USAID’s Shah taking steps to improve oversight, increase transparency

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USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah delivers a major address on The Modern Development Enterprise Wednesday.
 

Marking a year in at his post as Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Dr. Rajiv Shah addressed a packed audience Wednesday regarding the “Modern Development Enterprise,” and detailing the agency’s ambitious reform agenda – USAID Forward. Oversight and transparency will be key features.

“Every major project will require a performance evaluation conducted by third parties, not by the implementing partners themselves,” Shah said while discussing new efforts in the agency to decrease fraud and increase efficiency. The administrator vowed to release the results of these evaluations within three months of conducting them for public consumption, regardless of whether the project was successful or not.

“Instead of simply reporting our results, like nearly all aid agencies do, we will collect baseline data to explain what would have happened without our interventions, so we can know for sure it was those interventions that made a difference,” Shah said.

While the U.S. government does rely on contractors, Shah said, “We do not work for our contract partners; our contract partners work for us… and we will vigorously respond when fraud occurs.” Shah made clear regardless of the size of the contractor he will hold all of them to strict account, noting that USAID recently suspended one of its largest implementing partners.

As part of “aggressive procurement reform,” Shah also announced that while nearly 87 percent of USAID’s assistance is competitively awarded at present, he believes they can do even better, adding that going forward any grant or contract extension that exceeds $5 million, granted without competitive process, will require his personal okay.

Shah also noted how development is just as critical to U.S. economic prospects and national security as are diplomacy and defense, highlighting the successes of USAID efforts in that regard like directing farmers away from growing coca and opium poppies. Moving forward, said Shah, USAID will further support countries developing their own agricultural sectors. In five out of 20 focus countries, “We believe we can help nearly 6.5 million small farmers, mostly poor and mostly women, grow enough food to feed themselves, their families, and break the grip of hunger and poverty for tens of millions of people,” Shah said.

American families are taking up the development cause as well.

“When more American families give money to the relief effort in Haiti than watch the Super Bowl, that is an expression of American values,” Shah said.

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