Foreign Assistance:

Promising Approach to Judicial Reform in Colombia

NSIAD-92-269: Published: Sep 24, 1992. Publicly Released: Sep 24, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed judicial reform assistance to Colombia.

GAO found that: (1) from 1986 through 1990, the Agency for International Development (AID) used small projects managed by a private Colombian foundation to build consensus among the judiciary, the executive branch, and the private sector on the importance of judicial reform, an approach that was different from those used in two Central American countries; (2) the design of the Courts of Public Order was the most visibly successful project while the most significant impact was the commitment of key officials on the need to reform; (3) in August 1991, the two governments signed a 6-year, $36-million grant agreement to implement further judicial reform, with initial funding based on the Colombian government's commitment to reform; (4) U.S. officials established a multiagency approach to judicial reform by coordinating activities of different U.S. agencies' programs; (5) to succeed, judicial reform programs must be an embassy priority for proper management and coordination, which is dependent on the ambassador's management style; (6) recognizing the need for a comprehensive approach to judicial reform, Colombia ratified a new constitution that established an independent judiciary, procedural improvements, modern and independent means for investigating and prosecuting criminal acts, oversight agencies, and protection of citizens' human rights; and (7) the AID project will complement the three goals of Colombia's judicial reform program by focusing on improving the judicial sector's organization and planning capabilities, improving the investigation and prosecution of crimes while ensuring judicial protection, investigating corruption and human rights violations, and improving the operation, administration, and independence of the courts.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: AID and Colombia have agreed upon verifiable performance indicators and have collected baseline data to assess project impact. AID evaluated progress and is now in the process of reassessing the future of the project. AID will be restructuring the project on the basis of which components have been most promising or have the best prospects for the future.

    Recommendation: To ensure maximum effectiveness and efficiency of U.S. funds, the Administrator, AID, in conjunction with the U.S. Ambassador in Bogota, should establish criteria and set targets or benchmarks for measuring the Colombian government's progress in implementing its reform plans and base additional disbursements on assessments of the government's progress in meeting these goals.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development


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