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Posts Tagged ‘aid transparency’

U.S. Pace on Aid Transparency Won’t Cut it for 2015 Deadline

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014
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Development leaders from around the globe will gather in Mexico City next week for the first high-level meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation. The Global Partnership was established at the Fourth High Level Forum in Busan in 2011 and brings together a wide range of development actors working towards more effective, sustainable, and impactful development results. Today, 161 countries and 54 organizations have endorsed the Global Partnership Principles, including the United States.

Next week’s meeting offers up a chance to evaluate donors’ progress on their commitments to the Principles, including one focused on transparency requiring that donors publish all aid data to a common, open standard by December 2015. The U.S. endorsement of the Global Partnership Principles goes hand in hand with the commitment made by Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), also announced at Busan.

MFAN has joined with many other individuals and organizations in an effort spearheaded by Publish What You Fund to call on USAID Administrator Raj Shah and Secretary of State John Kerry to increase aid transparency efforts ahead of the GPEDC meeting. The supporting individuals and organizations have sent letters to Administrator Shah and Secretary Kerry outlining key recommendations, including:

  • Accelerate efforts to publish timely, comprehensive and forward-looking data on all development flows in accordance with IATI and improve the quality of published data;
  • Ensure information on development cooperation is compatible and aligned with partner countries’ budgets and systems;
  • Support specific actions to improve access, dissemination and use of this data by all stakeholders at country level.

With 2015 just around the corner, the U.S. needs to pick up the pace on publishing timely, comprehensive, and forward-looking data if it is to meet its important commitment to aid transparency. We hope this gathering will provide a much-needed kick-start to that process.

Open the books on foreign aid

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013
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See below for excerpts from an op-ed by Albert Kan-Dapaah, co-founder and executive director of Financial Accountability & Transparency-Africa and former Ghanaian minister and parliamentarian. This piece originally appeared in the Hill’s Congress blog.

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“Civil society in recipient countries must fight for accountability and transparency of poverty reducing aid in their respective countries, but we can’t do that without timely and comprehensive data on where U.S. aid dollars are going in their country.”

“Some donor agencies, including USAID and the Millennium Challenge Corporation, do provide much needed information and data.  Unfortunately the publicly available information, in most cases, is not detailed enough nor released in a timely enough manner to be relevant for citizens in Ghana. And for civil society activists, like myself, in order to do our work to ensure foreign aid transparency and accountability, that information is power.  And such information is not always readily available within our own governments—indeed most times we are denied access to such data, making the data released by donors agencies the only information available to us.”

“Informed citizens, both here in the U.S. and in developing countries, can hold their government accountable on how foreign aid funds are spent. Organizing and providing data to meet the needs of civil society activists in their quest to monitor, evaluate and pronounce on the effective use of foreign assistance is key.”

USAID Adds Financial Transaction Data to Dashboard

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013
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The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) today announced the latest addition to the agency’s contribution to the Foreign Assistance Dashboard, going live with a new set of over 50,000 financial records. Only USAID is currently reporting transaction data to the Dashboard.

As part of the Obama Administration’s push for greater transparency in foreign assistance within his “Open Government” initiative, the Dashboard was created in order to make accessible data spread across the 20 government agencies involved, in one way or another, with development and humanitarian aid. This past May saw the addition of data from the Department of Treasury and the Department of Defense, on top of information already posted by USAID, the State Department, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation. These five agencies comprise about 86 percent of total foreign assistance spending, but a number of other notable departments and agencies have yet to participate—Department of Agriculture, Department of Health and Human Services, Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and Peace Corps, to name a few. The development community has applauded the steps taken by the Obama Administration in increasing transparency, while continuing to track current progress and push for further additions.

The information that has recently been posted is referred to as “financial transaction data”—data regarding disbursements including vendors, locations, award titles, etc. While all USAID data previously published on the Dashboard is aggregated, the new, disaggregated records contribute greatly to the depth of information available within certain countries and sectors.

The information from the posted records is visualized on the website according to seven criteria (fiscal year, sector, country, title, vendor, obligated, and spent). All records can be searched using four of these criteria (fiscal year, sector, country, and vendor) as well as a search bar that can effectively search for keywords through all the data fields on the record. Each record has 30 fields that can be viewed online or downloaded in XML (a computer-readable format that allows data to be extracted and presented in a comparable and accessible way) or Excel formats, but the Dashboard can only search using the four criteria listed previously. According to USAID, these 30 areas comprise over 90 percent of the data required by the White House executive order OMB Bulletin 12-01 on data accessibility issued across government last fall, and 70 percent of the data required by the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), a global aid registry to which the U.S. Government subscribed in 2011 and 160 organizations now publish data.

USAID’s financial records do not yet include food aid data in Food for Peace (Title II, PL 480), and these records will not represent all “open awards” until the fourth quarter of the current fiscal year, or Q4, is closed out. However, a system has been put in place to update these records on a quarterly basis going forward within 45 days of the close of the quarter.

There are also no plans to work backwards and include data from prior years, so the baseline is FY2013.

These records can be accessed through the USAID agency page on the Dashboard by selecting the “Transactions” tab below disaggregated data. The data can then be searched using the seven criteria outlined above. In the resulting records, all 30 fields of information can be viewed by clicking the (+) on the left hand side of the entry and can be downloaded via a button above the listed entries. Note that this data is not searchable under the Dashboard’s interagency search function, only by going through the agency page.

Also appearing today, the Treasury Department has posted data on $23 billion spent on technical assistance in FY2012. The data can be downloaded in IATI format and analysis from the Center for Global Development’s Sarah Jane Stats—an MFAN Principal—can be found here.

MFAN Statement: Poe, Rubio Bills Would Strengthen Foreign Assistance Transparency, Accountability

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013
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July 10, 2013 (WASHINGTON)This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs David Beckmann, George Ingram and Jim Kolbe:

MFAN applauds Congressmen Ted Poe (R-TX) and Gerry Connolly (D-VA) and Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) for introducing the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2013 (H.R. 2638; S. 1271). An earlier version of the bill received an encouraging response upon its initial introduction during the 112th Congress, where it sailed through the House with a unanimous vote of 390-0.

The bipartisan legislation would strengthen U.S. development programs that are critical levers of influence in an increasingly complex world by directing U.S. agencies involved in foreign assistance to employ more coherent, consistent, and transparent monitoring and evaluation.

This builds on work the Obama Administration has done to embed results-oriented learning practices in U.S. development programming, including new evaluation policies at the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Department of State, as well as a new U.S. commitment to participate in the International Aid Transparency Initiative. Specifically, the bills would improve accountability, transparency, and overall effectiveness first by requiring the President to establish uniform interagency guidelines—with measurable goals, performance metrics, and monitoring and evaluation plans—across all U.S. foreign assistance programs. In addition, H.R. 2638 / S.1271 would require the President to maintain and expand the Foreign Assistance Dashboard, a public website with detailed information regarding U.S. foreign assistance on a program-by-program and country-by-country basis. The site, which is currently populated by only five U.S. government departments or agencies, would be updated quarterly by all agencies that administer foreign assistance, and would allow American taxpayers and partner countries the ability to access and track comprehensive, timely, and comparable data.

The Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act is an important step toward making lasting, statutory reforms that will ensure U.S. foreign assistance programs are more transparent, accountable, and effective.  We look forward to working with Members of both the House and Senate to enact this legislation during the 113th Congress.

USGLC Report Finds Consensus on U.S. Development Policy

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013
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Partisanship in Washington seems to be at an all-time (and ever escalating) high these days. But when it comes to international development, there is a strong consensus across the ideological spectrum that it is something the U.S. must do and do well. Both Republican and Democratic administrations have taken important steps toward reforming U.S. development policy and practice. The establishment of the Millennium Challenge Corporation by President Bush, with strong bipartisan support from Congress, paved the way for other important reforms by the Obama Administration including the first-ever Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development and the USAID Forward agenda.

In 2011, MFAN released From Policy to Practice—a set of reform principles to help guide U.S. development policy. The principles include modernizing legislation, incorporating local priorities, and strengthening and empowering USAID. In the two years since the release of From Policy to Practice, we have seen the Obama Administration and Congress make strides and the development community rally behind the importance of reform. But there is still more work to be done, and at a time when budgets are shrinking, finding more effective and efficient approaches to solving development challenges is something everyone can get behind.

Today, the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition released their second Report on Reports, which analyzes over 30 reports, including MFAN’s From Policy to Practice, from across the political spectrum. Despite analyzing a diverse range of work from groups like the left-leaning Center for American Progress and the right-leaning Heritage Foundation, USGLC finds there’s more of a consensus on U.S. development policy than we might expect. The Report on Reports highlights six key areas of agreement, including ensuring results-driven development, improving coordination, and maintaining sufficient resources, that many groups in the development community are highlighting as priority areas for improving U.S. policy.

The elevation of development alongside diplomacy and defense, the continuing implementation of the USAID Forward agenda, the introduction of legislation like Rep. Gerry Connolly’s (D-VA) Global Partnerships Act and Rep. Ted Poe’s (R-TX) Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act, and President Obama’s proposal to reform U.S. food aid are all positive signs that the reform agenda is making headway. However, the Administration and Congress must work together to institutionalize these important reforms so that progress is not lost as political winds shift in Washington.

Click here to see USGLC’s helpful infographic on the road to a “smart power” approach to national security issues.