How a new task force could improve coordination between USAID, partners

Howard L. Berman, former U.S. congressman, suggests that a task force be established to improve communications between the U.S. Agency for International Development and its implementers. Photo by: Andrew Feinberg / CC BY

Could a new USAID task force improve communication with implementers?

Communication and collaboration between the U.S. Agency for International Development and the private firms and NGOs that implement the agency’s aid programs has been dismal, according to former U.S. Congressman Howard L. Berman, who addressed international development company leaders at the 2013 CIDC Conference on Wednesday.

USAID Forward was supposed to be a reform program that helped make our aid more efficient and our results more sustainable, but the way it has been implemented has left something to be desired,” Berman said of USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah’s signature reform initiative.

But Berman, now a senior advisor for the Covington and Burling LLP, has an idea for how to open up the communication channels and ensure that implementing partners get a bigger seat at the table when USAID initiatives and programs are still in the design phase.

“It’s time, in the context of mutual trust between USAID and the contractors and NGOs, to sit down with each other in a constructive fashion…to rebuild trust between the administration and the industry,” he said.

Berman would establish a “small, all-volunteer task force of agency professionals and industry leaders, where candid feedback and an exchange of ideas could occur without fear of retribution.”

The task force, he explained, could “focus on recommendations for the administration and the industry to jointly pursue, such as:

  • Improving the quality of contracting and compliance functions within the administration.

  • Greater industry input in shaping the agency needs and source selection approaches.

  • Looking for ways the industry can create and promote best practices for compliance programs.

Members of the audience suggested that such a task force could even be elevated to the status of an advisory panel like the Advisory Committee On Voluntary Foreign Aid, which provides a platform for 30 high-level representatives from nongovernmental organizations, universities and businesses to weigh in on U.S. development assistance.

Read more on U.S. aid reform online, and subscribe to The Development Newswire to receive top international development headlines from the world’s leading donors, news sources and opinion leaders — emailed to you FREE every business day.

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    Michael Igoe

    Michael Igoe is a Senior Reporter with Devex, based in Washington, D.C. He covers U.S. foreign aid, global health, climate change, and development finance. Prior to joining Devex, Michael researched water management and climate change adaptation in post-Soviet Central Asia, where he also wrote for EurasiaNet. Michael earned his bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College, where he majored in Russian, and his master’s degree from the University of Montana, where he studied international conservation and development.