Peace Corps:

New Programs in Former Eastern Bloc Countries Should Be Strengthened

NSIAD-95-6: Published: Dec 19, 1994. Publicly Released: Jan 18, 1995.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Peace Corps' processes and procedures for starting programs in Central and Eastern Europe and the states of the former Soviet Union, focusing on: (1) the adequacy of the Peace Corps' planning and staffing procedures; (2) whether the Peace Corps provided volunteers with adequate assignments, training, and other support; and (3) whether the expansion into former Eastern bloc countries came at the expense of other regional programs.

GAO found that: (1) although the Peace Corps has comprehensive, sound written procedures for planning and implementing new programs and preparing volunteers, the Peace Corps did not follow normal procedures in its haste to start programs in former Eastern bloc countries; (2) serious difficulties due to poor design and inadequate volunteer guidance, training, and support limited the new programs' effectiveness in these countries and led to high volunteer turnover; (3) despite these problems, many volunteers believed that they had a positive impact on the people they served; (4) it is too soon to tell if the Peace Corps' actions to correct problems in the Eastern bloc programs will be effective; and (5) other regions' funding and staffing have not been affected by the new programs.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Peace Corps: (1) redesigned its Program Training Unit and added 3 program training officers to provide assistance to posts on program planning, monitoring, and evaluation; (2) conducted evaluations of the TEFL and small business programs; (3) held subregional workshops on sectoral topics; (4) instituted a headquarters review and approval process; (5) hired 8 training officers to assist the country programs in staff and training development at posts; (6) hired a Regional Language Coordinator, (7) developed new training materials; (8) made Language Coordinators mandatory at all posts; (9) has the program training unit working directly with posts on site assignment issues; and (10) made a programmatic shift toward education and more stable institutions. A key change in the region is the development of a stable core of professional staff that has stabilized the country programs.

    Recommendation: Notwithstanding the Peace Corps' earlier development of the Programming and Training System Manual and its current initiatives, the Director, Peace Corps, should ensure that the written procedures are followed so that: (1) program plans are well developed; (2) volunteers have received adequate preservice training; and (3) viable assignments are in place before volunteers arrive.

    Agency Affected: Peace Corps

 

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