Food Aid:

Management Improvements Are Needed to Achieve Program Objectives

NSIAD-93-168: Published: Jul 23, 1993. Publicly Released: Aug 24, 1993.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed the Agency for International Development's (AID) Emergency and Private Assistance Program and Food for Development Program, which provide agricultural commodities to developing countries, focusing on: (1) the commodities' use and impact on local currencies; (2) the commodities' impact on enhancing food security; and (3) AID program management.

GAO found that: (1) AID is authorized to use agricultural commodities programs for emergency relief, school feeding, food-for-work, and economic development programs; (2) in 1992, AID distributed 1.9 million metric tons of agricultural commodities valued at $467 million to 68 countries worldwide; (3) although the amount of emergency relief has increased, AID has not adequately defined when emergencies exist or used its authority to procure and ship assistance quickly; (4) under the title III program, AID distributed 1.6 million metric tons of commodities valued at $240 million to 14 countries; (5) local currencies generated by title II and III programs support food distribution programs, specific development projects, and the general budget; (6) commodity assistance implementation has varied because AID does not have sufficient guidance on how food aid programs should be developed to enhance food security; (7) AID cannot adequately assess the impact of its commodity programs on recipient countries because it has not systematically collected relevant data, developed appropriate assessment methodologies, or reached agreements between its internal agencies on how food aid programs should be administered; and (8) problems that impede effective food aid program management include disagreements over food aid policy, outdated and unclear operational guidance, inadequate staff management expertise, and the lack of accountability over food aid resources.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: No changes to reflect the recommendations were made to the 1996 Farm Bill reauthorization.

    Matter: Congress may wish to consider clarifying its purpose in mandating title II commodities for use by private voluntary organizations (PVO). In particular, Congress should consider the PVO role in food aid, including: (1) how much discretionary authority PVO should have in determining the uses of the earmarked commodities; and (2) whether the Food Aid Consultative Group should be used as a forum for PVO to be involved in U.S. food aid policy-making.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In November 1994, AID issued interim guidance that includes a broad discussion of food aid as it relates to food security, and in February 1995, AID issued a food aid and food security policy. AID used a variety of conferences, retreats, and seminars with AID officials, PVOs, legislative staffs, and representatives of other organizations to focus attention on the policy and strategies for its implementation. AID has also developed and issued other policy guidance specifically for titles II and III programs, which emphasizes the linkages between food aid, food security, and broad-based sustainable development strategies.

    Recommendation: To ensure that AID food aid programs emphasize food security as required by the 1990 amendments to Public Law 480, the Administrator, AID, should clarify and provide guidance on how title II and III food aid programs are to meet the legislation's food security objective.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In December 1995 AID produced a core set of common indicators for food security at an operational level. AID then developed a set of generic indicators in collaboration with PVOs and has included them in its fiscal year 1998 food aid guidelines. Specific reference in the guidelines highlights that the "Impact of programs will be enhanced by greater focus on a statement of objectives and results as well as related indicators. Additionally, AID Title II guidance requires PVOs to gather specific performance information and all newly approved proposals must include a detailed implementation plan demonstrating how the PVOs will collect Title II baseline data for monitoring and evaluation. However, AID did not make specific reference to its Title III program and plans no other action to directly implement this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To ensure that AID food aid programs emphasize food security as required by the 1990 amendments to Public Law 480, the Administrator, AID, should develop and systematically apply methodologies and performance indicators to monitor and evaluate the impacts of food aid programs on food security.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: AID has issued program guidance requiring that food aid project proposals include monitoring and evaluation plans containing benchmarks for activity completion and indicators of program effectiveness. In addition, program guidelines require collection of data for use in evaluating programs. AID is pilot-testing an evaluation methodology that it believes will identify the types of data that should be collected and updated from ongoing analysis of food security and food aid programs.

    Recommendation: To ensure that AID food aid programs emphasize food security as required by the 1990 amendments to Public Law 480, the Administrator, AID, should direct that missions and PVO collect data necessary for such evaluations.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: AID has changed the guidance for title III projects to ensure that food aid under this title goes to countries with the greatest need for food. AID title II project reviews, particularly those for monetization activities, continue to question the efficiency of food aid as a resource for addressing food security. AID expects its next steps to be a revision of monetization policy and guidance.

    Recommendation: To ensure that AID food aid programs emphasize food security as required by the 1990 amendments to Public Law 480, the Administrator, AID, should report to Congress on whether food aid is the most efficient means for addressing food insecurity.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: AID has issued a food aid handbook, operational guidance for title II, and guidance for local currency usage and guidance on program priorities for title III. AID believes that these actions provide basic operational guidance for its food aid programs.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, AID, should issue complete operational guidance for title II and III food aid programs that reflect the 1990 legislative changes to Public Law 480.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In December 1994, AID issued guidance clarifying local currency monitoring. The guidance states that: (1) the monitoring responsibilities of AID missions must be identified in the agreement; (2) AID missions are responsible for monitoring projects involving local currency through the completion date of the project agreement; and (3) at a minimum, AID missions must monitor the first use of local currency, and continued monitoring of reflows depends on the development objectives of the activity.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, AID, should clarify the July 1991 local currency monitoring guidance to specify whether missions are required to monitor only the initial use of local currency or whether they also monitor subsequent uses when loan funds are repaid and lent again.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The following steps have been taken to address the recommendation: (1) AID has added food aid, disaster assistance, and PVO collaboration components to its AID Development Studies Program; and (2) AID is reviewing the concept of certification in food aid as a means to ensure expertise for food aid managers. In addition, AID has initiated an in-house training program on an ad hoc basis for AID direct hire and foreign service national staff.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, AID, should, as part of the integrated work force management system, ensure that the agency has an adequate and properly trained staff to manage the food aid programs.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Office of Food for Peace has: (1) developed and documented procedures for review and approval of grants; (2) established an automated correspondence tracking system; and (3) established a steering committee on administrative operations charged with developing standard operating procedures and a centralized official filing system.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, AID, should direct that the Food For Peace office develop a system to maintain complete and accurate records to document its title II program oversight activities.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

  9. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: AID is undertaking actions that should enhance principal officers' accountability, including revising its performance evaluations to include an assessment factor on food security and linking the allocation of food aid resources more closely with missions' food security objectives. Effective April 1, 1995, AID implemented a new employee evaluation program, and training in the new system is in process. The first full evaluation cycle will be completed in March 1996.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, AID, should hold the AID principal officer at overseas missions accountable for ensuring that food programs are adequately monitored and reports for PVO and recipient governments are verified, or at least spot checked.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

  10. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: AID has clarified the criteria for declaring an emergency, and formal criteria are under development for exercising the discretionary authority to make procurements and shipments for emergencies.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, AID, should develop a working definition and procedures for declaring when a food deficit problem constitutes an emergency under title II and develop criteria for exercising the discretionary authority to make procurements and shipments without adhering to general procurement and shipping regulations.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

  11. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: To respond to part 1 of the recommendation, AID has included language in new title III agreements that requires countries to track the local currency going to nongovernmental organizations and is in the process of instituting a system to monitor compliance. To respond to part 2, AID has instituted a 45-day tracking system for review and approval of title II regular program requests and is attempting to implement processes to ensure immediate review of proposals.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, AID, should develop systems to ensure compliance with Public Law 480 requirements that: (1) minimum allocations of title III-generated local currency are provided to indigenous nongovernmental organizations; and (2) title II proposals are reviewed and approved or denied within the required time frame and mission commodity requests are submitted to the Department of Agriculture on time.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

 

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