MFAN Statement: Rubio-Cardin Foreign Aid Transparency Bill Moves Forward in the Senate

November 14, 2013 (WASHINGTON) – This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs George Ingram, Carolyn Miles, and Connie Veillette

MFAN applauds the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for unanimously approving the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2013 (S. 1271) introduced by Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ben Cardin (D-MD). This bipartisan legislation would strengthen U.S. development programs in an era of constrained budget resources by directing U.S. agencies involved in foreign assistance to focus on more coherent, consistent, and transparent monitoring and evaluation to ensure that we get the most out of every dollar we spend on foreign assistance.

While the Obama Administration has emphasized its commitment to greater transparency and efficiency, as is evidenced in efforts by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Department of State to implement new evaluation policies, as well as by the U.S. committing to participate in the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), there is still more work to be done. In the recently released 2013 Aid Transparency Index (ATI) by Publish What You Fund, the Millennium Challenge Corporation was ranked as the most transparent donor among the 67 global donors assessed; however, other U.S. agencies did not fare as well. Most notably, the Department of State and PEPFAR were ranked 40th and 50th respectively, falling into the ATI’s “Poor” and “Very Poor” categories.

The legislation 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.  The bill would require that comprehensive, timely, and comparable data on all U.S. foreign assistance be made publicly available on the Foreign Assistance Dashboard. This would reinforce the good intentions of the Obama Administration, but also drive broader compliance from agencies and departments, as only six to date have posted information to the Dashboard since its launch in 2010. In addition, it would hold the Administration to account on its own existing policies, requiring that the uniform guidance be inclusive of security sector assistance as defined by the Security Sector Assistance (SSA) Presidential Policy Directive (PPD-23).

An earlier version of the legislation was introduced in the 112th Congress where it received an encouraging response. The bill was unanimously passed by the House with a vote of 390-0, and was unanimously approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but did not receive floor consideration before the session came to a close.

MFAN is strongly supportive of the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2013 (S. 1271) as an important step forward to codifying reforms that will ensure U.S. foreign assistance programs are more transparent, accountable, and effective and we commend Sens. Rubio and Cardin for their leadership on this issue. However, we feel the legislation must be rigorously applied to all foreign assistance programs, including those defined as security sector assistance by PPD-23. MFAN would also like to see the legislation track more closely with the commitment made by the U.S. to IATI, which would include publishing data on a quarterly basis, rather than a semi-annual basis as the bill currently prescribes.

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