Search for Options in the Troubled Food-for-Peace Program in Zaire

ID-80-25: Published: Feb 22, 1980. Publicly Released: Feb 22, 1980.

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In 1976, because of a serious deterioration in the Zaire economy, the United States increased its food assistance to that country. The principal vehicle for this assistance was two programs under the Agricultural Trade Development Assistance Act of 1954. Title I of the Act provided for the concessional sale of agricultural commodities, while Title II authorized food donations to meet famine and other urgent requirements. There have been serious problems in controlling and monitoring the receipt and distribution of rice and in controlling the receipt and disbursement of Zaire local currency generated by the sale of the U.S.-provided commodities. This has placed an unprecented burden on the U.S. Embasssy and Agency for International Development (AID) mission in Zaire. The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa asked GAO to review the distribution of rice and other related matters in 1979.

U.S. officials believed that there were fewer abuses in 1979 than there had been in prior years. However, the scarcity of accurate records and limited monitoring made it impossible to measure how well the distribution plan was adhered to at the retail level. GAO estimated that 13 percent of the rice was unaccounted for by the time it reached the major importers-distributors. There were reported instances of rice being sold at higher prices, improperly sold to government officials, and diverted to the black market. Other commodities such as wheat, cotton, and tobacco were processed into other products before consumption and appeared to be better controlled. The AID mission tried to bring management of local currency from commodity sales under control. The problems related to such control were not unique to U.S.-generated funds, and a coordinated effort among all donors might be necessary. The title II donations program and food programs of other donors did not provide much insight on potential alternatives to the title I sales program. The methods of other donors were similar to those of title I, and similar problems were experienced. Since the title II program concentrated emergency relief for short periods of time near the coast, it did not shed much light on the more difficult problem of extending the programs to the interior provinces. GAO believed that it was questionable whether food could be provided at less-than-market prices in the food-scarce situation without abuses. However, continued monitoring should help to control the extent of the abuse.

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