The Democratic Republic of the Congo:

Systematic Assessment Is Needed to Determine Agencies' Progress toward U.S. Policy Objectives

GAO-08-188: Published: Dec 14, 2007. Publicly Released: Dec 14, 2007.

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In enacting the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) Relief, Security, and Democracy Promotion Act of 2006 (the Act), Congress established 15 U.S. policy objectives to address the DRC's humanitarian, development, economic and natural resource, governance, and security issues and mandated that GAO review actions taken by U.S. agencies to achieve these objectives. In this report, GAO identifies (1) U.S. programs and activities that support the Act's objectives, (2) major challenges hindering the accomplishment of the objectives, and (3) U.S. efforts to assess progress toward the objectives. GAO obtained and analyzed agencies' program documents and met with officials of agencies and nongovernmental organizations (NGO) active in the DRC.

U.S. programs and activities support the Act's policy objectives. In fiscal years 2006 and 2007, respectively, the Departments of Agriculture, Defense, Health and Human Services, State, and the Treasury and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) allocated $217.9 million and $181.5 million for the DRC. About 70 percent of the funds were allocated for programs that support the Act's humanitarian and social development objectives, while the remainder was allocated for programs and activities that support the Act's economic, governance, and security objectives. Although U.S. agencies have not acted on the Act's objective of bilaterally urging nations contributing peacekeeping troops to prosecute abusive peacekeepers, U.S. multilateral actions address this issue. The DRC's unstable security situation, weak governance, mismanagement of its vast natural resources, and lack of infrastructure are major interrelated challenges that impede efforts to achieve the Act's policy objectives. For example, the unstable security situation in the eastern DRC has worsened humanitarian and social problems and forced U.S. and NGO staff to curtail some efforts. The lack of roads has prevented deliveries of needed aid. DRC's weak governance structures prevent the country from meeting the requirements for debt relief and discourage private-sector investment, thus hindering economic growth. The U.S. government has not established a process for systematically assessing its progress toward achieving the Act's policy objectives. While some U.S. agencies collect information about their respective activities in the DRC, no mechanism exists for assessing overall progress. State and USAID are developing a joint planning and budgeting process that may eventually assess all U.S. foreign assistance. However, State's Director of Foreign Assistance has yet to complete the fiscal year 2007 DRC operations plan, which does not include a comprehensive assessment of the collective impact of State and USAID programs and does not address activities funded by other agencies. While a National Security Council-sponsored interagency group discusses DRC policies and helps coordinate some activities, it does not include several relevant agencies and, according to key officials, does not systematically assess progress in the DRC.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In concurring with the above recommendation, State wrote that the recommendation would be met as the new joint State-U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) planning and budget process was extended to include other agencies engaged in the DRC. However, State informed us in June 2012 that the State office that oversees the planning and budget process focuses its attention on State and USAID efforts only. In 2009, a State planning and budget official informed us that State had included the DRC in a pilot country planning project that could help address the recommendation. However, in June 2012, State officials informed us that the pilot country planning project had been replaced by a different project that did not include the DRC. State did not provide any evidence that the Secretary of State had otherwise worked with the heads of other agencies active in the DRC specifically to plan the systematic evaluation of overall progress toward achieving the objectives of the DRC Relief, Security, and Democracy Promotion Act of 2006.

    Recommendation: To provide a basis for informed decisions regarding U.S. allocations for assistance in the DRC as well as any needed bilateral or multilateral actions, the Secretary of State should, through the Director of Foreign Assistance, work with the heads of the other U.S. agencies implementing programs in the DRC to develop a plan for systematically assessing the U.S. government's overall progress toward achieving the Act's objectives.

    Agency Affected: Department of State


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