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Gates Foundation scores “very poor” on transparency index

Gates Foundation new campus
Tom Paulson

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s largest philanthropy, is one of the most influential players in the aid and development field today – combatting poverty, diseases of poverty and inequity.

The Gates Foundation is also, according to the 2013 Aid Transparency Index, one of the least open and accountable large organizations in this arena – ranking 43rd out of the 67 aid and development agencies or humanitarian organizations assessed this year.

According to the ATI website report on the philanthropy (go there yourself, it’s a very good interactive, searchable site):

The Gates Foundation does not publish performance or forward spending information systematically. Some information is provided in the Annual Letter on organisational priorities, but no comprehensive development strategy is published.

Humanosphere has reported for many years (ad nauseum, some might say) on the foundation’s excellent work but also on this chronic problem with opening up to outsiders, communicating with grant recipients and making itself more accountable to the public. To wit:

Gates Foundation shrinks annual report, chronicles failure to communicate

Behind the scenes with Gates Foundation’s strategic media partners

A chat with outgoing Gates Foundation CEO Jeff Raikes

For those who want to give the Gateses free rein (“Hey, it’s their money and they can do what they want”) it may be worth noting that in return for its tax exempt status, the Gates Foundation and any other such philanthropies are legally required to be serving the public good – a difficult thing to define or enforce, of course. But it can’t happen at all if the public is not part of the do-good dialogue.

Side note: One of the Gates Foundation’s biggest projects, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, scored second highest on the 2013 transparency index.

Perhaps aware that the philanthropy’s poor transparency rating was coming out, Gates Foundation CEO Jeff Raikes recently wrote on the foundation’s Impatient Optimists blog of the plans to join the International Aid Transparency Initiative and to improve its performance when it comes to transparency and accountability.



About Author

Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at] or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.