Accountable, Effective Development

April 15, 2011 By Joel Paque

Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations committee, recently released a  report, “Fraud and Abuse of Global Fund Investments at Risk Without Greater Transparency”  in which he says that  “we must be diligent in reviewing all U.S. spending and questioning its necessity and effectiveness.”  In response to concerns over recent cases of fraud and abuse by Global Fund implementing partners, Senator Lugar’s report reviews both the history of improvements made to PEPFAR and the Global Fund over the past decade, as well as suggestions for further safeguards to protect U.S. investments and ensure a high return on taxpayer dollars spent in the fight for global health.

Lugar, a longtime supporter of the International Affairs Budget, suggests that while some improvements to oversight may be necessary, the Global Fund remains a worthwhile investment for U.S. contributions in the fight for global health. While critics have pointed to a recently released report detailing instances of corruption and mismanagement of programs and funds, the report was produced by the Global Fund’s own Inspector General, as a part of an internal dedication to fighting abuse.  “The Global Fund, which provides the funding but relies on governments, NGOs and faith-based organizations to implement health programs in the field, pursues corruption so relentlessly and insists that every cent that goes missing is paid back,“ wrote Michel Kazatchkine, Executive Director of the Global Fund. “Our zeal has occasionally come as a shock to some of our recipients who are not used to being held to such exceptionally high standards of transparency and accountability.”

While Senator Lugar’s report focuses on the Global Fund, it underscores an increasing focus on accountability and transparency in foreign assistance in the past few years. The new foreign assistance dashboard released last December seeks to increase transparency about how and where foreign assistance dollars are spent.  Administrator Rajiv Shah has begun to implement a series of reforms known as USAID Forward intended to ensure the greatest impact possible is being achieved across all of USAID’s programs. And the new evaluation policy at USAID is designed to institutionalize lessons learned from development successes and failures and to ensure that future projects represent the cutting edge of development.  Continued funding for these critical programs is critical to the ability of USAID to implement its improved operations and could actually make our assistance less effective, and less transparent—a lose-lose proposition for the American taxpayers, and the millions around the world who depend on these programs to improve their lives.