A good week for U.S. foreign assistance

The Publish What You Fund office is buzzing with excitement over a flurry of new aid information in the last few weeks. Donors seem motivated to meet our July 31st data collection deadline for this year’s Aid Transparency Index.

In the U.S. alone, 3 agencies have made important strides to meet their commitments to aid transparency and to IATI in particular – the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), the Treasury’s Office of Technical Assistance (OTA) and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

It should be noted that the ranking of these agencies in the 2013 Aid Transparency Index will depend on how the other 64 agencies perform – we are delighted to see agencies stepping up their quality and quantity of data.

In the coming weeks, we will closely analyze their published information through the Aid Transparency Tracker, which our research colleagues use to collect data for the Index. In the meantime here is what we know:

MCC

MCC has published comprehensive and detailed information for all their current compacts in IATI XML. The data includes fields that go beyond the U.S. implementation schedule, such as information on results and conditions. We commend MCC for their continued work on aid transparency and for their thorough publication. We’re particularly pleased to see how their data has been structured and formatted, which means it complies with the IATI standard and allows for easy comparison with other donors’ projects.

Treasury

On July 15, Treasury became the first U.S. agency to publish IATI XML files on its own website. The Office of Technical Assistance (OTA), one of the 3 international programs within Treasury, published information on all its foreign assistance current projects according to the international standard, including information such as sub-national location, a field not yet included in most donors’ IATI publication. The projects also include extensive and detailed descriptions to allow the user to better understand the purpose of the assistance provided. OTA is a great of example of how some bureaus or offices within a larger agency can publish what their systems produce as they have it. We hope to see information from debt relief and multilaterals soon.

USAID

USAID has published over 50,000 financial transactions to the Foreign Assistance Dashboard and IATI. This is a big step for the leading U.S. development agency. The transactions include information such as vendor, location, award title, country and sector. We applaud USAID for making this information available in such detail. The next step is to link USAID’s efforts on evaluation and projects mapping so users have a full picture of foreign assistance spending by USAID. This way not only does the user have the financial information but also the performance information of a project, including results and evaluations and the location of these efforts.

We’re working on more detailed analysis, which will of course be included in this year’s Index – particularly how these data files stack up against other international donors’ IATI information. But let’s not take away from the fact that this is a huge step in the right direction. We congratulate the U.S. on its efforts and as always look forward to the other agencies following suit and for the quality of the information to continue to rise.

Sally Paxton

Sally is the U.S. Representative for Publish What You Fund. You can reach her at sally.paxton@publishwhatyoufund.org.
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