IMF Executive Board Considers External Evaluation of the Independent Evaluation Office
March 29, 2013
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March 29, 2013
On March 21, 2013, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) discussed the second External Evaluation of the Independent Evaluation Office (IEO).
The IEO provides objective and independent evaluation on issues related to the IMF. It operates independently of IMF management and the Executive Board. The IEO was set up with four mandates:
• to serve as a means to enhance the learning culture within the Fund;
• to strengthen the Fund's external credibility;
• to promote greater understanding of the work of the Fund throughout its membership; and
• to support the Executive Board's institutional governance and oversight responsibilities.
The purpose of the evaluation was to assess the effectiveness of the IEO and to consider possible improvements to its structure, mandate, operational modalities, or terms of reference.
The independent team of experts reviewing the IEO was chaired by José Antonio Ocampo, Professor at Columbia University and former Minister of Finance of Colombia, and includes two other members: Stephen Pickford, Senior Research Fellow at Chatham House and former Managing Director of the UK Treasury and Executive Director of the IMF, and Cyrus Rustomjee, Director of the Economic Affairs Division at the Commonwealth Secretariat and also a former Executive Director of the IMF.
This was the second external evaluation of the IEO, the first evaluation, chaired by Karin Lissakers, was published in 2006.
Executive Board Assessment
Executive Directors welcomed the External Evaluation Panel’s report to assess the effectiveness of the Independent Evaluation Office (IEO) in the seven years since the last assessment. They thanked the Panel for its efforts, and acknowledged its extensive consultations, interviews, and other interactions with key stakeholders that underlie the Panel’s analysis and recommendations. Directors welcomed many of the recommendations for further enhancing the effectiveness of the IEO, including with regard to evaluation topics, follow-up processes, and interactions with the Board, management, and staff, which will be discussed further by the Evaluation Committee and the Board.
Directors welcomed the Panel’s assessment that the IEO has played an important role in supporting the Fund’s governance and transparency and enhancing its learning culture. They also welcomed the finding that the IEO’s independence has been widely recognized and, as such, has strengthened the external perception of the Fund. Most Directors concurred with the Panel’s assessment that the IEO’s objective of promoting greater understanding of the Fund’s work throughout the membership has become less important with the increased transparency of the Fund over the past decade, and therefore could be dropped as an element of the IEO’s mandate.
Directors agreed that the focus of the IEO reports should be on long-term cross-cutting issues and drawing out lessons of wider relevance and applicability for the advance of Fund policy and culture. They noted that the IEO Director should continue to have full freedom in choosing the subjects for evaluation, consistent with the IEO’s Terms of Reference. Most Directors considered that the current process for selecting evaluation topics is appropriate. A number of Directors saw scope for relaxing somewhat the current constraint that limits the choice of topics, and a number of Directors favored the Panel’s proposal to define that boundary as “current lending programs.” However, a few other Directors preferred not to modify the current Terms of Reference, which state that the IEO should avoid interfering with operational activities, including programs. Directors generally agreed that, in framing its recommendations, the IEO should focus on policy issues for the Fund, rather than on processes, which are the responsibility and comparative advantage of management, although they acknowledged the practical difficulties in separating substance from process, depending on the subject of evaluation. Many Directors also considered it useful for the IEO to undertake, subject to resource availability, periodic evaluations of ex post assessments and ex post evaluations of selected country programs.
Directors agreed on the need to improve the follow-up process to Board-endorsed IEO recommendations. They underscored the importance of strong ownership and active engagement by the Board, especially through its Evaluation Committee. In particular, Directors saw a role for the Evaluation Committee in reviewing and monitoring Management Implementation Plans (MIPs) and ensuring their timeliness, including by setting time limits for preparation and submission of the MIPs. Most Directors saw merit in regular IEO reviews of implementation of previous Board-endorsed recommendations, possibly every two years; however, a few others found it inappropriate for the IEO to conduct such reviews, which should be the responsibility of the Board. While many Directors were open to the idea that the Office of Internal Audit should prepare reports on the periodic monitoring of IEO recommendations, they noted that any decision to proceed in this direction would require confirmation by the External Audit Committee. Other Directors were not in favor of this recommendation.
Noting that interaction between the IEO and the membership is an essential part of the follow-up process, most Directors were open to considering an appropriate forum for the IEO to present its recent work during the Fund’s Annual Meetings. A number of Directors favored the idea of the IEO presenting a report in a meeting of the IMFC, while a number of others doubted its usefulness.
With regard to Board discussions of IEO evaluation reports, most Directors did not see a need for a major change in the current governance structure whereby management functions as chair of the Board, and thus the Secretary’s Department has a responsibility, under the direction of management, for finalizing the record of Board meetings. These Directors, therefore, did not favor the Panel’s suggestion that the Chair of the Evaluation Committee be responsible for drafting the record of Board discussions of IEO reports, although some saw merit in such an approach. Many Directors supported, or were open to, the suggestion by the IEO that it should prepare draft summings up for Board discussions of its reports and work with the Secretary’s Department in preparing the final version, in line with standard procedures for all other summings up. Many Directors noted a lack of understanding on how Directors’ silence on specific IEO recommendations is interpreted in recording the outcome of the Board discussion, with a number of them suggesting that the same treatment of silence should apply as in other Board meetings.
Directors noted the Panel’s recommendations for raising the profile of the IEO within the Fund, thus increasing its effectiveness. They emphasized the need for enhanced dialogue between the IEO and Fund staff without compromising the IEO’s independence, including through ‘in-reach’ activities such as internal seminars and discussions of recommendations. Directors welcomed management’s intention to consider measures to facilitate mobility of high-performing staff to and from the IEO.
A number of Directors were open to considering the Panel’s recommendation to increase the budget for the IEO to take on the additional activities as proposed. A number of others, however, did not see a clear case for a budget increase.
The recommendations of the Panel that have received broad support and outstanding issues that warrant further consideration will be followed up by the appropriate parties—the Evaluation Committee, the IEO, staff, and management. Directors would have further opportunities to discuss concrete proposals in the coming months.