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.