Foreign Disaster Assistance:

AID Has Been Responsive but Improvements Can Be Made

NSIAD-93-21: Published: Oct 26, 1992. Publicly Released: Nov 30, 1992.

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GAO reviewed the effectiveness of the Agency for International Development's (AID) Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA).

GAO found that: (1) OFDA is viewed as responsive and effective by officials from relief agencies, the United Nations, and other donors; (2) its lack of a work-force plan hindered OFDA effectiveness; (3) OFDA operates under a number of constraints that impede disaster responses; (4) since 1983, OFDA annual obligations have exceeded annual disaster assistance appropriations; (5) OFDA relies on special appropriations and borrowed funds from other AID accounts to fund its activities; (6) AID policies that link OFDA activities with ongoing development programs are unclear; (7) certain operational differences between OFDA and AID regional bureaus and missions impede the full integration of these activities; and (8) OFDA officials have advocated nonpolitical humanitarian assistance and made a good-faith effort to ensure that assistance is provided equitably.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Administrator, AID, should direct AID officials to conduct an evaluation of how AID can better integrate disaster assistance and country development programs.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: AID completed draft guidelines that mandate the integration of emergency preparedness and relief planning into development design criteria.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, AID, should develop and submit realistic disaster relief budget requests that reflect the agency's best estimates of funding needs for the period involved.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The fiscal year 1994 AID budget request for disaster assistance is approximately $148 million, a substantial increase over its fiscal year 1993 request of $40 million. The request is based on $100 million for African relief, rehabilitation, and reconstruction, plus an additional $48 million for other natural and man-made disasters. The fiscal year 1996 budget request will be $200 million. According to the Chief, Prevention, Mitigation, and Preparedness Division, this is a realistic budget estimate, and he expects realistic budgeting to continue.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, AID, should require that OFDA perform or arrange for regular evaluations of its disaster responses and require grantees of larger OFDA programs to conduct program evaluations.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OFDA has signed the contract and a long-term evaluation of its relief efforts is under way.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, AID, should develop a work-force plan for OFDA to ensure that its headquarters and field staffing needs are clearly identified and documented, and on the basis of a thoroughly justified work-force plan, request that the Office of Management and Budget authorize adequate staffing levels for OFDA.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The workforce plan has been completed, more staff have been added, and OFDA has submitted an office reorganization plan to the Administrator.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, AID, should finalize and implement an updated agency policy on linking longer term development activities with the delivery of disaster assistance. This policy should specifically discuss responsibility for long-term disasters and include provisions for direct linkages between the regional bureaus and the Bureau for Food and Humanitarian Assistance in planning and implementing the prevention, mitigation, and preparedness, disaster assistance, and development activities.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: AID has taken numerous steps in response to this recommendation. AID's draft strategic plan for humanitarian assistance mandates the integration of emergency and relief planning into development design criteria. In addition, AID has created the Office of Transition Initiatives to coordinate rapid return from instability to developmental progress.

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