CGD Pakistan Report criticises U.S. over lack of aid transparency

A report released yesterday by the Center for Global Development (CGD) has brought to light the United States’ lack of aid transparency in its activities in Pakistan. The report notes that despite widespread agreement from State Department and USAID leaders on the benefits of transparency, very little progress has been made: “Transparency has not been a priority, and the lack of clear information generates scepticism and mistrust in Pakistan.” (Page 1)

It continues, “No one is sure what the United States is trying to accomplish in the development space. Because of a debilitating lack of transparency in the aid program, no one is even sure what the United States is doing.” (Page 4)

The authors say that key audiences in the U.S. and Pakistan remain unaware of the most basic information, such as how much money has been spent and on what: “Even the auditors responsible for tracking aid spending have expressed deep frustration with the lack of data on the outputs of U.S.-funded aid projects in Pakistan. Basic data on how much aid has been disbursed is unavailable online; we obtained it only after several months of persistent requests.” (Page 14)

The report concludes by recommending that a website is set up with regularly updated data on U.S. aid commitments and disbursements in Pakistan by project, place and recipient.

“The USAID-Pakistan website should offer up-to-date information on spending plans and, critically, on aid disbursements. It should list all the projects funded by American assistance, ideally in a way that is sortable by geographic area or by implementing partner.” (Page 21)

Last year the development community was excited about the creation of the U.S. Foreign Assistance Dashboard and its aim of including all U.S. Government agencies’ aid data receiving or implementing foreign assistance, humanitarian, and/or development funds. While this was encouraging and high praises were given, the full data set is yet to come. Currently the information provided is only from USAID and State Department, and is limited. It is also unclear when or if more information will be published.

We’re eager to know when more information will be published. Whilst data should ultimately be presented in an easily digestible way, it is crucial that information is timely and not delayed or omitted.

In order to facilitate this, a timeline should be developed for the release of all agencies’ data, making clear what is needed and noting any potential obstacles. Finally, there should be a clear action plan on how to ensure that the dashboard is compatible with the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), since comparability of data is a key element of assessing the effectiveness of aid.

Download the full CGD report: “Beyond Bullets and Bombs: Fixing the U.S. Approach to Development in Pakistan” by Nancy Birdsall, Wren Elhai and Molly Kinder

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