Time-Critical Aid:

Disaster Reconstruction Assistance--A Better Delivery System Is Needed

NSIAD-87-1: Published: Oct 16, 1986. Publicly Released: Oct 16, 1986.

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GAO reviewed the Agency for International Development's (AID) administration of the disaster reconstruction assistance projects to help Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru after the floods and droughts resulting from the weather phenomenon called El Nino in 1982 and 1983, focusing on steps AID could take to improve the future delivery of time-critical disaster reconstruction assistance.

In response to the disaster, AID obtained specific funds to: (1) deliver medicine and agricultural necessities such as fertilizers and pesticides; (2) reconstruct potable water, sewer, and irrigation systems; and (3) rebuild essential portions of a major highway and its bridge. GAO found that: (1) AID had difficulty in effectively planning, programming, and promptly delivering many time-sensitive reconstruction projects; (2) in two of the countries, reconstruction projects were started 7 to 9 months after the disaster; and (3) in some cases, U.S. aid took more than 1 year to reach the disaster victims because AID used procedures and methods established for long-term economic assistance development projects. GAO also found that delivery of assistance was delayed because AID: (1) did not fully use alternatives available for flexible funding and programming to respond to disaster emergencies; (2) applied standard development assistance programming and implementing procedures to deliver time-critical assistance; (3) did not request waivers of competitive bidding and other standard procurement requirements to expedite delivery of needed commodities; and (4) did not establish high priorities for time-critical components, which slowed the flow of required documentation.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The House and Senate Committees did not request AID to go on record on how it would specifically use its existing policies and procedures.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, AID, should establish a clearly defined program category specifically for delivering time-critical disaster reconstruction assistance. Such a category of assistance would address only time-critical elements of rehabilitation and reconstruction assistance beyond the scope of the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance's mandate, which for compelling humanitarian and political reasons should be provided quickly.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The House and Senate Committees did not request AID to go on record on how it would specifically use its existing policies and procedures.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, AID, should require that guidelines governing time-sensitive disaster reconstruction assistance be established and issued. These guidelines should include instructions for: (1) determining the extent to which time-sensitive disaster reconstruction assistance is needed; (2) considering host country agencies' current implementing capabilities; (3) placing less emphasis on institution building in disaster reconstruction project design and instead concentrating on the most expeditious method of efficiently and effectively delivering the disaster assistance; (4) preparing to take a more direct role in ensuring that the disaster project is effectively implemented; (5) confining project coverage to seriously affected regions; (6) treating the disaster reconstruction project as a short-term high priority; (7) using existing procurement, contracting, and waiver authorities; and (8) using expertise on commodity procurement and engineering to assist in design and planning.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

 

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