United States of America
The United States of America (US) is the largest bilateral donor in the world. It disbursed USD$ 31.1 billion in Overseas Development Assistance in 2015. 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. Disappointingly, this was only partially achieved.
The Aid Transparency Index tracks the quality of aid transparency for five US agencies and one initiative. In the 2016 Aid Transparency Index, all US entities scored at least ‘fair’, with three on the cusp of ‘good’. The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) continued its aid transparency leadership and scored ‘very good’. 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:
- 2016 Foreign Aid and Transparency Accountability Act (FATAA)
FATAA legislated 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.
- 2009, G20 Leader’s Statement
At the Group of 20 Summit in Pittsburgh, the US committed to enhance aid transparency efforts. As a consequence, an interagency task force was formed which resulted in the launch of ForeignAssistance.gov in 2010.
- 2008, Transparency and Open Government Memorandum
President Barack Obama signed a Memorandum committing to an open and transparent government. He focused on the role of technology in making information, including on foreign assistance, readily available.
Our key aid transparency asks to the US are:
- Each agency capable of doing so should be allowed to publish directly to IATI. For some time the US has followed a “whole of government approach” in which the foreign assistance dashboard has been the only entity that can publish to the IATI Registry. This has recently changed, and USAID are now publishing directly to IATI as a pilot. Publish What You Fund supports this pilot and hopes direct publication will continue in future. We believe direct publication will improve the timeliness and quality of foreign assistance information. It also supports agency ownership of their data.
- The US should reconcile the “duelling dashboards” and publish one high quality data set for all stakeholder use. At present both USAID and the Department of State run dashboards, which claim to report the same data but contain significant discrepancies between them.
- The government must embrace a “data-driven culture”. Staff need to be trained, encouraged, and assessed on their data management skills. Systems need to be upgraded and properly resourced to ensure data is properly used internally and externally.
- The US government should build on their understanding of user-needs by pro-actively working with civil society organisations and partner countries to improve the quality, comprehensiveness and timeliness of US aid data.
Publish What You Fund works closely with a number of civil society organisations in the US, including Friends of Publish What You Fund.
Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC)
Created by the 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. MCC remains the leading US aid agency in terms of transparency and in the 2016 Index was ranked in the ‘very good’ category.
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. The agency ranked ‘fair’ in the 2016 Index, slipping down from the ‘good’ category in 2015. We welcome USAID’s current publication of well-vetted accurate annual data. We now encourage them to make this data timely by moving to quarterly publication.
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 is the most improved US agency relative to the 2013 Index and was ranked in the ‘fair’ category in the 2016 Index.
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). It ranked in the ‘fair’ category in the 2016 Index.
Department of Defense
The Department of Defense (DOD) disburses roughly USD 0.5billion of foreign assistance. This is used to train, equip, and support foreign defense and security establishments. After moving backwards in the last three assessments, DOD was ranked in the ‘fair’ category for the first time in the 2016 Index.