USAID - Waste and Mismanagement Exposed

While USAID attacks Food Aid inefficiencies, the agency has been accused of wasting millions due to lack of oversight.

Published Jul 8, 2013 2:33 PM by Denise Krepp

The U.S. Agency for International Development does not have the oversight capability to implement the Administration's proposed changes to the current food aid program. The agency has been repeatedly criticized by numerous inspector generals for mismanagement. This mismanagement has cost the American taxpayer millions of dollars. The Administration should focus its attention of fixing existing problems instead of changing the current international food aid distribution structure and giving USAID more money to lose.

During a visit to a Dakar, Senegal food security expo last month, President Obama told attendees that U.S. taxpayer money used for food aid was not being wasted; rather, it was being used to help feed families. He then thanked USAID Administrator Raj Shah for all the great work he has done. The President's comments came a day after the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction blasted USAID for “ineffective program oversight.”

Special Inspector General John Sopko initiated an investigation into the USAID Southern Regional Agricultural Development program in 2012 after he received numerous complaints. In August 2011, the agency awarded a $70 million cooperative agreement to a non-profit organization to implement the agricultural program. The Special Inspector found several instances of waste and mismanagement. As a result of this poor oversight, U.S. taxpayer dollars were spent on unnecessary costs and equipment that may have been unused or stolen.

The Government Accountability Office has also expressed concerns about USAID's management skills. The agency was tasked in 2010 with providing technical assistance and training to Afghan civil servants. In a 2011 report, GAO determined that success of the program couldn't be determined because of “weaknesses in USAID’s performance management frameworks, such as lack of performance targets and data (that) prevent reliable assessments of its results.” GAO recommended that USAID clean up its management processes.

On June 7, 2013, the USAID Office of Inspector General released a report regarding the agency's partner-country and local organization assessments program. The OIG found that the agency did not sufficiently establish oversight roles for the assessment process. In addition, the OIG criticized the agency's Chief Financial Officer's Risk Management Team for little quality control and recommended that the CFO become more involved in the program. USAID disagreed with this recommendation stating that direct oversight should come individual in-country missions rather than the CFO in Washington, DC.

An agency's CFO is a very important person. This individual is responsible for ensuring that agency funds are properly expended.  In the case of USAID, the Associated Press reported earlier this year that the agency's former CFO and General Counsel are under investigation by its IG and the Department of Justice.  The January 24th article also states that a USAID IG memo revealed evidence that the USAID Deputy Administrator may have interfered with the investigation.

Before taking on any additional responsibility, USAID Administrator Shah should clean up the internal workings of his agency.  This process should include improving oversight over existing programs such as those in Afghanistan and other war torn areas of the world.  Cleaning up these programs will minimize waste and fraud.  These changes will also maximize taxpayer resources – something, no one will disagree with.

Read: New Report on USAID Waste by SIGAR

K. Denise Rucker Krepp is a homeland security, transportation, and energy expert who began her career as an active duty Coast Guard officer in 1998. After September 11th, Ms. Krepp was part of the team that created the Transportation Security Administration and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.