Cardin, Rubio Introduce Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) today introduced the “Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2015,” legislation to establish guidelines for measurable goals, performance metrics, and monitoring and evaluation plans for foreign aid programs and to increase transparency by codifying and increasing the amount of information posted online. Companion legislation is also being introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressmen Ted Poe (R-TX) and Gerry Connolly (D-VA).
“U.S. leadership on foreign development, aid programs, and economic assistance is the global gold standard making impactful and positive changes throughout the world,” said Senator Cardin. “But we must always demand the highest standards of transparency and accountability to ensure our foreign assistance efforts are making the most positive and meaningful impact in the communities we assist. This legislation will establish common guidelines to evaluate our development programs in order to maximize efficiencies and ensure transparency, while fulfilling the highest standards of our foreign assistance responsibilities.”
“Foreign assistance plays an important role in advancing American interests in the world, but taxpayers have a right to see where and how American dollars are being used overseas,” said Senator Rubio. “Foreign aid should be conditioned to advance our national interests and reflect our moral clarity as a nation. The programs we invest taxpayer dollars in must reinforce our alliances and support the spread of economic and political freedom around the world. Sharing more information about our assistance programs will provide much needed transparency and accountability to this useful foreign policy tool.”
“It is time to modernize and reform the outdated foreign aid program”, said Rep. Poe. “Under the current system, billions of taxpayer dollars are sent to a majority of the countries in the world, and no one really knows how efficient or effective that aid is. Implementing a system to evaluate the success (or failure) of each program will increase both learning and accountability, making the program stronger. It is also important for Americans to know exactly where their money is sent.”
"As a longtime proponent of foreign assistance who, as a staffer for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, helped write the last reauthorization of the Foreign Assistance Act, I appreciate the importance of accountability in our foreign aid programs," said Rep. Gerald E. Connolly. "This bill will bring needed transparency to an often misunderstood part of the federal budget, which will in turn allow us to continue to grow our investment in stability and prosperity abroad."
A PDF of the legislation is available here.
A section-by-section summary appears below.
Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2015
Section 1. Short Title. This section provides that the short title of this Act is the “Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2015.”
Section 2. Definitions. This section defines the terms “appropriate congressional committees,” “evaluation,” and “United States foreign development and economic assistance.”
Section 3. Guidelines for United States Foreign Development and Economic Assistance Programs. This section requires the President to establish guidelines for federal departments and agencies to use in monitoring and evaluating (M&E) programs that provide foreign development and economic assistance. The guidelines must be established within 18 months of enactment of this Act and meet several objectives, including the establishment of an annual M&E agenda, development of project-specific M&E plans with measurable goals and performance metrics, application of rigorous monitoring and evaluation methodologies, development of a clearinghouse capacity for the collection and dissemination of knowledge and lessons learned, the inclusion of verifiable, valid, credible, precise, reliable, and timely data, and more. The President is required to report to Congress a detailed description of the guidelines no later than 18 months after the passage of the Act. No later than a year after the Presidential report, GAO is required to report to Congress an analysis of the guidelines and a side-by-side comparison of the President’s budget request for units that carry out foreign assistance and the performance of such units.
Section 4. Information on United States Foreign Development and Economic Assistance Programs. This section requires the Secretary of State to post foreign aid data online, including all regional, country, and sector assistance strategies, annual budget documents and budget justifications, descriptions of foreign development and economic assistance programs, and any evaluations or summaries of evaluations. Exceptions are made for any information that may jeopardize the health or security of implementing partners or program beneficiaries, release proprietary information of implementing partners or program beneficiaries, or be detrimental to U.S. national interests. In the case of such exceptions, the Administration must provide a briefing or written report to Congress explaining the exceptions. Noncompliance with this section by any agency or department will require a report to be submitted to the appropriate congressional committees explaining the failure, establishing a timeline for compliance, and describing steps to prevent noncompliance in the future.
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