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ICANN financial data dump a damp squib?

Kevin Murphy, June 24, 2024, 17:58:05 (UTC), Domain Policy

It was supposed to be a means for ICANN to improve the transparency of its financials, but the latest output of a decade-long accountability project appears to be a damp squib, perhaps not even meeting community requirements.

But a newly published document appears to reveal one vendor that was paid almost $2 million in a single year, that ICANN has mysteriously not previously disclosed a relationship with.

Org has published its first “Annual Disclosure of Payments to Suppliers” (pdf), covering its fiscal 2022, but it weighs in at just one page of rather vague information, most of which was already in the public domain, printed in a font size I didn’t need my glasses to read.

The published data is less granular than what ICANN already reveals on its published tax forms, and it’s arguably less informative as a result.

The document shows that ICANN has at least 10 suppliers that received over $500,000 from the Org in FY22, and that if you aggregate all its insurance providers and landlords together each grouping also crosses that threshold.

There are three line items for payments over $2 million — the aforementioned landlords in aggregate, along with the law firm Jones Day and the software developer Architech Solutions.

Disclosing that these two companies were paid “above $2 million”, rather than the actual dollar value, is odd considering that we already know from ICANN’s 2022 tax form (pdf) that Jones Day was paid $5,164,603 and Architech was paid $2,857,500.

At the next tier down, we discover that ICANN paid IT consulting firm SHI International between $1.5 million and $2 million during the period.

This is arguably the most interesting stat on the page, as SHI doesn’t appear on ICANN’s 2022 tax return or the tax returns for 2021 and 2023, despite apparently meeting the criteria for being one of its “five highest compensated independent contractors”.

It doesn’t appear ICANN has ever publicly mentioned the firm before, but SHI is a large, decades-old IT services provider.

Paid between $1 million and $1.5 million were insurance providers in the aggregate, along with IT firms Outsource Technical and Zensar Technologies, both of which appear on the FY22 tax return with the precise dollar value they were paid.

On the lowest rung of the disclosure, each accounting for between $500,000 and $1 million in the period, are two HR outsourcing companies, two companies providing services for ICANN’s public meetings, and escrow provider NCC.

NCC was paid $800,798 in FY22, the lowest-paid of the top five contractors, according to the tax return, so we can assume the other four firms were paid less than that.

ICANN is making the disclosures in response to one of the over 100 recommendations of Work Stream 2 (WS2) of the Cross-Community Working Group on Enhancing ICANN Accountability, which were issued in 2018 after four years of community discussions, but it’s debatable whether they live up to what the community wanted.

CCWG-Accountability had issued implementation guidance stating:

In the first year of implementation ICANN should publish a register of all suppliers (name of supplier, country or origin and actual annual amount) it pays 500,000$US or more per fiscal year broken down by categories (e.g., computer equipment, software, telecommunication services, contracting etc.).

Note the references to “country or [sic] origin” and “actual annual amount”, two data points that do not seem to appear in the newly published document.

The group also said that the minimum reporting threshold should drop to $250,000 in the second reported year, so the FY23 document could be much larger. ICANN had 130 suppliers receiving six-figure payments in FY22, according to its tax return.

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