November 10, 2015

Cardin Legislation, Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act, Passes Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Washington, D.C. The Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2015,” legislation introduced by U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), was approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in a unanimous vote. 

 

The bill establishes 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.

 

The legislation is supported by Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network and InterAction, as well as, Bread for the World, CARE USA, Global Health Council, Helen Keller International, International Youth Foundation, Mercy Corps, Millennium Water Alliance, ONE, Oxfam America, Plan International USA, Save the Children, The Borgen Project, The Hunger Project, USAID Alumni Association, WASH Advocates, and Women Thrive Worldwide.

 

Companion legislation was 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. The favorable vote taken by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in passing the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act is an important step forward in demonstrating continued U.S. leadership and engagement on this issue,” said Senator Cardin. “But we must always demand the best 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.”   

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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