I was poking around twitter tonight and got a rather rude forwarded tweet from The Heritage Foundation regarding some wasteful US food aid programs. The tweet – as seen below—claims major waste cited in a GAO report. Being I have nothing better to do, I printed out the report and actually read it. I found no such findings in the report. There is some mention that our international food aid programs may overlap in some countries, but the programs (USDA & USAID) coordinate to ensure they are not helping the same people or during the same time-frame.
The Heritage Foundation always finds WASTE, even when its not there. Then trumpets the solution, cut the program, screw the poor, hungry, and sick. Unfortunately, this report from the GAO cited progress for these two programs. How can they get it so wrong?
On the Heritage Foundation site (I won’t link to them) the below quote was cited from the 2012 GAO report;
The GAO reports that USAID and USDA’s efforts have “been fragmented and uncoordinated across the U.S. government” and that it “examined the extent to which these agencies’ non-emergency food aid programs pursue similar objectives.”The actual complete sentences from the GAO report -Dec 2012 (my emphasis)
We previously reported that efforts to mitigate these factors have been fragmented and uncoordinated across the U.S. government. In response to your concerns about fragmentation, overlap, and duplication in USAID and USDA nonemergency food aid programs, we examined the extent to which these agencies’ nonemergency food aid programs pursue similar objectives.Notice the current GAO report is actually re-quoting the original report from 2008 and the request from congress for further information. This new report (Dec 2012) is a progress report and is requested by multiple Rep’s including Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK). After reading the new report it clearly states that these agencies have made significant progress to address the issues cited in the 2008 report.
The new report finds that;
USAID and USDA share broad objectives for nonemergency food aid programs; however, we found that these agencies have established some processes to plan and coordinate country activities in efforts to limit overlap.Summary Results (Snippets)
Geographic Focus: Some USAID and USDA nonemergency food aid programs were delivered in the same geographic areas. For example, in Guatemala, USAID’s Title II Development Assistance Programs and USDA’s McGovern-Dole (Food for Education) were both operating in the same geographic region, Baja Verapaz. In Uganda, USAID’s Title II Development Assistance programs and USDA’s Local and Regional Procurement Pilot programs were both operating in the same districts, Kitgum and Pader.It sure is a shame that poor & hungry people reside in the same areas/countries. If only we could move them to different places, sigh.
Similar Activities: Some USAID and USDA nonemergency food aid programs carried out similar activities; however, in these cases the activities were either delivered to different participant groups or different locations, or implementation time lines varied. For example, in Guatemala, USDA’s Food for Education and USAID’s Title II Development Assistance programs both provided sanitary infrastructure (i.e., constructing latrines) and agricultural training. In Uganda, USDA’s Local and Regional Procurement Pilot and USAID’s Title II Development Assistance programs both included rehabilitation of rural roads, but USAID’s program in Guatemala benefited households, while USDA’s program benefited school children.Hmmm... helping households and children, the horror, sigh.
Common Partners: Some USAID and USDA nonemergency food aid programs used common implementing partners to administer the programs.I just wanted to get the real information out. If someone puts out misleading quotes/tweets in order keep the “Government Wastes Our Money” curtain up, I have to set the record straight.
According to these implementing partners, Mercy Corps and Share Guatemala, though program goals and objectives between these two agencies may overlap, the program participants do not. For example, Mercy Corps officials in Uganda told us that while the focus of both USAID Title II and USDA Food for Progress programs were smallholder farmers, the program participants varied because they lived in different geographic focus areas.
Thanx for listening…