Will the administration block bipartisan legislation to increase transparency?

The Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act was introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. Ted Poe (R-Texas) and Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and in the Senate by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and would require the U.S. government to provide more information about how much, what, and where our foreign aid dollars go, while strengthening processes to track and evaluate the projects and programs towards which those dollars go.
 
Under current law, it is too hard for American taxpayers and people in recipient countries to see where aid dollars are going and how well they are being spent. Greater transparency and accountability for results helps people in developing countries do more to lead their own development, and use U.S. help more effectively to solve poverty challenges.
 
As Semkae Kilonzo, coordinator of the Policy Forum  in Tanzania told us, if a village knows exactly how much is allocated for a specific school or a health project in their locale, community members have much more incentive to then take part in tracking when the funds come through, whether activities are carried out, and to what end:
 
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“From the civil society perspective, what is crucial more than anything else is transparency of budget information, including its timeliness, relevance and usefulness,” he said. “The donors should be transparent about what it is that they have given the Tanzanian government and for what purpose, so that people in communities like ours can track the money.”
 
And the same goes for citizens in the U.S. who may be interested in following their tax dollars.
 
The U.S. government has this data, and American taxpayers and people in poor countries need it, but President Obama has yet to release it. This legislation will hold the administration’s feet to the fire, so that they follow through on the president’s promise to open the books on U.S. foreign aid.
 
The Obama administration and USAID under Raj Shah have in fact been leaders in making foreign aid more transparent and accountable. The administration’s Foreign Assistance Dashboard, for example, is a real breakthrough for transparency; likewise, USAID’s cutting-edge Monitoring & Evaluation policy promises to make US aid dollars deliver better results.
 
But U.S. foreign aid efforts are Balkanized across at least 22 different agencies, and some agencies, like the State Department and Pentagon, rank 46th and 56th on the leading international ranking of donor transparency, leaving huge information gaps that breed confusion and distrust.
 
In these times of fiscal constraints, we must ensure that every cent of taxpayer dollars spent on foreign aid is delivering results in the fight against global poverty. Publicly available public information on how taxpayer dollars are being spent is key to making sure American generosity leads to real results for America and the world’s poor.  And there is an unusually high level of bipartisan consensus on this issue on Capitol Hill.
 
When people in developing countries know what the US is doing in their communities, they can take action themselves to amplify the results. And when the US government has better information and tools for measuring the impact of our programs, we can help make sure they are delivering better results for America and our partners. Will the Administration jump on board?
 
 
Adams is aid effectiveness director at Oxfam America.

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