The Results Act:

Observations on USAID's November 1996 Draft Strategic Plan

NSIAD-97-197R: Published: Jul 11, 1997. Publicly Released: Aug 5, 1997.

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GAO reviewed and evaluated the latest available version of the Agency for International Development's (AID) draft strategic plan, focusing on: (1) the draft plan's compliance with the Government Performance and Results Act's requirements and its overall quality; (2) whether AID's key statutory authorities were reflected; (3) whether discussions about cross-cutting functions and interagency involvement were included; (4) whether the draft plan addressed major management problems; and (5) AID's capacity to provide reliable information about its operations and performance.

GAO noted that: (1) AID's November 1996 draft strategic plan reflects the agency's adoption of a strategic approach to managing the U.S. foreign assistance program; (2) the plan includes the six elements required by the Results Act; (3) however, two components of the plan--the sections on relating performance goals to general goals and objectives and on program evaluations--do not contain sufficient information to fully achieve the purposes of the Results Act and related Office of Management and Budget guidance; (4) more specifically, these sections do not include a discussion of performance goals, relevant evaluation findings AID used to develop its plan, or AID's plan for conducting future evaluations; (5) while the remaining sections of the draft plan are more complete, GAO's analysis showed that they could be improved; (6) the sections on goals and objectives could more fully encompass AID's major functions by specifically addressing Economic Support Fund programs and assistance to Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, which more directly serve U.S. foreign policy objectives and represent about 60 percent of AID's budget; (7) also, the plan could be more explicit about what AID intends to achieve; (8) the sections on strategies for achieving goals and objectives are specific and clear but could benefit from more information on management reforms AID has undertaken and on the level of resources AID needs to achieve its goals; (9) the key external factors section describes some of the constraints AID faces, including the controls and restrictions on its funding; however, it does convey the full range and significance of factors that can profoundly impact achievement of AID's goals and objectives; (10) a description of how AID fosters regional cooperation, donor coordination, and host country development planning would ensure that the plan addresses all the key principles of AID's basic authorizing legislation; (11) the plan does not reflect coordination with other U.S. government agencies; (12) AID's draft plan does not address key management challenges that the agency faces; (13) the plan provides a general description of recent management initiatives but does not discuss how effective these initiatives have been in resolving critical management problems AID has acknowledged in nearly all areas of its operations; and (14) the reliability of AID's program and financial data is uncertain.

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