CAO's independence and impartiality are of primary importance to foster the trust and confidence of stakeholders involved in a dispute. CAO is not identified with or beholden to any sector or interest, and we report direct to the President of the World Bank Group.
Independent Effectiveness Reviews of the CAO
Independence and impartiality
CAO's independence and impartiality are of primary importance to foster the trust and confidence of local communities, project sponsors, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and other stakeholders involved in a dispute. This trust and confidence are prerequisites for the CAO to help solve problems on the ground.
CAO is not identified with or beholden to any sector or interest. Our independence and impartiality are reinforced in a number of structural ways:
- The CAO reports directly to the President of the World Bank Group and is not part of the
line management structure of either IFC or MIGA.
- CAO Staff are recruited by CAO.
- Staff are independent of the management structure of IFC and MIGA.
- The Office of the CAO is physically located in a secure area, and only CAO staff have
- The CAO Vice President and her/his staff exercise caution in becoming involved in
internal processes within IFC and MIGA to maintain neutrality. This caution is balanced with the requirements of CAO's advisory role.
- CAO professional staff contracts restrict staff members from obtaining employment with IFC or MIGA for two years after they end their engagement with CAO.
If an employee of CAO has a conflict of interest in relation to a particular complaint, that person will withdraw from involvement in responding to the complaint.
Confidentiality and information disclosure
Information disclosure and confidentiality are both important to the CAO. Although confidentiality
is essential in some ombudsman cases, disclosure of information is critical to the
CAO’s independence and impartiality, and in achieving solutions in some cases.
The CAO’s terms of reference limit the ability of the CAO to disclose information publicly
on its own initiative. The CAO is bound by IFC and MIGA disclosure policies that require the
confidentiality of certain business information to be respected during communications with
parties. The CAO is also bound by the Staff Rules of the World Bank Group, which require
staff to treat information with discretion and not to disclose information improperly. The CAO
will also respect complainant requests for confidentiality, including confidentiality of their
Within the parameters of those constraints, the CAO makes every effort to ensure maximum
disclosure of reports, findings, and results of CAO processes. The CAO may communicate
directly with complainants and affected parties. CAO reports that present the CAO‘s conclusions
on an investigation may be released to the public, but the CAO may not publish information
received in the course of an investigation if the disclosure of that material is restricted under
IFC or MIGA disclosure policies. The CAO will indicate publicly when it has restricted disclosure
in response to a request from an affected party.
Reporting to the President and informing the Board of the World Bank Group
The CAO periodically reports to the President of the World Bank Group, as required by CAO’s Terms of Reference. CAO also communicates with the Boards of the World Bank Group (the Board) on a regular basis.
CAO informs the President and Board when a complaint has been found eligible for assessment. CAO reports the outcome of an ombudsman assessment to the President and informs the Board. The CAO informs the Board of the findings of a compliance audit, after clearance from the President. The CAO remains available at all times to provide briefings to the Board at its request.
CAO publishes an Annual Report at the end of each Fiscal Year which is provided to President and Board, and disclosed publicly. More detailed summaries may be provided to the President at periodic briefings. The primary focus of these reports and briefings is to provide an overview of the activities of the CAO and monitor implementation of recommendations made.
CAO also provides an annual update of its activities to the World Bank Group Board Committee
of Development Effectiveness (CODE), and conducts periodic technical briefings to supplement this information. CAO's annual update to CODE is publicly available.