Changes Needed for a Better Peace Corps

ID-78-26: Published: Feb 6, 1979. Publicly Released: Feb 6, 1979.

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The GAO review of Peace Corps activities in five selected countries and volunteer responses to its questionnaire identified many problems which need correcting to make the Peace Corps more effective.

GAO regards the provision of adequate host-country supervision, support, and contributions as important indications of host-country interest and commitment. Volunteer responses to the GAO questionnaire, however, revealed dissatisfaction concerning these areas. In addition, while each of the countries was making contributions in cash and/or in kind, GAO noted the reluctance of some country directors to approach host-country officials to seek increased contributions or to request fulfillment of existing support agreements. Criteria were absent for the levels of host-country contributions. Weaknesses exist in ACTION recruitment and placement of Peace Corps volunteers. As a result, many volunteers enter the Peace Corps inadequately screened for suitability and poorly informed about the conditions under which they will serve. Volunteers are under no obligation to complete 2-year service tours, and many do not. The Peace Corps has significant personnel problems, including a personnel turnover rate triple that of other federal agencies and an inability to fill staff vacancies quickly because of time-consuming employment processes. These problems have resulted in inadequate supervisory staff-to-volunteer ratios and inadequate staff support for some volunteers. The 5-year rule, whereby Peace Corps staff employment is limited to two 2.5-year contracts, is the cause of much of this turnover.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Director of the Peace Corps should: closely monitor Peace Corps implementation of program reforms, especially as applied to Afghanistan and Malaysia; adopt a policy requiring assurance of a continuing host-country commitment to Peace Corps programs and projects (including moral and financial support) as well as adequate supervision; and establish criteria to guide country directors in obtaining host-country support. He should require: signed formal agreements between the Peace Corps and the host countries, committing each host-country to support the Peace Corps program and providing for contributions in cash and/or in kind as well as support through the country's infrastructure, to assist the volunteers in implementing programs; agreements for all sectors and/or projects before the Peace Corps takes action to recruit, train, and place volunteers; periodic (annual if possible) renegotiation of all support agreements; instruct country directors to more actively and agressively encourage host-countries to fulfill existing material and volunteer support obligations; continue efforts to improve volunteer recruitment and placement procedures and training; require incoming volunteers, before going overseas, to execute formal agreements for a minimum period of service in which the obligations of volunteer and the Peace Corps would be stated; perform a study of the 5-year rule as soon as possible to determine if recommendations to the Congress are desirable; and continue efforts to reduce the time required to fill overseas positions.

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