Transparency and Accountability
OPIC is the U.S. government’s development finance institution. It mobilizes private capital to help address critical challenges in developing nations and, by doing so, advances U.S. foreign policy and national security priorities. OPIC also helps U.S. businesses gain footholds in emerging markets, thereby catalyzing revenues, jobs and growth opportunities at home and abroad. OPIC achieves its mission by providing investors with financing, political risk insurance, and support for private equity investment funds. All OPIC projects must meet high environmental and social standards and respect human rights, including worker's rights. By mandating high standards, OPIC aims to promote improvements in industry and local standards in countries where it funds projects.
OPIC recognizes that transparency and accountability are critical to its effectiveness as a development institution, stewardship of federal resources and obligation to maintain the public trust. Accordingly, the agency has numerous safeguards and policies—some legally required; others, self-initiated—at the institutional, portfolio and project level.
The following is a general guide to OPIC’s transparency and accountability mechanisms. While it covers a broad range of issues, it should not be considered an exhaustive digest of Agency obligations or activities.
Institutional Transparency and Accountability
OPIC was created by Congress in 1969 under The Foreign Assistance Act of 1961. This means that Congress can examine and revise OPIC’s authorities, and can examine its operations, initiatives and projects.
Generally, such oversight is handled by OPIC’s four primary “committees of jurisdiction”: the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, and the State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Subcommittee of the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations. Other committees can engage OPIC on issues within their respective jurisdictions.
OPIC’s independent Board of Directors, which reviews and approves large projects, consists of 15 members—eight from the private sector and seven from agencies across the federal government. All are appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by the Senate. The Board meets quarterly to review, provide guidance on and approve OPIC projects, and all Board resolutions and minutes of open meetings are available on OPIC’s website. Under The Sunshine Act, the dates and locations of the portions of OPIC Board Meetings open to the public must be published in advance along with details of projects to be considered by the Board.
Two useful resources that provide information on the long-term, strategic issues facing OPIC as well as recent trends, accomplishments and activities are the President’s Report, which is appended to the minutes of the open meetings, and the occasional congressional testimonies of OPIC officials.
Under The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), OPIC is obliged to respond to reasonably formulated requests for Agency records. However, OPIC may apply exemptions from release to certain types of information. For example, certain records associated with litigation or attorney-client privilege may be exempt from release. OPIC, as required, has a designated FOIA officer who is trained in how to respond to requests and implement the law, and the officer publishes quarterly and annual reports online each year. OPIC’s FOIA Annual Reports may be found here, and a Frequently Asked Questions document may be found here. FOIA Quarterly Reports on four key statistics may be found here. OPIC is working to publicly post FOIA releases on its FOIA Webpage.
OPIC is required to publish numerous reports for Congress, most of which are obtainable here.
- The OPIC Annual Report, inclusive of financial statements. Pursuant to the U.S. Treasury and Office of Management and Budget designation of OPIC as a “significant entity,” OPIC financial statements are prepared in accordance with the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) for Federal Entities;
- The Annual Policy Report, which summarizes U.S. economic and host country development impacts, inclusive of environmental and social issues at the local level;
- The Congressional Budget Justification, which includes the Agency’s annual expenditures, budget request and short-term spending forecast;
- The OPIC Strategic Plan, 2012-2016;
- The Annual “No Fear” Act report on federal employee anti-discrimination and retaliation issues;
- The Audit and Investigative Activities Report;
- The OPIC Sustainability Plan;
- The Annual Employee Survey Report; and,
- The Annual Management Report.
The Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Agency for International Development may conduct reviews, audits, assessments and investigations of all phases of OPIC’s operations and activities. OIG activity may cover a range of issues from program effectiveness to waste, fraud and abuse. OPIC audit reports, semiannual OIG reports on OPIC-related oversight activities and annual plans regarding future OPIC oversight can be found here.
Portfolio Level Transparency and Accountability
OPIC coordinates project development with stakeholders as necessary, particularly locally-affected communities in host countries. Since 2009, OPIC has increased its transparency in order to make available to the public significantly more information about the projects the agency supports, and to encourage a more public engagement in project development. Those improvements concerned OPIC operations in areas such as increased disclosure of detailed information regarding all projects to be considered by the OPIC Board of Directors and all projects OPIC supports.
OPIC posts summaries of all OPIC-supported projects to the Agency website, OPIC.gov. Key details of these projects are searchable and sortable by fiscal year, region, type of financing and size of financial commitment. These projects are also listed on an interactive online map of the world. As of December 2016, OPIC will begin publishing a downloadable spreadsheet of project data to facilitate analysis by outside parties. OPIC annually publishes a third-party, independent assessment of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with its portfolio on its website here.
Pursuant to the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, Section 240A, OPIC publishes an Annual Policy Report of its operations that includes data on the development impact of its operations. The report, available on OPIC’s website here, covers economic, environmental, health, safety and social impacts of OPIC’s portfolio in developing nations, as well as net impacts on the U.S. economy and calculations of net GHG contributions.
OPIC participates in several interagency disclosure initiatives that provide the general public with data about its operations. A subset of OPIC data is now available via data.gov. OPIC contributes data regarding its contracts to usaspending.gov. This data set includes the name of the contract recipient, the award identification number, the award date and type and the role of the Agency. OPIC will publish agency data via the State Department’s foreignassistance.gov in the next few months.
Sector and Project Specific Transparency and Accountability
Avoidance of Corruption
OPIC works carefully to ensure that anti-corruption best practices are used in connection with the projects it supports, and that OPIC projects are in full compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and other anti-corruption laws.
OPIC has a Character Risk Due Diligence Directive (CRDD) that specifies the steps and procedures that the agency must complete when performing information searches before it provides support for a project. Among those search tools is the Terrorist Screening Center (TSC), which was established to consolidate terrorist watch lists and to provide operational support for federal agencies, such as OPIC, that require security screening services.
In projects employing local legal counsel, the OPIC project team will request local counsel to use publicly available in-country databases and other sources for background information relevant to CRDD searches. The project team also takes steps to monitor CRDD issues affecting a project, including but not limited to potential transfers of equity in an OPIC-supported project. In those cases, the project team will undertake appropriate research on potential new holders of equity in OPIC-supported projects.
The OPIC project team will be required to document all CRDD search efforts, and must ensure that background searches are updated. In the event a CRDD research raises issues about a project, the OPIC project team will bring those concerns to the attention of OPIC senior management, which will then determine whether to proceed with the project.
Procedures for Environmentlly or Socially Sensitive Projects
OPIC screens project applications to identify at the earliest possible stage the risk of adverse environmental and social impacts of the project and to identify project impacts that could preclude OPIC support. Major factors reviewed in identifying potential risks at the screening stage include sector, project scale, project siting, social concerns, and the potential for cross border impacts. Risks are assessed for key stages in the project cycle including pre-construction, construction, operations, decommissioning and closure.
All environmentally and socially sensitive projects – so-called Category A projects – must develop and implement an Environmental and Social Action Plan (ESAP), a record of commitments made by the applicant to mitigate, remediate and monitor environmental and social risks and impacts. The final ESAP is disclosed to the public on OPIC’s website.
OPIC posts to the agency web site summaries of Category A projects at least 60 days before OPIC makes a decision to support them. Public comment on the projects is invited and considered by OPIC in advance of board decisions. The summaries include information such as the rationale for designating the projects Category A, environmental and social standards used in project assessment, and a location for local access to environmental and social project information.
The detailed project summaries include information such as total project costs; potential project impact on the U.S. economy; description of the main environmental and social risks and impacts associated with the project; measures required to mitigate those risks; action required to achieve compliance with applicable environmental and social standards; and description of investors’ engagement with local stakeholders on environmental and social issues.
Consultations with Stakeholder on Category A Projects
For Category A projects with significant social impacts, OPIC requires that project investors formally consult with the locally-affected communities, by providing project information in a language, format, and medium that is accessible. OPIC will update its application and reporting forms with input from all stakeholders on the content of the data required.
OPIC encourages prospective project sponsors to engage in meaningful consultation with local stakeholders during all phases of project development. Consultations must be inclusive and culturally appropriate and meet the needs of disadvantaged and vulnerable groups. OPIC requires that the full documentation of the public consultation process which was undertaken during project planning be included in an environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) or baseline audit document.
Formal public consultation will utilize various methods depending on the objective of the consultation, the type of project and the cultural setting. At a minimum, consultation will involve early discussion of the project at the screening stage, and later opportunities to review and comment on the ESIA or baseline audit document.
Environmental and social information will be made available to locally-affected people in a language, format and medium that is accessible and allows for the free expression of opinions. For all Category A projects, the applicant will be required to provide a local language translation of the executive summary of the ESIA or baseline audit document and make the summary available to local stakeholders in a format that is readily understandable and tailored to meet the information needs of the affected community. The translated summary must be distributed by means that take into account the ability of local stakeholders to receive, address and effectively comment on the content. OPIC will disclose the local language translation on its website.
During the project development process, OPIC’s Office of Investment Policy will receive confirmation that investors in Category A projects with significant social impacts have consulted with locally-affected communities. OPIC will send email alerts to its subscriber list when an EIA is posted to the agency web site. OPIC will post to its web site host-country notifications for Category A projects, which are transmitted by OPIC to host governments when contracts are executed.
Projects in Extractive Industries
OPIC endorses the principles of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and encourages investors to voluntarily agree to the EITI guidelines in OPIC-sponsored projects. The EITI supports improved governance in resource-rich developing countries through the full publication and verification of company payments and government revenues from oil, gas and mining ventures. The goal is to ensure that the revenues from extractive industries in developing countries contribute to sustainable development and poverty reduction. Participation in EITI can reduce the risk associated with a project, and improve the likelihood of success in the most developmental markets while reducing associated costs.
Advance Notice of Project Approvals
Under The Sunshine Act, the dates and locations of the portions of OPIC Board Meetings open to the public must be published in advance along with details of projects to be considered by the Board. Specifically, OPIC publishes in the Federal Register notices of board meetings, public hearings, Sunshine Act notices, and Board meeting agendas, the public minutes of Board Meetings and Board Resolutions relating to OPIC-approved projects. Prior to all OPIC Board of Directors meetings, OPIC holds a public hearing. Before the scheduled public hearing an official Notice of Public Hearing is published in the Federal Register. This notice includes the announcement that a detailed project summary of the projects to be considered by the Board is available for viewing on OPIC’s web site. The summary contains the following information:
- Total Project Costs.
- Proposed OPIC Support (e.g., loan value, insurance coverage).
- Development Effects.
- Impact on the U.S. Economy.
- Description of the main environmental and social risks and impacts of the project (including labor and human rights issues).
- Key measures required to mitigate environmental and social risks.
- Description of any action required to achieve conformance with the applicable environmental and social standards.
- Environmental and social information related to any OPIC site visits.
- Description of Investor engagement with local stakeholders on environmental and social issues.
After OPIC Approval
OPIC’s Office of Accountability is an independent office within OPIC that addresses concerns, complaints or conflicts about environmental or social issues that may arise around OPIC-supported projects. The Office provides project-affected communities, project sponsors, and project workers an opportunity to have such concerns independently reviewed and addressed.
The Office offers two types of services: It can work with the parties to a conflict to help resolve it (available to both project-affected parties and OPIC clients). The Office can also review how OPIC applied its environmental and social policies to a project. This function may be requested by project-affected parties as well as by OPIC’s Board and President.
The Office of Accountability keeps an online Registry of Cases and Reviews requested by OPIC Management. In addition, the Office of Accountability makes available a Guide for Communities, a Guide for OPIC Clients, and various compilation of Accountability Resources.
As noted above, the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Agency for International Development may conduct reviews, audits, assessments and investigations of all phases of OPIC’s operations and activities. OIG activity may cover a range of issues from program effectiveness to waste, fraud and abuse. OPIC audit reports, semiannual OIG reports on OPIC-related oversight activities and annual plans regarding future OPIC oversight can be found here.
OPIC has an Anti-Corruption Hotline for receiving guidance on anti-corruption practices and for reporting allegations of corruption and fraud in connection with OPIC supported projects: 1-800-230-6539 or 202-712-1023
OPIC periodically conducts in-depth reviews of the financial and development performance of specific sectors: a “lessons learned” exercise. The most recent Lessons Learned reports may be found here.