USAID Earmarks Funding for Contracting Oversight System; Pakistan Mission Gets New Chief

The U.S. Agency for International Development has committed $38 million to improve its ability to track contracts and grants, the agency said in a status report released late last week.

The funding, which was provided under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, will be used to continue improvements to the Global Acquisition and Assistance System. GLAAS, once completed, is expected to give USAID the ability to track grants and contracts as well as integrate the contracting system with the agency's financial system.

Congress gave the funds on the condition that they will be used to eliminate financial waste within the agency. USAID's use of the funds to complete GLAAS shows the agency's long-term commitment to the mechanism as a way to get contracting waste under control.

USAID's ability to track contracts is notoriously bad and is cited by agency watchers as one of the main areas needing reform. GLAAS is the agency's response to these criticisms, and is expected to be able to produce reports on where, how and why agency money is being spent.

Completion of GLAAS would also be welcomed by many contractors, who often complain about the difficulty in doing business with USAID.

Also late last week, the agency announced that it had sworn in Robert Wilson as mission director in Pakistan.

In this capacity, Wilson will be in charge of $580 million worth of programs in Pakistan. USAID programs there focus on health care, political participation, economic growth and job creation.

Wilson is a career foreign service officer who has served in Georgia, Afghanistan, Haiti, Honduras, Barbados, Peru, Mozambique and Kosovo.

Wilson and William Frej, who was recently named as Afghanistan mission chief, now comprise management of USAID teams charged with doing work in some of the most dangerous regions in the world. Aid workers have been working under dangerous conditions in Afghanistan for years, with many killed in 2008. Similar conditions could develop in Pakistan as the Obama administration has taken an increasingly hard line with what is perceived as Pakistan's reluctance to cooperate in the hunt for terrorists.

About the author

  • David Francis

    David is a Washington-based journalist and former Devex staffer who spearheaded Devex's "Obama's Foreign Aid Reform" blog. He has written for the Christian Science Monitor, Pittsburgh Post Gazette,, San Francisco Chronicle, Foreign Policy magazine, and the Washington Monthly. David holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago and a graduate degree from Georgetown University.