn’t as clear as the term […]

  3. […] both World Vision and Mercy Corps have rebutted Bruckner’s claims. World Vision issued a statement saying it did not ask USAID to redact its financials and that USAID did it on its […]

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