USAID making progress on aid transparency

By Jenny Lei Ravelo 01 August 2013

The entrance to the offices of the U.S. Agency for International Development in the Ronald Reagan building. The agency has released this week more than 50,000 financial transactions all up to the third quarter of the current fiscal year. Photo by: Eliza Villarino / Devex

The United States has been making strides in aid transparency this year. 

In January, the U.S. government published its first set of data on the International Aid Transparency Initiative registry, and now the U.S. Agency for International Development has decided to follow suit.

USAID disclosed this week more than 50,000 financial transactions, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, with information organised by budget year, recipient country and sector, as well as title of the contract, which organization it went to, and how much money pledged and spent — all up to the third quarter of the current fiscal year.

Aid transparency groups hailed the move from USAID, which was not providing comprehensive information for all recipient countries, according to the 2012 aid transparency index.

“This is a great step towards financial transparency … [the] next step is to link this information to performance and project data,” said Publish What You Fund director David Hall-Matthews.

Hall-Matthews told Devex that while USAID’s decision to join IATI is a positive development, we’ll have to wait and see what happens when more donor data becomes available.

“The priority should be to improve the quality of the information. Publishing information from numerous systems can be a complicated process and it does require some initial investment, but once the information starts flowing we expect the quality to increase,” he added.

Hall-Matthews also mentioned France’s announcement on Wednesday that it will be joining IATI next year. The Millennium Challenge Corp. also published its data this week.

USAID’s transparency move came a few weeks after the Office of Technical Assistance, which is under the U.S. Treasury, uploaded on its website information on all its current projects.

This may help both USAID and Treasury improve their rankings in the 2013 aid transparency index, where last year they ended up way behind MCC.

Aid advocates have been calling on the United States to “set the bar higher” on transparency, being the largest foreign aid donor among OECD-DAC countries. In a previous interview with Devex, Brad Parks, co-executive director at AidData, noted the U.S. government should encourage its agencies to provide more information, and reward them with incentives when they make progress.

“The United States can, and should, be more proactive in using such information to provoke a ‘race to the top’ by rewarding higher performing agencies,” said Parks.

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About the author

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Jenny Lei Ravelo@JennyLeiRavelo

Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex senior reporter based in Manila. Since 2011, she has covered a wide range of development and humanitarian aid issues, from leadership and policy changes at DfID to the logistical and security impediments faced by international and local aid responders in disaster-prone and conflict-affected countries in Africa and Asia. Her interests include global health and the analysis of aid challenges and trends in sub-Saharan Africa.

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