MCC Board Meeting: Three Members MIA (Soon to be Four)

EDITOR’S NOTE: By October, all four seats of public board members at the Millennium Challenge Corp. will be vacant. Without action from the Obama administration and the U.S. Congress, the MCC board will soon not have the quorum required for it to work, Sarah Jane Staats, director of policy outreach at the Center for Global Development, notes.  

After much to-ing and fro-ing, the MCC board meeting is back on for September 15. On the agenda: reforms of the MCC threshold program, completion of compacts in Honduras and Cape Verde, a new compact in Jordan, the beginning of this year’s country selection process, and updates on concerns in Senegal and Senator Webb’s critique of MCC contracts with non-U.S. companies. But the MCC board of directors is still missing three of its four public members, and come October, the fourth seat will be vacant too. If no action is taken, the MCC board won’t have the quorum required to operate.

To recap, the MCC’s innovative board of directors has five governmental and four public, non-governmental members. The four public members are named by majority and minority leaders in the House and Senate and approved by the White House. Alan Patricof and Lorne Craner have each served one term and are eligible to stay on for a second term, pending White House approval (so they are not currently listed on the MCC website). Catholic Relief Services President Ken Hackett has served two terms and now his seat is entirely vacant and awaits a nomination from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office. The only public member of the board right now is former Senator Bill Frist, but his first term ends in October. No word yet on whether he would stay on for a second term.

When I raised this issue in July, I said the empty MCC board seats matter for three reasons:

1. Don’t mess with a good thing. The MCC public board members provide critical, independent voices and expertise on country selection, economic growth and poverty reduction analyses, compact approval and termination, risk assessment and more. The board is one of the most unique and innovative aspects of the MCC. While we struggle to make sense of the rest of our development apparatus, why let one of the brighter spots in the system suffer from benign neglect?

2. Don’t kill the (good) messengers. As non-government representatives, the four public board members are in many ways the most effective MCC messengers. They are closely linked to important constituencies from NGOs and the private sector and given the nature of their nominations, they come with strong ties to Congress too.

3. Time’s a-wasting. The MCC is currently undergoing important policy reviews that will have deep effects on future MCC practices: a change to candidate categories, a conceptual shift in the threshold program, and a total review of the selection indicators.  The MCC is also trying to enhance its engagement with the private sector (the same sector absent from the board right now). The MCC is about to complete its first compacts, turn policy reviews into reality, and decide on FY2011 country selection. Meanwhile, the U.S. government is undertaking two major reviews of U.S. development policy and Congress is drafting new foreign assistance legislation. It’s a terrible time to be missing a third of the board of directors and three out of the four public board members.

Now there is a critical fourth point:

4. The MCC board will be paralyzed. Without further action before Senator Frist’s term expires in October, the MCC board won’t have the quorum required by legislation to operate.

Re-published with permission by the Center for Global Development. Visit the original article.

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