United States of America

The United States of America (US) is the largest bilateral donor in the world. It disbursed USD$ 35.3 billion in Overseas Development Assistance in 2016. In 2011, the US committed to make its development aid finances and project information open and accessible to all by December 2015. This commitment was made as part of the Busan Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation.

The 2018 Aid Transparency Index tracks the quality of aid transparency for four US agencies and one initiative. The overall results show continued improvement, although at different rates. The MCC, a consistent leader in global aid transparency, remains in the ‘very good’ category. The biggest improver in the US is USAID, jumping from ‘fair’ in the 2016 Index to the middle of the ‘good’ category. PEPFAR has also moved into the ‘good’ category. State and the DOD remain in the ‘fair’ category.  For a full account of US aid transparency efforts over the past decade, please see the report by Friends of Publish What You Fund, How Can Data Revolutionize Development?

Alongside Busan, the US has a number of national, regional and international commitments to aid transparency including:

  • 2017: Reinforcing Education Accountability in Development (READ) Act: The READ Act includes a framework for accountability and transparency for foreign assistance funding in education.
  • 2016 Foreign Aid and Transparency Accountability Act (FATAA)
    FATAAlegislated that data on foreign assistance spending should be regularly published.
  • 2013 Open Data Policy
    This White House executive order, Making Open and Machine Readable the New Default for Government Information, applies to all US agencies. It states that data should be released in open and machine-readable formats.
  • 2012 Office of Management and Budget (OMB) guidance
    The OMB published the Bulletin on Guidance on Collection of US Foreign Assistance Data. The 25-page bulletin sets out the information and processes by which foreign assistance information must be published by all US agencies.
  • 2011 Open Government Partnership
    The US co-launched the Open Government Partnership, a voluntary multilateral initiative, which aims to secure commitments from governments to promote transparency and empower citizens.

Our key aid transparency asks to the US are: 

  • Ensure The Basics Are Right. Some US agencies still struggle with getting titles, start and end dates, and activity statuses. This is essential information and deficiencies should be addressed as a priority.
  • Address the Fragmentation of Systems and Data. The US publishes an enormous amount of aid data, but it is fragmented in how it is collected internally and how it is shared publicly. US agencies should implement their much needed project management systems, so that data can be collected and reported in a standardized way. Additionally, there are presently two official sources of US foreign assistance spending – State’s ForeignAssistance.gov and USAID’s Foreign Aid Explorer. This “dueling dashboards” problem – whereby there are sometimes large discrepancies in what is purported to be the same data – creates significant confusion for users, wastes scarce aid dollars, and needs to be addressed pursuant to FATAA.
  • Use the Data. Regular data use is central to improving its quality. Agencies should take additional steps to promote its use and accessibility, including through their missions, to partner countries, and civil society.
  • Share More Documents. IATI is more than a source of data, it’s a library. Agencies do not comprehensively share their pre-project impact appraisals, evaluations, tenders, contracts, or co-operative agreements. These documents are a treasure trove of useful information on a project’s rationale and objectives. US agencies should prioritize their publication.

Publish What You Fund works closely with a number of civil society organisations in the US, including Friends of Publish What You Fund.

Agencies

Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC)

Created by US Congress in 2004, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) is an independent bilateral US foreign aid agency. The agency currently manages compacts and threshold programmes in 45 countries, and has just been given authority to have regional programs. MCC remains the leading US aid agency in terms of transparency and in the 2018 Index was ranked in the ‘very good’ category.

Publish What You Fund recognise MCC’s commitment to transparency and now calls them to:

  • Prioritise the publication of timely reviews and evaluations of all of its projects and activities to the IATI Standard.
  • Continue its efforts to work with the Millennium Challenge Accounts to have more granular information – beyond the compact level – from the sectors, and individual projects and activities, published to the IATI Registry.
  • Take responsibility to promote the use of the data they publish: internally, to promote coordination and effectiveness; and externally, to explore online and in-person feedback loops, including at country-level.

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United States Agency for international Development (USAID)

As the largest bilateral aid agency in the world, the quality of USAID’s data publication makes a huge difference to the state of global aid transparency.  In the 2018 Index, USAID moved up to the ‘good’ category from ‘fair’ in 2016. USAID is now publishing directly to the IATI Registry, allowing it to post more regularly and to correct its own data.

Publish What You Fund welcomes this improvement and now calls on USAID to:

  • Ensure that activity dates, as well as activity status, are regularly updated and stated correctly.
  • Ensure that the information provided on multi-country programmes, in particular, is consistent in the data and documents available.
  • To focus on systematically publishing other information, such as co-operative agreements and contracts, which contain significant and useful information.
  • To prioritize the implementation of its Development Information Solution (DIS), allowing it to coherently consolidate, share, and use the full breath of its aid information.
  • To take responsibility to promote the use of the data they publish: internally, to promote coordination and effectiveness; and externally, to explore online and in-person feedback loops, including at country-level.

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President's Emeregency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR)

PEPFAR is the US government’s global initiative to combat HIV/AIDS. It is formally part of the Department of State and oversees and directly approves all activities relating to combating HIV/AIDS in priority countries. PEPFAR has improved in comparison to the 2016 Index and is now placed in the ‘good’ category.

We welcome this improvement and now call on PEPFAR to:

  • Ensure to get the basics right, such as providing complete titles and descriptions.
  • Work towards including the publication of key documents, such as contracts, reviews and evaluations and pre-project impact appraisals.
  • Work towards joining up its IATI data with other detailed project data, maximizing the usefulness of its data and the analysis that could follow.

Take responsibility to promote the use of the data they publish: internally, to promote coordination and effectiveness; and externally, to explore online and in-person feedback loops, including at country-level.

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Department of State

The Department of State is responsible for the implementation of US foreign policy and supports its foreign assistance programs, including those of USAID and PEPFAR. It leads on the design and implementation of the Foreign Assistance Dashboard (foreignassistance.gov). In the 2018 Index, US-State places at the top of the ‘fair’ category.

Publish What You Fund calls on State to:

  • Ensure to get the basics right, such as providing complete and non-technical titles and descriptions.
  • Ensure that activity status and activity dates are regularly updated and stated correctly.
  • Prioritise the comprehensive publication of key documents such as country strategies, evaluations and pre-project impact appraisals.
  • Develop a standard foreign assistance management and business process, which would ensure accuracy and consistency of the data published across Bureaus.
  • Take responsibility to promote the use of the data they publish: internally, to promote coordination and effectiveness; and externally, to explore online and in-person feedback loops, including at country-level.

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Department of Defense

The Department of Defense (DOD) foreign assistance resources are used to train, equip, and support foreign defense and security establishments. US-DOD remained in the middle of the ‘fair’ category for the 2018 Index and is the lowest scoring US agency.

Publish What You Fund calls on Defense to:

  • US-DOD should regularly update its data to ensure that dates and activity statuses are correct, as these are critical first steps for people to understand what projects are being implemented and which are closed.
  • It should add project descriptions and improve its financial and budgetary transparency, including project budgets.
  • It should prioritise the publication of key documents, for example country strategies as well as pre-project impact appraisals and evaluations.
  • Take responsibility to promote the use of the data they publish: internally, to promote coordination and effectiveness; and externally, to explore online and in-person feedback loops, including at country-level.

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Contact

Sally Paxton

Sally Paxton

US Representative

Send an email

James Coe

James Coe

Senior Advocacy Advisor

Send an email

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