US Performance in the 2012 Aid Transparency Index: Who Deserves a Gold Star?

Yesterday, ONE joined Publish What You Fund for the US launch of their 2012 Aid Transparency Index. To a packed house, David Hall-Matthews, Managing Director at Publish What You Fund, outlined the results of the 2012 Index. Publish What You Fund’s Aid Transparency Index is the only measure of aid transparency where donor progress can be compared year after year.

The 2012 Aid Transparency Index ranks 72 donor agencies across 43 transparency indicators (for example, if an agency publishes planned project dates, real project dates, evaluations and budgets). Of the 72 donor agencies assessed, 5 US agencies and 1 US program (PEPFAR) were included in this year’s index. Of these, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) ranks best – at 9th of 72. The other US agencies (and program) rank 27th (USAID), 29th (PEPFAR), 34th (Treasury), 46th (State) and 56th (Defense). On average, US agencies (and program), scored a 45%, just above the overall average score of 41%.

As a supplement to the Index, the US Aid Transparency Report Card explains in more detail how US agencies are doing, what they’ve committed to improve, and how they should meet those commitments. Some US institutions have made significant progress since the 2011 Pilot Index. In particular, the Department of the Treasury improved their score by 18%. Still, much more needs to be done to ensure that US agencies and programs are releasing information that can help partner countries and organizations to understand what is going on in their countries, in a timely manner. Fulfilling the US promise to report by the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) standard would go a long way to improve the transparency of US agencies.

At yesterday’s event, Gayle Smith, Senior Director at the National Security Council and Special Assistant to the President, made comments on institutionalizing openness, highlighting the technical progress that is being made on the way to US IATI implementation. Then, ONE President and CEO Michael Elliott led a lively panel in a discussion of the importance of transparency, the limitations caused by bureaucracy and reporting mechanisms, and agency plans to improve transparency (and by extension, their scores in the Index).

the panel

From Left:

David Hall-Matthews, Publish What You Fund, Managing Director

Donald Steinberg, USAID, Deputy Administrator

Moderator, Michael Elliott, CEO, ONE

Robert Goldberg, State Department, Director of the Office of US Foreign Assistance Resources

Sheila Herrling, MCC, Vice President for Policy and Evaluation

Paul O’Brien, Oxfam America, Vice President for Policy and Campaigns

Alongside country budgets and the value of natural resources, aid transparency covers one of the most important inputs to the finances of many developing countries. Aid transparency really matters. When information about aid and other public resources is available to citizens in donor and developing countries, they can hold governments to account to ensure that resources are spent effectively to improve development outcomes and take greater control of their futures. See more on ONE’s agenda on transparency, accountability and open development here.