Foreign Assistance:

USAID Has Begun Tsunami Reconstruction in Indonesia and Sri Lanka, but Key Projects May Exceed Initial Cost and Schedule Estimates

GAO-06-488: Published: Apr 14, 2006. Publicly Released: Apr 14, 2006.

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In December 2004, an earthquake off the coast of Indonesia caused a tsunami that left more than 230,000 people killed or missing and presumed dead and an estimated $10 billion in damage in 12 countries. In May 2005, Congress appropriated $908 million for relief and reconstruction. U.S. emergency relief efforts budgeted at $327 million were nearly completed in December 2005. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) plans to spend $496 million on longer-term reconstruction, focusing on Indonesia and Sri Lanka, with the remaining $85 million allocated to other U.S. agencies. GAO has been mandated to monitor USAID's reconstruction efforts. In this report, GAO describes USAID's (1) progress in Indonesia and Sri Lanka, (2) financial and technical oversight measures, and (3) implementation challenges.

USAID has begun a number of reconstruction activities in Indonesia and Sri Lanka. As of January 31, 2006, approximately 8 months after Congress appropriated funding, USAID had obligated $111 million (32 percent) and expended $9 million (3 percent) of the $349 million budgeted for reconstruction in Indonesia, and it had obligated all and expended $2 million (2 percent) of the $85 million budgeted for reconstruction in Sri Lanka. However, rising prices of materials and labor in both countries may increase costs for many construction efforts, including USAID's "signature" projects, which are intended to generate greater visibility for U.S. assistance. In addition, revisions to initial assessments of site conditions may challenge USAID's ability to finish its signature project in Indonesia--a 150-mile road in Aceh Province--by September 2009, the estimated completion date. In Sri Lanka, the time needed to complete designs and plans may make it difficult to finish one part of USAID's signature project--a bridge at Arugam Bay--by March 2008, although this project is currently slightly ahead of schedule. USAID plans to complete most of its other reconstruction projects, such as building schools and restoring livelihoods, by September 2007. USAID has established financial and technical oversight for its tsunami recovery programs in Indonesia and Sri Lanka. For financial oversight, USAID plans to arrange a concurrent audit of the signature road project in Indonesia and strengthen Indonesian and Sri Lankan audit capacities. For technical oversight, USAID has begun to add staff to oversee its signature construction projects and has acquired additional construction engineering expertise from another U.S. agency. An additional engineer will start work in Indonesia in May 2006. In Sri Lanka, USAID has added two engineers to its staff and plans to hire an additional construction oversight engineer in April 2006, prior to beginning construction. In implementing its Indonesian and Sri Lankan reconstruction programs, USAID faces several broad challenges. These include working in regions with long-standing conflicts, coordinating with host governments and nongovernmental organizations, and ensuring that non-tsunami-related development assistance activities are not neglected. To address these challenges, USAID has taken actions such as engaging in peace-building initiatives, participating in regularly scheduled coordination meetings, and hiring and reassigning staff to assist with increased workloads.

Status Legend:

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  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendation for Executive Action

    Recommendation: On the basis of our initial review of USAID's design and implementation of its tsunami reconstruction programs in Indonesia and Sri Lanka, especially regarding its signature road project in Indonesia and bridge project in Sri Lanka, the Secretary of State, in the department's required semiannual report to Congress due in June 2006, should provide updated cost estimates and schedules obtained from USAID. If the updated information differs substantially from initial projections, the report should also include alternative cost estimates, schedules, and project scopes and the need for additional sources of funding, if necessary.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In April 2006, GAO recommended (FOREIGN ASSISTANCE: USAID Has Begun Tsunami Reconstruction in Indonesia and Sri Lanka, but Key Projects May Exceed Initial Cost and Schedule Estimates (GAO-06-488), April 14, 2006) to the Secretary of State that the Department's required semiannual report to Congress due in June 2006, provide updated cost estimates and schedules obtained from USAID. In its June 2006 report, State provided updated cost estimates and schedules obtained from USAID.

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