Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2015by Representative Ted Poe
Posted on 2015-12-08
POE of Texas. Madam Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass
the bill (H.R. 3766) to direct the President to establish guidelines
for United States foreign development and economic assistance programs,
and for other purposes, as amended.
The Clerk read the title of the bill.
The text of the bill is as follows: H.R. 3766 Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the ``Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2015''.
SEC. 2. GUIDELINES FOR UNITED STATES FOREIGN DEVELOPMENT AND ECONOMIC ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS.
(a) Purpose.--The purpose of this section is to evaluate the performance of United States foreign development and economic assistance and its contribution to the policies, strategies, projects, program goals, and priorities undertaken by the Federal Government, to foster and promote innovative programs to improve effectiveness, and to coordinate the monitoring and evaluation processes of Federal departments and agencies that administer United States foreign development and economic assistance.
(b) Establishment of Guidelines.--Not later than 18 months after the date of the enactment of this Act, the President shall set forth guidelines for the establishment of measurable goals, performance metrics, and monitoring and evaluation plans that can be applied with reasonable consistency to United States foreign development and economic assistance. Such guidelines shall be established according to best practices of monitoring and evaluation studies and analyses.
(c) Objectives of Guidelines.-- (1) In general.--The guidelines established under subsection (b) shall provide direction to Federal departments and agencies that administer United States foreign development and economic assistance on monitoring the use of resources, evaluating the outcomes and impacts of United States foreign development and economic assistance projects and programs, and applying the findings and conclusions of such evaluations to proposed project and program design.
(2) Objectives.--Specifically, the guidelines established under subsection (b) shall require Federal departments and agencies that administer United States foreign development and economic assistance to take the following actions: (A) Establish annual monitoring and evaluation agendas and objectives to plan and manage the process of monitoring, evaluating, analyzing progress, and applying learning toward achieving results.
(B) Develop specific project monitoring and evaluation plans, to include measurable goals and performance metrics, and identify the resources necessary to conduct such evaluations, which should be covered by program costs, during project design.
(C) Apply rigorous monitoring and evaluation methodologies to such programs, including through the use of impact evaluations, ex-post evaluations, or other methods as appropriate, that clearly define program logic, inputs, outputs, intermediate outcomes, and end outcomes.
(D) Disseminate guidelines for the development and implementation of monitoring and evaluation programs to all personnel, especially in the field, who are responsible for the design, implementation, and management of United States foreign development and economic assistance programs.
(E) Establish methodologies for the collection of data, including baseline data to serve [[Page H9064]] as a reference point against which progress can be measured.
(F) Evaluate at least once in their lifetime all programs whose dollar value equals or exceeds the median program size for the relevant office or bureau or an equivalent calculation to ensure the majority of program resources are evaluated.
(G) Conduct impact evaluations on all pilot programs before replicating wherever possible, or provide a written justification for not conducting an impact evaluation where such an evaluation was deemed inappropriate or impossible.
(H) Develop a clearinghouse capacity for the collection and dissemination of knowledge and lessons learned that serve as benchmarks to guide future programs for United States development professionals, implementing partners, the donor community, and aid recipient governments, and as a repository of knowledge on lessons learned.
(I) Distribute evaluation reports internally.
(J) Publicly report each evaluation, including an executive summary, a description of the evaluation methodology, key findings, appropriate context (including quantitative and qualitative data when available), and recommendations made in the evaluation within 90 days after the completion of the evaluation.
(K) Undertake collaborative partnerships and coordinate efforts with the academic community, implementing partners, and national and international institutions that have expertise in program monitoring, evaluation, and analysis when such partnerships provide needed expertise or significantly improve the evaluation and analysis.
(L) Ensure verifiable, valid, credible, precise, reliable, and timely data are available to monitoring and evaluation personnel to permit the objective evaluation of the effectiveness of United States foreign development and economic assistance programs, including an assessment of assumptions and limitations in such evaluations.
(M) Ensure that standards of professional evaluation organizations for monitoring and evaluation efforts are employed, including ensuring the integrity and independence of evaluations, permitting and encouraging the exercise of professional judgment, and providing for quality control and assurance in the monitoring and evaluation process.
(d) Presidential Report.--Not later than 18 months after the date of the enactment of this Act, the President shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report that contains a detailed description of the guidelines established under subsection (b). The report shall be submitted in unclassified form, but it may contain a classified annex.
(e) Comptroller General Report.--The Comptroller General of the United States shall, not later than 1 year after the report required by subsection (d) is submitted to Congress, submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report that analyzes-- (1) the guidelines established pursuant to subsection (b); and (2) a side-by-side comparison of the President's budget request for that fiscal year of every operational unit that carries out United States foreign development and economic assistance and the performance of such units during the prior fiscal year.
SEC. 3. INFORMATION ON UNITED STATES FOREIGN DEVELOPMENT AND ECONOMIC ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS.
(a) Publication of Information.-- (1) Update of existing web site.--Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of State shall update the Department of State's Internet Web site, ``ForeignAssistance.gov'', to make publicly available comprehensive, timely, and comparable information on United States foreign development and economic assistance programs, including all information required pursuant to subsection (b) of this section that is then available to the Secretary of State.
(2) Information sharing.--The head of each Federal department or agency that administers United States foreign development and economic assistance shall, not later than 2 years after the date of the enactment of this Act, and on a quarterly basis thereafter, provide to the Secretary of State comprehensive information about the United States foreign development and economic assistance programs carried out by such department or agency.
(3) Updates to web site.--Not later than 2 years after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of State shall publish, through the ``ForeignAssistance.gov'' Web site or a successor online publication, the information provided under subsection (b) of this section and shall update such information on a quarterly basis.
(b) Matters To Be Included.-- (1) In general.--The information described in subsection (a) shall be published on a detailed award-by-award and country-by-country basis unless assistance is provided on a regional level, in which case the information shall be published on an award-by-award and region-by-region basis.
(2) Types of information.-- (A) In general.--To ensure transparency, accountability, and effectiveness of United States foreign development and economic assistance programs, the information described in subsection (a) shall include-- (i) links to all regional, country, and sector assistance strategies, annual budget documents, congressional budget justifications, evaluations and summaries of evaluations as required under section 2(c)(2)(J); (ii) basic descriptive summaries for United States foreign development and economic assistance programs and awards under such programs; and (iii) obligations and expenditures under such programs.
Each type of information described in this paragraph shall be published or updated on the Internet Web site not later than 90 days after the date of issuance of the information.
(B) Rule of construction.--Nothing in subparagraph (A) shall be construed to require a Federal department or agency that administers United States foreign development and economic assistance to provide any information that does not relate to or is not otherwise required by the United States foreign development and economic assistance programs carried out by such department or agency.
(3) Report in lieu of inclusion.-- (A) Health or security of implementing partners.--If the head of a Federal department or agency, in consultation with the Secretary of State, makes a determination that the inclusion of a required item of information online would jeopardize the health or security of an implementing partner or program beneficiary or would require the release of proprietary information of an implementing partner or program beneficiary, the head of the Federal department or agency shall provide such determination in writing to the appropriate congressional committees, including the basis for such determination and shall-- (i) provide a briefing to the appropriate congressional committees on such information; or (ii) submit to the appropriate congressional committees such information in a written report.
(B) National interests of the united states.--If the Secretary of State makes a determination that the inclusion of a required item of information online would be detrimental to the national interests of the United States, the Secretary of State shall provide such determination in writing to the appropriate congressional committees, including the basis for such determination and shall-- (i) provide a briefing to the appropriate congressional committees on such information; or (ii) submit to the appropriate congressional committees the item of information in a written report.
(C) Form.--Any briefing or item of information provided under this paragraph may be provided in classified form, as appropriate.
(4) Failure to comply.--If a Federal department or agency fails to comply with the requirements of subsection (a), paragraph (1) or (2) of this subsection, or subsection (c) with respect to providing information described in subsection (a), and the information is not subject to a determination under subparagraph (A) or (B) of paragraph (3) of this subsection not to make the information publically available, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, in consultation with the head of such department or agency, shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees not later than September 1, 2016, a consolidated report describing, with respect to each required item of information not made publicly available-- (A) a detailed explanation of the reason for not making such information publicly available; and (B) the department's or agency's plan and timeline for immediately making such information publicly available, and for ensuring that information is made publically available in following years.
(c) Scope of Information.--The online publication required by subsection (a) shall, at a minimum, provide the information required by subsection (b)-- (1) in each fiscal year from 2016 through 2019, such information for fiscal years 2012 through the current fiscal year; and (2) for fiscal year 2020 and each fiscal year thereafter, such information for the immediately preceding five fiscal years in a fully searchable form.
SEC. 4. DEFINITIONS.
In this Act: (1) Appropriate congressional committees.--The term ``appropriate congressional committees'' means-- (A) the Committee on Foreign Relations and the Committee on Appropriations of the Senate; and (B) the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on Appropriations of the House of Representatives.
(2) Evaluation.--The term ``evaluation'' means, with respect to a United States foreign development and economic assistance program, the systematic collection and analysis of information about the characteristics and outcomes of the program, including projects conducted under such program, as a basis for making judgments and evaluations regarding the program, to improve program effectiveness, and to inform decisions about current and future programming.
(3) United states foreign development and economic assistance.--The term ``United States foreign development and economic assistance'' means assistance provided primarily for the purposes of foreign development and economic support, including assistance authorized under-- (A) part I of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 U.S.C. 2151 et seq.), other than-- [[Page H9065]] (i) title IV of chapter 2 of such part (relating to the Overseas Private Investment Corporation); (ii) chapter 3 of such part (relating to International Organizations and Programs); and (iii) chapter 8 of such part (relating to International Narcotics Control); (B) chapter 4 of part II of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 U.S.C. 2346 et seq.; relating to Economic Support Fund); (C) the Millennium Challenge Act of 2003 (22 U.S.C. 7701 et seq.); and (D) the Food for Peace Act (7 U.S.C. 1721 et seq.).
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to the rule, the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Poe) and the gentleman from New York (Mr. Engel) each will control 20 minutes.
The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Texas.
General Leave Mr. POE of Texas. Madam Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may have 5 legislative days to revise and extend their remarks and include extraneous material on the bill.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from Texas? There was no objection.
Mr. POE of Texas. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Madam Speaker, I want to thank Chairman Royce and the ranking member, my cosponsor on this legislation, Mr. Connolly from Virginia, for this legislation being brought to the House floor tonight.
The Foreign Aid Authorization Act first passed Congress in 1961. If you mention foreign aid to many Americans, Madam Speaker, it raises their blood pressure. Members of our communities often are concerned about foreign aid to other countries because they are just not quite sure where that aid is going and what that aid is accomplishing.
It is important that we, as Members of the House of Representatives, legislatively communicate to America how America's money is being spent in foreign countries. It is important that we are accountable and that that money, that aid, is accountable to the taxpayers.
It may shock you, Madam Speaker--maybe it won't--but Congress has never passed a law requiring transparency and accountability of foreign aid. I will use a different phrase. We have never audited our foreign aid to see if it is working and to see what it is doing so people can see whether it is successful or not.
The American public is uninformed about how much we spend and why we spend that money. A recent Publish What You Fund study rated half of U.S. agencies in the ``poor'' category when it came to transparency of aid. Transparency is important because it sheds light on where the money is spent. It is a lot harder to steal money if everybody knows where the money went and what it was for.
The American people have a right to know what we are doing with their money. There are a lot of success stories, but many Americans don't know about them. So it is important that we post that information and that the agencies that help in foreign aid assistance post that information on the Web so we know who is getting the money and what they are doing with that money.
Transparency will help foreign aid. It will make it harder for bad actors to steal that aid. It will make those who implement our programs work more vigilantly knowing the information will also be posted online. It will educate the American public about all the ways our country is helping other people around the world. As I said, Madam Speaker, there are a lot of success stories where people are better off because America is helping them.
Transparency by itself, however, won't save all of foreign aid's problems, but without transparency, those problems will not be solved. We also need to evaluate our foreign aid program so we know what works.
The key portions of this bill are transparency of the aid and evaluation of the aid: evaluate that aid to see if it is working, and if it is working may continue to do that aid; evaluate aid--if it is not working, then we cut it off and do something else.
We have all heard about the boondoggles of foreign aid. Big infrastructure projects are especially prone to waste and mismanagement. That is why it is so critically important that, as part of this bill being implemented, licensed engineers who know how to do these infrastructure projects are more involved with their expert input and operational skills.
Let me give you some examples of where foreign aid has been mismanaged. Schools are being built by Americans overseas, but some of those schools never had a student attend them. The Special Inspector for Iraq Reconstruction found out that at least $8 billion in American taxpayer dollars was lost to fraud, waste, and abuse. $44 million was spent on a residential camp to house international police trainers. The camp included an Olympic-sized swimming pool. The problem is, swimming pool and all, it was never used.
The $43 million natural gas station in Afghanistan was built by the Department of Defense when it built the same kind of gas station for $500,000 in Pakistan. Let me explain that again. American taxpayers built a $43 million natural gas station. Besides the enormous, outrageous cost, nobody ever used the gas station in Afghanistan.
So rigorous evaluations of our foreign aid are important because they can tell us whether or not we are really making a lasting impact. We have a long way to go, and the State Department really doesn't have a system in place to keep track of the dollars spent on evaluation of those projects.
The State Department can only tell how much it plans to spend in the future, but as soon as it spends that money on evaluations, it has no way of tracking where the money went. So the State Department can't even tell how many evaluations were even done last year on the aid that we are already spending. Even in its policy, the State Department is moving in the wrong direction. Its new evaluation policy lowers the amount of evaluations that must be done.
USAID has some troubling signs as well. USAID spent less money on evaluations in 2014 than it did in 2013. To solve some of these problems with transparency and with accountability of our foreign aid, Representative Connolly and myself have introduced H.R. 3766, the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act. This bill requires the President to issue guidelines requiring tough evaluations. And on transparency, it codifies what is already being done and increases the amount of information required to be posted online, including actual expenditures and evaluations so everyone knows what we are doing and whether it is working or not.
We need to be reporting on more foreign aid in a more understandable way. The American people want to know where their aid is going, what it is for, and if that aid is effective.
Transparency and accountability for our foreign aid: this is a commonsense bill, and it doesn't cost any money, Madam Speaker.