WASHINGTON, Jan 29: US-funded programmes in Pakistan often fail to achieve their objectives, mostly because they are not effectively implemented, says a US government monitoring agency.
The US Agency for International Aid’s inspector general’s office underlines two such programmes — a $100 million grant to support education sector reforms in Pakistan and a $45 million plan aimed at improving governance in Fata — to show how agencies entrusted with implementing those projects failed to do so.
One of the audit reports, put on the inspector general’s website on Jan 28, deals with the $45 million USAID programme for improving the ability of Pakistani tribal leaders to govern Fata.
According to the audit report, the programme’s first main goal was improving the capacity of Fata governmental institutions to govern while its second goal was to increase the capacity of NGOs working there to promote good governance.
“It has not achieved the goal of improving the capacity of Fata governmental institutions to govern,” and it “did not increase the capacities of (local) NGOs to promote good governance, although some progress was made,” the report observed.
The audit found that little progress had been achieved to build the capacity of the Fata Secretariat and the Fata Development Authority, in part because the programme got off to such a slow start.
The agency reports that the few Fata-based NGOs that exist lack the human and financial resources to promote good governance effectively.
The two-year-old Fata development programme was also aimed to help improve living standards in one of Pakistan’s poorest and most politically unstable territories. So far, only $15.5 million has been spent on the initiative.
More specifically, the programme — which is run by a US-based NGO called Development Alternative, Inc. — was set up in January 2008 to aid local government officials and charities in developing the capacity to absorb the large amounts of western assistance that have flowed into the area to challenge the political standing of the region’s extremists.
It funds the activities of the Fata development authority, which employs 100 people, and Fata secretariat, which oversees nearly 30,000 local employees, including teachers and health-care workers. But the “programme has made little headway in achieving its two main goals,” according to the audit.
It took 9 months to identify local charities to support, and 400 computers purchased for government offices remain in unopened boxes. Another 72 laptops were unaccounted for at the time of the audit.
In a response, USAID’s Pakistan mission director Robert J. Wilson told journalists the agency would seek to ensure the delivery of the computers by the end of March. He said that 55 of 72 missing laptops had been found and that USAID would bill the contractor and the Pakistani authorities for the rest if they did not turn up.
The report cites some progress, including training in financial management and programme and development planning for 1,224 local officials. The programme also provided some training and office equipment for 42 non-governmental organisations.
The report also faults a change of political strategy by the Obama administration, which is now calling for US assistance to be channelled through local charities, for placing the programme in limbo.
Another audit report deals with education sector reforms. In August 2002, USAID signed a $100 million Strategic Objective Grant Agreement to support the government of Pakistan’s education sector reform action plan.
This action plan outlined the vision, strategies and objectives for education sector reforms. To support the government’s action plan and to broaden access to quality education, USAID/Pakistan designed its five-year Education Sector Reform Assistance (ESRA) programme. The objective of the ESRA programme was to provide the knowledge, training and infrastructure necessary to help officials and citizens develop high-quality education programmes for girls and boys throughout Pakistan.
To implement the ESRA programme, USAID/Pakistan awarded a $60 million cooperative agreement to Research Triangle Institute (RTI) in December 2002.
The audit “could not determine whether USAID/Pakistan’s ESRA programme achieved results because the audit team could not rely on the mission’s monitoring of the ESRA programme or on RTI’s reporting of the programme’s achievements against the targets”.