“Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their government is doing. Executive departments and agencies should harness new technologies to put information about their operations and decisions online and readily available to the public. Executive departments and agencies should also solicit public feedback to identify information of greatest use to the public.”
--President Barack Obama
The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), as an agency of the United States government, recognizes that transparency is a critical factor in securing both fiscal accountability and public trust and is committed to making its operations as transparent as possible. OPIC recently completed an agency-wide series of improvements to its transparency, in order to make available to the public an unprecedented degree of information about the projects the agency supports, and to encourage a new level of public involvement in the development of those projects.
These upgrades concern OPIC operations in four areas:
- Public disclosure of detailed information of all projects to be considered by the OPIC Board of Directors and about all the projects OPIC supports;
- Coordination of project development with concerned stakeholders, particularly locally-affected communities in host countries;
- Due diligence screening of project sponsors and potential impacts; and
- OPIC compliance with protocols, e.g., the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and OPIC’s own Anti-Corruption Handbook.
I. Public Disclosure of Project Information
II. Consultation with Concerned Stakeholders
III.Due Diligence Screening of Project Sponsors and Potential Impacts
IV. OPIC Compliance with Protocols
V. Additional Information
OPIC will significantly expand the volume and breadth of information it discloses to the public about the projects the agency supports. In particular, OPIC will enhance the opportunity for public comment on environmentally-sensitive projects that the agency plans to support.
OPIC will post to the agency web site summaries of environmentally- or socially-sensitive – so-called Category A – projects at least 60 days before OPIC makes a decision to support them. Public comment on the projects will be invited, and will be considered by OPIC, in advance of the decisions. The summaries shall 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.
For all Category A projects, OPIC will post to its web site detailed project summaries before the OPIC Board meets to decide on possible support for such project. Public comment will be invited and considered by OPIC before the agency decides to support the projects.
The detailed project summaries will 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. Comment on the projects will be posted on OPIC’s web site and provided to the OPIC Board at least seven days before the relevant board meeting.
Prior to all OPIC Board of Directors meetings, OPIC holds a public hearing. Before the scheduled public hearing an official Notice of Public Hearing will be published in the Federal Register. This notice will now include the announcement that a detailed project summary of the projects to be considered by the Board are available for viewing on OPIC’s web site. In addition to the information contained in the Initial Project Summary, the Detailed Project Summary will contain 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.
Comments received on projects, including any comments received during the public hearing and OPIC management’s response to those comments, will be posted on OPIC’s web site and provided to OPIC’s Board of Directors at least 7 days prior to the Board meeting at which a project is considered.
OPIC will post summaries of all OPIC-supported projects to the agency web site. Previously, OPIC posted only summaries of Board-approved projects.
OPIC will post, on a quarterly basis, listings of sub-projects of OPIC-supported investment funds to the agency web site. Previously, subprojects were posted annually.
OPIC will post summaries of the findings of third-party audits to the OPIC website.
OPIC will post to the federal register a schedule of public notices, including:
- 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.
For Category A projects with significant social impacts, OPIC will require 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 will encourage all 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.
For all Category A projects OPIC will require that a prospective sponsor consult formally with members of the affected public. In these cases, OPIC will require 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.
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.
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.
OPIC will provide non-governmental organizations and other interested parties with notice in the Federal Register and given the opportunity to comment, pursuant to the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA). The PRA provides for notice and comment procedures to be published in the Federal Register, such that persons may send comments to the Office of Management and Budget. OPIC will sends email alerts to its subscriber list when an EIA is posted to the agency web site. A self-monitoring questionnaire will be made available for public comment via the PRA process.
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.
Building on its existing best practices, OPIC will enhance its due diligence procedures, to ensure effective compliance programs exist in projects that the agency supports.
OPIC will screen 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 will be assessed at key stages in the project cycle including pre-construction, construction, operations, decommissioning and closure.
All Category A projects will 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 will be disclosed to the public on OPIC’s website.
At least one third-party audit will be conducted for all Category A projects, and Category A projects will be subject to site visits during the environmental and social review by OPIC staff or consultants.
OPIC has implemented 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. OPIC project teams will request TSC screening for any project located in a country specifically identified on a list maintained by OPIC’s president for the purpose of requiring TSC assistance.
In projects employing local legal counsel, the OPIC project team will request local counsel to utilize publicly available in-country databases and other sources for background information relevant to CRDD searches.
The project team will also take 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.
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.
OPIC publishes an OPIC Anti-Corruption Handbook that provides OPIC investors and other interested parties with a comprehensive approach to fighting corruption. OPIC investors are required to certify that they have received, read and distributed the handbook.
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.
OPIC has formally endorsed the principles of the EITI and encourages investors to voluntarily agree to the EITI guidelines in OPIC-sponsored projects.
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.
The OPIC Anti-Corruption Handbook, established in 2006, explains OPIC’s anti-corruption policies and procedures, and sponsors’ obligations to them. It contains a detailed overview of the FCPA, which imposes requirements in two broad areas: anti-bribery and accounting. The anti-bribery provisions, while broadly proscribing corrupt payments to foreign officials, also provide guidance with respect to third-party payments, certain permissible payments, and affirmative defenses to alleged violations. The accounting provisions, which were designed to operate in tandem with the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA, require corporations covered by the provisions to make and keep books and records that accurately and fairly reflect the transactions of the corporation, and to devise and maintain an adequate system of internal accounting controls.
The Handbook is available on OPIC’s web site and is distributed to all applicants seeking OPIC’s support. OPIC requires certifications from its applicants that they have read and understand the Handbook. Furthermore, applicants seeking OPIC support must certify that they have distributed the Handbook to an OPIC approved list of project parties. For projects involving OPIC finance, OPIC generally requires that the Handbook be distributed to all officers of the project company, its affiliates, all equity holders in the project company of more than ten percent, and of each person or entity providing credit or other significant support to the project.
Office of Accountability - provides an independent forum where people affected by OPIC-supported projects can voice and resolve problems
Anti-Corruption Handbook - Provides OPIC sponsors and others with a comprehensive approach to fight corruption
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
Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) - OPIC formally endorsed the principles of the EITI and encourages sponsors to voluntarily agree to EITI guidelines
Project Descriptions - Non-business confidential summary of OPIC projects
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) - OPIC's process for requesting access to agency records not otherwise made available through the Transparency Initiative
Public Notices - Notices of upcoming public meetings
Board of Directors Meetings - Access to OPIC Board Resolutions and Minutes of the Open Session of Board meetings