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House, Senate reintroduce foreign aid transparency bill

By Julian Pecquet on July 10, 2013
© The Hill

House and Senate lawmakers on Wednesday introduced bipartisan legislation demanding far greater transparency in how the United States spends its foreign aid.

The recent events in Egypt, which gets $1.5 billion in annual U.S. aid, are expected to give the popular bill an added boost and a clear chance of passing this year. Similar legislation passed unanimously in the House in the last Congress but died in the Senate.

“America’s foreign assistance programs need greater transparency to ensure that they are advancing our values and interests overseas,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a co-sponsor of the Senate bill along with fellow Foreign Relations panel member Ben Cardin (D-Md.). “Taxpayers deserve to know where their tax dollars are being spent and how effectively these investments are representing our nation’s international priorities.

The House version was introduced by Foreign Affairs panel members Ted Poe (R-Texas) and Gerry Connelly (D-Va.).

The bill would require the administration to update its fledgling Foreign Assistance Dashboard with detailed information about how such assistance is used by program and country. Relevant federal departments or agencies would be required to publish and update the dashboard quarterly with country assistance strategies, annual budget 
documents, budget obligations and expenditures, and evaluation reports for projects and programs.

It also mandates the administration to “establish goals, performance, and evaluation guidelines for US foreign assistance programs, country assistance plans, and international and multilateral assistance programs,” according to a summary. It would require federal agencies administering foreign aid to regularly monitor and evaluate these programs against specific metrics, as well as to publish the results of these evaluations online. 

Organizations that support foreign aid spending welcome the transparency legislation.

“Making all U.S. foreign assistance more transparent and accountable will help certify that money is used efficiently
 and justify to Congress and the American people the rationale for increased funding,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World and co-chair of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN). “We stand a good chance of getting this legislation passed this year. The fact that it is a bipartisan initiative makes it particularly meaningful to members of Bread for
 the World.”

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