SEATTLE, Washington — Supporting the UN’s Millenium Development Goals has been a key component of US attempts to reduce global poverty. Indeed, as part of these efforts, the United States has placed a particular focus on ensuring transparency when it comes to foreign aid. Thus, in July 2016, the Obama administration signed into law the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act.
History of the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act
In a nutshell, the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act focuses on tracking US foreign aid for the purposes of evaluation and preventing potential corruption. Although this had been common practice within government agencies, the bill marked the first time such requirements were officially codified into law. More specifically, the bill sets public reporting guidelines that cover 22 different US agencies and departments that invest in international assistance, such as USAID.
Early versions of the bill first appeared in 2013. However, it was not until 2015 that the bill would finally resurface. Then, following a three-year-long campaign of support by the Borgen Project, among others, the bill would eventually pass Congress on July 5th, 2018. Notably, it did so with substantial bipartisan support.
Measuring the Impact
Three years after the bill’s enaction, the Office of Management and Budget issued a report about the progress of implementation. In the report, the office identified a few organizations exceeding expectations, such as USAID. However, it also found issues with other agencies, giving recommendations for improvement.
For its part, the US State Department issued a press release discussing the bill’s third anniversary. Within the document, the agency’s spokesperson emphasized that since the bill’s enaction, four times the amount of money is now being reported by the foreign assistance departments. Thus, making it easier for departments to make fiscal decisions.
Overall, the bill touts some commendable successes. For one, it is now far easier for the public to access information relating to foreign aid spending. As an example, previously only 10 foreign aid agencies reported spending publically. Now, that number has more than doubled.
The bill has also made a large impact on foreign assistance in terms of accountability. By allowing experts to analyze the data and give feedback, the overall efficacy of US foreign spending can improve rapidly. For example, spending in areas found to be less impactful can now be more easily identified and transferred elsewhere. This ensures that the US can be as impactful as possible with its foreign aid spending.
Altogether, the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act has resulted in more public knowledge on the ongoing finances of foreign aid agencies. While the implementation of the bill is not yet perfect, the project is yielding promising results.
– Erica Burns