Holbrooke Promises More Transparency, Accountability in US Aid to Pakistan

Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Photo by: U.S. Department of Agriculture / CC BY 2.0 U.S. Department of AgricultureCC BY 2.0

U.S. assistance to Pakistan will be more transparent and accountable, the U.S. top envoy to Pakistan has asserted.

Richard Holbrooke was responding to a letter by U.S. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), where the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman expressed concern that the Pakistani government may not be capable enough to use the USD7.5 billion assistance properly. 

In his letter dated June 14, Holbrooke informed Kerry that the government is leveraging U.S. assistance to support reforms that will encourage the Pakistani government to allocate more of its local funds for health, education and other key sectors.

The U.S. strategy for Pakistani aid allocation also includes support for structural reforms to boost investments in the country’s energy and education sectors, Holbrooke said. He added that his team is coordinating with the Asian Development Bank’s energy task force and the U.K.-Pakistan joint education task force on these initiatives.

The U.S. is slowly changing the way it does business in Pakistan in order to better integrate the priorities and plans of the Pakistani government, Holbrooke wrote in his letter. He noted that allocation of money and the identification of projects and partners have just began, and pledged to publish more information on U.S. aid to Pakistan on the websites of the U.S. embassy in the country and the U.S. Agency for International Development once plans become more concrete.  

“We share your concerns of the risks for future funding should are assistance be diverted from its intended purpose,” Holbrooke wrote in response to several accountability concerns identified by Kerry.

Holbrooke confirmed that approximately 50 percent of U.S. funds in fiscal 2010 will be channeled through Pakistani federal and provincial agencies. In response to Kerry’s concern that such allocation opens up the potential for U.S. funding misuse, Holbrooke explained that the Obama administration has chosen institutions with track records of working with international organizations such as ADB and those with “strong accounting safeguards.”

On U.S. priorities in Pakistan for fiscal 2010 and beyond, Holbrooke said these would include better alignment of U.S. assistance with Pakistan’s priorities and push for internal reforms to improve Pakistan’s water supply and sanitation.

The special representative said on Kerry’s concern over U.S. development presence in Pakistan: “We share your concern that we strike the right balance between high visibility and overall impact for the Pakistani people.”

He went to describe plans to use some of U.S. funds for energy to partner with donors and the Pakistani government. The goal, according to Holbrooke, is a “larger, more significant and coordinate contribution to energy generation and distribution.”

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  • Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.