Earlier this week, Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX-2) addressed members of the development community about the need for accountability and transparency in U.S. foreign assistance. His speech was part of an event hosted by MFAN partner Oxfam America titled “Be Bold! Risk and Reward in U.S. Foreign Assistance.” Poe spoke about his new bill, The Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act, which currently has 45 bipartisan cosponsors and how he envisions the legislation will help to advance reform and build broad support for foreign assistance.
Citing the countless agencies and offices who deal with foreign assistance, the uneven and incongruous monitoring and evaluation processes, and an overall lack of transparency Poe explained why he introduced the legislation. He referenced the Center for Global Development/Brookings QuODA report in which the U.S. ranks 22 out of 31 countries on transparency, adding our “aid programs operate in the dark.” Though Poe noted some progress has been made at reforming the U.S. approach to foreign assistance with the Foreign Assistance Dashboard, there is still much more to be done.
From this argument about the need for m&e, Poe said we should not hide what we’re doing with foreign aid and that if we were more honest with taxpayers about how the money is spent, there will be more support for aid programs. Poe closed by talking about his hopes to get the bill passed and urged the audience to call their congressman and ask them to sign on as a cosponsor.
Oxfam America continued its panel discussion on partnership following Poe’s remarks. Oxfam hosted the event to launch their new report, “The Politics of Partnership: How Donors Manage Risk while Letting Recipients Lead Their Own Development.” Greg Adams, director of aid effectiveness at Oxfam, summarized the theme of the report: development hinges on maintaining and strengthening the compact between citizens and their governments. The report argues donors are inherently disruptive to this compact because they introduce an element of accountability outside the citizen-government relationship. This does not necessarily mean aid is bad, but that donors need to invest in ways that do the least to undermine the relationship between citizens and their government. Adams noted that while this may seem obvious, it is quite difficult to do in practice.
The panel included the Honorable Albert Kan-Dapaah, Member of Parliament of Ghana and Chair of the Public Accounts Committee and Evans Rweikiza, Executive Director of the Tanzania Private Sector Foundation. Both spoke about their experiences in battling corruption – both inside and outside of government – and the donor-recipient relationship. Kan-Dapaah, in particular, argued donors should find ways to encourage civil society to become a more effective watchdog over government.