Foreign Assistance:

AID Strategic Direction and Continued Management Improvements Needed

NSIAD-93-106: Published: Jun 11, 1993. Publicly Released: Jun 11, 1993.

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GAO discussed management problems at the Agency for International Development (AID) and whether it is adequately meeting its foreign economic assistance responsibilities.

GAO found that: (1) the AID management approach and organizational capacity have not kept up with the increasingly diffuse scope of the foreign assistance program and the expanding number of countries in which AID operates; (2) AID has expanded its operations; (3) some small AID programs have had such a negligible effect on a country's development that the effect may not justify AID in-country presence; (4) studies have shown that AID has not effectively managed, and has not been held accountable for achieving results from, a diffuse foreign assistance program; (5) opening new overseas offices has further burdened the AID operating expense budget; (6) the fragmentation of the foreign assistance program is largely due to a lack of consensus among the many groups that are concerned with the AID mission or have a stake in its services and resources; (7) congressional involvement has hampered AID ability to use foreign aid as leverage to secure needed economic reforms and target assistance to the most pressing development needs of recipient countries; (8) AID has not been able to fully implement the strategic management concepts that would enable it to better focus and concentrate its limited resources; (9) AID maintains that its decentralized organizational structure and management approach are appropriate given the widely varying development and assistance needs of the numerous countries in which it operates; and (10) lack of management controls has impaired AID program effectiveness.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: AID's recent reorganization established a central direction over its regional bureaus and missions. The Administration has announced the closure of 21 missions and plans to study alternative organizational approaches, such as regional offices, for its overseas operations.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, AID, should determine the most appropriate organizational structure to implement the agreed-upon agency objectives. In making these determinations, the Administrator, AID, should investigate the costs and benefits of various approaches, such as the traditional mission structure, regional offices, and the experimental headquarters-based model for Central and Eastern Europe.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Under the reorganization, the Office of Policy and Program Coordination will integrate strategy and policy. It will also develop and coordinate new proposals for implementing the Administrator's strategic direction. To ensure policy compliance, this Office is developing a performance measurement system. AID has also designed a new operational system that includes central approval of country strategies and proposed results, but that will not focus on the activities to be undertaken.

    Recommendation: Regardless of the organizational structure, the Administrator, AID, should establish central oversight to ensure that: (1) AID officials are effectively pursuing agency program objectives; and (2) program and project plans for each recipient country are developed within the context of the agency's strategic direction.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Administrator has included implementation of this recommendation as a part of his reinvention exercise undertaken in support of the National Performance Review.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, AID, should ensure that the various AID bureaus in Washington, D.C. (AID/W) institutionalize the agency's strategic management framework, thus helping to ensure that it will continue beyond the tenure of one AID Administrator.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: AID is designing a new operational system that should strengthen coordination and oversight of agencywide policies and procedures while retaining the agency's decentralized structure.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, AID, should use the strategic management framework to bring AID management systems into balance with its decentralized organizational structure by establishing agencywide policy and procedures defining agency programming goals.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The recent reorganization and the proposed agencywide operational system addresses the need for clear responsibility and authority for implementing agency goals.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, AID, should use the strategic management framework to bring AID management systems into balance with its decentralized organizational structure by clearly identifying who has the responsibility and authority for implementing specific agency goals.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Office of Policy and Program Coordination is developing measurable goals and will tie program and project results to these goals as part of its oversight function. AID's "results-oriented operations system" is designed to provide the means to tie program results to agencywide strategies and objectives.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, AID, should use the strategic management framework to bring AID management systems into balance with its decentralized organizational structure by developing measurable goals and objectives and tying program and project results to those goals and objectives.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Administrator is working toward establishing a strategic management framework for the agency. AID is developing a single integrated accounting system, structured around objectives and results. Using this system, AID anticipates that most reporting on activities, finances and results will be replaced by access to data.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, AID, should use the strategic management framework to bring AID management systems into balance with its decentralized organizational structure by developing standardized management information systems to provide accurate, meaningful, and timely data across the agency to serve as a basis for measuring performance.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Administrator is in the process of implementing a results-oriented monitoring system.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, AID, should use the strategic management framework to bring AID management systems into balance with its decentralized organizational structure by monitoring implementation of programs and projects and holding bureau and mission staff accountable for results.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

  9. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: AID has made significant progress in improving its personnel management. AID's new automated work force information system allows AID to track various categories of employees and provide a better picture of changes in its work force size and skills over time. This information will be used in deliberations on the fiscal year 1996 budget during AID's annual budget submission process.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, AID, should develop and implement a comprehensive work-force planning process and management capability as a systematic, agencywide effort. This planning should develop human resource planning guidance and ensure integration with the proposed AID strategic planning process.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

  10. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: A permanent office has been established to implement a workforce planning system. This office has, among other things, developed an automated workforce information system that provides a better picture of changes in the size and skills of its workforce for planning and budgeting purposes.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, AID, should develop and implement a comprehensive work-force planning process and management capability as a systematic, agencywide effort. This planning process should ensure that accurate, standard, and comprehensive data, which are needed for work-force planning, are available in AID/W, including: (1) work-load assessments; and (2) projections of optimum levels of staffing and skill mixes for all types of employees.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

  11. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: AID has made progress in personnel management. The agency has developed a proposal to overhaul its personnel system by combining U.S. foreign service and civil service staff into a "Development Corps." In March 1994, AID issued a plan to better achieve and manage work force diversity. AID will establish a separate recruitment office and is also developing a training plan to better ensure that current and future staff have the program and technical skills needed.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, AID, should develop and implement a comprehensive work-force planning process and management capability as a systematic, agencywide effort. This planning process should assign, recruit, and train direct- and nondirect-hire staff to meet the staff and skill requirements and projections identified in the mission work-load and staff assessments.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

  12. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Administrator is working to create a professional personnel management team through better training and reorganization of personnel functions.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, AID, should institutionalize work-force planning and management capability to ensure its continuation by successive administrators by ensuring that staff qualified in human resource management fill key positions in the Human Resource Development and Management Division.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

  13. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: AID is developing new training programs, including certification programs, to ensure that staff have the skills needed to manage agency operations as they progress through their career.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, AID, should institutionalize work-force planning and management capacity to ensure its continuation by successive administrators by training appropriate line managers and human resource staff in work-force planning.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

  14. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Training and education requirements figure large in AID's transition to its new operations system. In addition to developing certification programs and new training courses, the Office of Human Resources has a training budget that includes travel funds.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, AID, should institutionalize work-force planning and management capability to ensure its continuation by successive administrators by systematically budgeting for training and related travel costs and ensuring that funds remain available for this purpose.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

  15. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: AID issued in January 1994 its "Strategies for Sustainable Development" that (1) present an integrated approach, (2) define long-term objectives, (3) specify their relevance to American interests, (4) describe the ways in which these objectives will be pursued and (5) identify mechanisms to implement the plan and establish standards to measure success. The strategies have been bolstered by AID's design of a new operational system that includes comprehensive country-level strategic planning, which is viewed as a management contract between headquarters and the missions, and that integrates the agency's planning, design and implementation processes.

    Recommendation: AID should play a leadership role in achieving strategic direction of the U.S. foreign assistance program by working with others in the executive branch and in Congress. As part of this process, the Administrator, AID, should develop agency objectives in support of the new strategic direction for the foreign program.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

  16. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The new operations system will integrate mission and bureau work force planning with the agency's budget process.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, AID, should institutionalize work-force planning and management capability to ensure its continuation by successive administrators by assigning responsibility for preparing bureau-specific workforce plans that support AID strategic vision to the heads of each bureau to ensure line-manager support and involvement in work-force planning.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

 

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