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United States

AID TRANSPARENCY ANALYSIS

The ATI looks at five agencies and one programme: the Department of Defense, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the Department of State, the Department of the Treasury, USAID and the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief

The U.S. should be congratulated for beginning to publish its foreign assistance information in line with IATI in January 2013. The U.S. is a co-founder of OGP and included a commitment to foreign assistance transparency in its first National Action Plan, presented in September 2011. The Open Data Policy, released in May 2013, provided government agencies with specific deadlines and deliverables on foreign assistance transparency.

A significant step towards implementation was taken in September 2012 with the release of OMB bulletin 12–01, which provides detailed requirements for agencies to comply with U.S. commitments on aid transparency, including OGP and IATI. The U.S. has elected to publish to the IATI Registry through the Foreign Assistance Dashboard, run by the Department of State’s Foreign Assistance Resources (F) Bureau. The Dashboard was designed to provide a one-stop-shop website for viewing U.S. foreign assistance information. However, its design and structure differs considerably to IATI, and the Dashboard’s data collection method, via spreadsheets, makes the platform less flexible, thus compromising the quality and integrity of agencies’ data. Although a Dashboard XML schema has been drafted, it is unclear why the IATI XML schema would not be used instead, with add-ons designed for additional U.S. reporting requirements (such as appropriation and obligation information). Such an approach would greatly help avoid the problems with compromised data quality.

In December 2012, the U.S. published its whole-of-government IATI implementation schedule, which did not identify which agencies would be able to publish specific fields from the IATI standard but gave an approximate coverage of total U.S. ODA flows. The U.S. schedule is unambitious, aiming to publish to only 31% of IATI fields and excluding important IATI fields such as activity budgets and documents, sub-national location, results and conditions. Data analysed for the 2013 Index, however, demonstrates that some agencies already collect and publish some of this information. Thus agency-by-agency implementation plans would be more accurate and useful.

The first U.S. IATI publication in January 2013 included FY 2012 summary-level data of total sector spending by MCC and USAID by country. In May 2013, the Defense and Treasury Departments published expenditure data for FY 2011 and 2012, with Treasury also publishing planning data for FY 2013. MCC and USAID updated their information to include obligation and expenditure data for FY 2013. All of this data was published both to the Dashboard and the IATI Registry.

In July 2013, USAID published more detailed information to the Dashboard and IATI, including over 50,000 financial transactions. Also in July 2013, MCC and the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Technical Assistance (OTA) published high quality information on their own websites in the IATI XML format, including activity-level information for all current projects.

The Department of State is not currently publishing any information to IATI except for a disaggregated budget. The U.S. government is unlikely to meet its own implementation schedule target of approximately 70% of total ODA flows publication by the end of 2013 without the Department of State’s publication.

Read the full U.S. ATI Brief

RECOMMENDATIONS

  • The U.S. government should update its implementation schedule by mid-2014 so it is more ambitious and detailed, including agency-by-agency specific dates and delivery targets, aimed at fully implementing the IATI standard by the end of 2015.
  • Departments or bureaus within agencies administering foreign assistance should be encouraged to publish their own information on their websites in IATI XML and share these files with the Dashboard for posting to the IATI Registry. Where practicable, agencies should be encouraged to refresh their data on a monthly basis, in line with emerging best practice.
  • In order to facilitate this exchange and the crosswalk of information, the Dashboard’s XML schema should follow the agreed structure and codelists of the IATI standard.
  • The U.S. government should encourage the external and internal use of all published information, particularly by country missions and recipient countries.
  • The U.S. government should update its OGP National Action Plan to include stretching milestones for full implementation of IATI by 2015.
  • In line with its IATI commitments, the U.S. government should publish forward-looking budget data. This information can include budget request data or indicative figures.

 

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