The Independent Evaluation Office of the IMF (IEO) on December 6 celebrated its 10th anniversary with a conference that—in true evaluative form—was an event of listening to feedback and learning.

IMF Management, Executive Board members, senior staff, and external stakeholders joined current and past IEO teams in discussing what the IEO has achieved so far and how it can contribute further to the effectiveness and legitimacy of the IMF.

Both Shakour Shaalan, Dean of the Board, and Moeketsi Majoro, Chair of the Board Evaluation Committee, underscored the “unwavering support” of the Committee and Executive Board for the IEO.

Central role
In opening the conference, IEO Director Moises Schwartz noted that a decade ago, the IEO was created to strengthen learning and accountability at the IMF, and to enhance understanding among external stakeholders of how the institution works. These tasks are even more important today, when the legitimacy of, and trust in, the IMF are more critical than ever as it plays a central role in helping stabilize the world economy. Mr. Schwartz mentioned that since its inception in 2001 the IEO had produced 18 evaluation reports that have contributed to oversight, learning and transparency. He noted several prominent themes that had recurred in IEO evaluations:
  1. The need to strengthen IMF governance and clarify roles and responsibilities—from the IMFC and the Board, to Management and senior staff.
  2. The centrality of greater evenhandedness across the membership in the application of policies and framing of advice.
  3. The importance of creating incentives to encourage alternative views and support staff in raising difficult issues with country authorities, even in the largest countries.
  4. The imperative to better integrate analytical and operational work across departments—promoting cooperation and reducing turf battles and silo behavior.
In her remarks, the Managing Director recalled that some of the most knowledgeable commentators on the IMF, including in the press, academia, and NGOs, have pointed to IEO’s work as proof that the IMF is learning from experience. She explained that IEO takes “ruthless truth-telling to an organization that tells the truth” and emphasized that the IMF relies “on our honesty and credibility and thus wants IEO to continue to produce honest, fair, and demanding analysis.”

Distilling lessons
Three panel discussions followed the opening session. A panel of current and former Executive Directors focused on IEO’s role in accountability and oversight. A panel of former Management and staff members addressed IEO’s contributions to distilling lessons from experience and fostering a learning culture in the Fund. And a panel of external stakeholders addressed IEO’s contributions to enhancing transparency and in making lessons from IMF experience available to the membership and others. Several Executive Directors emphasized that effective evaluation depends on engagement of all parties involved. They stated that the IEO’s independence and internal access are crucial features that further both learning and oversight, and enhance the Fund’s external credibility.

A learning institution
Former First Deputy Managing Director Anne Krueger affirmed that “the IMF has always been a learning institution” and that the IEO has enhanced that process. Jack Boorman, former Director of the Policy Development and Review Department, acknowledged that he was not initially in favor of creating an independent evaluation office but that he had changed his view and is “amazed at how productive and helpful” the IEO has proven to be. Speaking on the external stakeholder panel, Jin Liqun, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the China Investment Corporation, described the IEO as a “window into the IMF” and focused on the key importance of topic selection, since it determines what can be seen through that window. Other external stakeholders underscored the importance of the IEO’s accountability function and supported further enhancements to facilitate this role. The concluding panel joined Mr. Schwartz in pulling together key messages from the event. Over the course of the day, there was a strong sense that the IEO had demonstrated true independence, producing quality reports that have had an impact on the IMF. There were also lessons for the IEO and suggestions for enhancing its work, including by prioritizing its recommendations and engaging in more effective outreach. Former IEO Director Tom Bernes and current Executive Director Arrigo Sadun called for further consideration of follow-up on IEO reports. FDMD David Lipton reiterated that the IMF will continue to look to the IEO for demanding analysis, noting that IEO conclusions are often cited in Board discussions long after evaluations are concluded.