Changes Needed for a Better Peace Corps

ID-78-26: Published: Feb 6, 1979. Publicly Released: Feb 6, 1979.

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The GAO review of Peace Corps activities in five selected countries and volunteer responses to its questionnaire identified many problems which need correcting to make the Peace Corps more effective.

GAO regards the provision of adequate host-country supervision, support, and contributions as important indications of host-country interest and commitment. Volunteer responses to the GAO questionnaire, however, revealed dissatisfaction concerning these areas. In addition, while each of the countries was making contributions in cash and/or in kind, GAO noted the reluctance of some country directors to approach host-country officials to seek increased contributions or to request fulfillment of existing support agreements. Criteria were absent for the levels of host-country contributions. Weaknesses exist in ACTION recruitment and placement of Peace Corps volunteers. As a result, many volunteers enter the Peace Corps inadequately screened for suitability and poorly informed about the conditions under which they will serve. Volunteers are under no obligation to complete 2-year service tours, and many do not. The Peace Corps has significant personnel problems, including a personnel turnover rate triple that of other federal agencies and an inability to fill staff vacancies quickly because of time-consuming employment processes. These problems have resulted in inadequate supervisory staff-to-volunteer ratios and inadequate staff support for some volunteers. The 5-year rule, whereby Peace Corps staff employment is limited to two 2.5-year contracts, is the cause of much of this turnover.

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