USAID biggest improver among US agencies in global foreign assistance transparency
MCC still global leader ranked 5th out of 45 agencies
USAID places 16th, solidly in the ‘good’ category, in a global transparency ranking after making efforts to improve the quality of its foreign assistance data.
The Aid Transparency Index, launched by Publish What You Fund, ranked 45 major donor organisations globally. The Index assesses donors that spend over $1 billion in aid, evaluating how easy they make it to track the foreign assistance they provide*.
Five US agencies are ranked in the 2018 report. The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) continues to lead on a global scale, placing 5th overall in the ‘very good’ category**.
PEPFAR also made some improvements and placed 19th, in the ‘good’ category. State and Defense lag behind in the ‘fair’ category, placed 21st and 30th respectively.
The improvements made by USAID are in part due to the agency publishing its information independently from the US Government, meaning it can post information and correct errors more quickly.
Susan Fine, Acting Assistant to the Administrator, Bureau for Policy, Planning and Learning, USAID says: USAID has a long standing commitment to aid transparency and effectiveness. We have worked hard to improve both the quantity and quality of the data and information we report for our development and humanitarian assistance programs. We are therefore pleased that USAID’s rating improved to “good” in the 2018 Aid Transparency Index. USAID remains focused on improving the availability and use of its aid information to make the best use of U.S. tax dollars and support countries on their journey to self-reliance.
A key recommendation for the US Government overall is to improve the systems used to collect and publish information, which are currently outdated. While USAID and State have both committed to improving these, until the plans are implemented, it will be difficult to make any significant improvements to their information.
Another systems issue is that of the ‘Dueling Dashboards’ – where State and USAID both publish essentially the same information across two different systems. However, the data – despite purporting to be the same – has inconsistencies, which are sometimes substantial. This can mislead and confuse users***.
George Ingram, co-Chair of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) says: The Dueling Dashboards issue causes confusion and mistrust among potential data users and discourages the use of US foreign assistance data. The US Government must put data users at the forefront of this issue and solve it expeditiously.
Other recommendations are for US agencies to:
- Ensure the basics are right, including titles and descriptions of projects that can be understood by non-experts
- Use the data they produce. This will improve efficiency and iron out issues with the data
- Share more documents between agencies, in particular pre-project impact appraisals.
Notes to Editors
* The 2018 Index methodology uses 35 indicators to monitor aid transparency. The indicators have been selected using the information types agreed in the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) Standard. The 35 indicators are arranged across five key components:
- Organisational planning and commitments to aid transparency
- Finance and budgets
- Project attributes (for example titles, descriptions and sub-national locations)
- Joining-up development data (with other important streams of information such as country budgets)
- Performance (for example impact appraisals, progress towards targets, evaluations)
**The organisations above MCC are:
- Asian Development Bank
- UK, Department for International Development
- African Development Bank
*** For more information on the Dueling Dashboards, see www.publishwhatyoufund.org/us-foreign-aid-transparency-fix-dueling-dashboards/
About Publish What You Fund:
Publish What You Fund is the global campaign for aid transparency. Launched in 2008, it has produced the Aid Transparency Index since 2011 (2018 is the sixth full Index report – NB this link will go live at midday on the 20th) to monitor and encourage progress towards aid transparency. The report is the only independent measure of aid transparency among the world’s major aid organisations.
The Aid Transparency Index is distinct from the International Aid transparency Initiative (IATI). IATI is a voluntary, multi-stakeholder initiative seeking to improve the transparency of aid, development and humanitarian resources, which enables information on aid and development activities to be shared in an open format. Organisations publish information by linking their aid data to the IATI Registry, which acts as an online catalogue of links to all of the raw data published to the Standard.
The 2018 Aid Transparency Index website will be available at: www.publishwhatyoufund.org/the-index/2018 from 07.00am EST
To find out more about why aid transparency matters, watch our new animation here: www.publishwhatyoufund.org/new-animation-aid-transparency-matters
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