AID Recognizes Need To Improve the Foreign Economic Assistance Planning and Programming Process

NSIAD-85-110: Published: Aug 28, 1985. Publicly Released: Aug 28, 1985.

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GAO reviewed the Agency for International Development's (AID) foreign economic assistance planning and programming process to determine whether opportunities exist for AID to streamline and improve the process.

GAO found that: (1) an AID task force recommended that AID devote more time to policy, strategy, and program supervision and less time to project design and review; and (2) AID will not implement the recommendation until it completes an experiment designed to test new procedures. Most AID missions submit an annual country development strategy statement, and AID uses this statement to evaluate mission budgets and project proposals. AID regulations require missions to obtain strategy approval before submitting annual budgets. GAO found that: (1) less than half of the full strategy statements it reviewed resulted in approval before the deadline for annual budget submissions; (2) a number of missions have operated indefinitely without approved strategies; (3) AID has limited flexibility to adjust mission budget proposals, which makes missions reluctant to reject or modify project proposals or submit alternative proposals; and (4) AID usually addresses programming decisions in the project review cycle, rather than in its budget process. In addition, GAO found that: (1) AID headquarters project reviews rarely raise new issues and frequently contain details more appropriately addressed by project identification documents; and (2) some AID missions do not have sufficient staff resources or technical expertise to review and approve project identification documents.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: AID reported that senior mission officials participate in the newly introduced annual program reviews, thereby ensuring that the results are immediately known in the field. Also, AID regional bureau guidance to missions for FY 1987 specifically required that a cable be sent to the missions summarizing the decisions reached during the program review week.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, AID, should ensure that annual budget submission review results are promptly communicated to missions for guidance and use in subsequent project design and development.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: AID reported that sufficient strategy-related information usually is provided in initial project proposals to permit a decision to develop the project further. Regional bureau guidance to missions for FY 1987 requires that information provided as part of the implementation plan be sufficient to determine the project's consistency with approved mission strategy.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, AID, should request missions to provide sufficient information to enable AID to assess a project's consistency with approved strategies.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: AID feels that, while some flexibility on project proposals is encouraged, proposals should flow from agreed upon strategies and be consistent with the statements and program review week processes. AID feels that it complied with the intent of this recommendation since programming guidance missions are encouraged to submit alternative project proposals consistent with the development strategies.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, AID, should encourage missions to submit alternative project proposals, particularly when missions are expanding activities, to give AID flexibility in making programming decisions.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: AID implemented the recommendation that country development statements remain in effect for 3 years, and AID regional bureaus have instructed their missions to follow this procedure.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, AID, should implement the approved task force recommendation that country development strategy statements remain in effect for up to 4 years unless changing conditions necessitate a new strategy.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: AID reported that it agreed with the recommendation and, in December 1984, it extended project review and approval authority to other bureaus on a case-by-case basis. AID stated that it is now possible to permit project approval for projects up to $20 million.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, AID, should apply the successful project review components of the Asia Bureau experiment to other regional bureaus and missions on a case-by-case basis, while recognizing the varying capabilities of missions to exercise increased project approval authority.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

 

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