Combating Terrorism:

Planning and Documentation of U.S. Development Assistance in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas Need to Be Improved

GAO-10-289: Published: Apr 15, 2010. Publicly Released: Apr 15, 2010.

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Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) has been a recognized safe haven for al Qaeda leadership and a base for the Taliban to launch cross-border attacks into Afghanistan. The United States, in an effort to assist Pakistan in addressing this threat, pledged $750 million between 2007 and 2011 to support development activities in the FATA region. This report focuses on (1) the extent U.S. development objectives align with U.S. national security goals and Pakistan's objectives, (2) U.S. efforts to track the pledge, (3) U.S. efforts to measure program performance in the FATA, and (4) efforts to monitor assistance in the FATA. GAO reviewed U.S. and Pakistani documents and interviewed U.S. and Pakistani officials in Washington, D.C., and Pakistan. GAO has prepared this report under the Comptroller General's authority to conduct evaluations on his own initiative.

U.S. national security goals call for development assistance to aid the Pakistani government in addressing terrorist threats emanating from the FATA. GAO found that U.S. development objectives in the FATA are generally aligned with U.S. national security goals and Pakistan's FATA development plans. In September 2007, USAID and Pakistan signed an agreement regarding development activities in the FATA including the creation of joint strategic implementation plans for the seven FATA geographic areas. We found, however, that the U.S. and Pakistan have not yet completed such plans. The U.S. government has implemented two efforts to track its $750 million pledge in accordance with good management practices. State is tallying allocations of U.S. programs in Pakistan's western frontier region (which includes the FATA), and the USAID controller in Islamabad has undertaken an effort to track most, but not all, U.S. development-related obligations and expenditures in the FATA. As of the end of fiscal year 2009, the U.S. government has reportedly allocated over $728 million toward the pledge. USAID and State collect reports on the performance of their FATA-specific programs. However, key elements, such as identification of evaluation efforts and a timeline for reviewing implementing partner reports required by USAID's regulations are missing in its performance management plan for the FATA. Also, State did not collect all the required project performance documentation. Long-term development programs for which performance could be measured against annual targets generally did not achieve targets. Although hampered by security challenges that prevent direct monitoring called for in its guidance, USAID has taken steps to apply a set of indirect monitoring procedures. This includes collecting information from implementing partners and locally employed staff, and the use of a geographic information system. While USAID officials told GAO they use these methods, GAO found that USAID did not always document the use of these monitoring procedures. GAO also found that State has several monitoring procedures, but had not fully documented their use of these procedures.

Status Legend:

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  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To help ensure that U.S. development projects associated with the U.S. pledge and future spending plans for Pakistan continue to be aligned with our national security goal of assisting Pakistan in addressing terrorist threats, and have clearly articulated monitoring responsibilities, indicators, and performance tracking, USAID should work with the government of Pakistan to complete the development of joint strategic implementation plans as originally called for in the agreement between USAID and the government of Pakistan.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: USAID agreed with our overall message that U.S. assistance in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) should be well planned and documented. However with regard to our recommendation, USAID noted that given the security situation they and the FATA Secretariat had jointly agreed that the development of the original FATA-level strategies was no longer a relevant and worthwhile activity. We reiterated that the joint plans could help to ensure clear implementation and monitoring expectations between the U.S. and Pakistani government for FATA development projects particularly in light of the challenging security environment. In February 2012, the USAID Inspector General also recommended that USAID develop a strategic plan to link short-term stabilization programs to its longer term development goals in the FATA. In response to both the GAO and USAID IG recommendations, in February 2013, USAID issued a Mission Transition Strategy for Pakistan. In July 2013, USAID issued a Mission Strategic Framework for Pakistan to accompany the Mission Transition Strategy. Collectively, these plans outline a strategy for stabilization that includes the FATA region and expands the strategic focus to several locations throughout Pakistan. The Mission Strategic Framework addressed our recommendation by articulating monitoring responsibilities, a process for identifying and annex of indicators, and a performance tracking calendar. The Mission Transition Strategy for Pakistan was developed with the input of Government of Pakistan officials and therefore constitutes a joint strategic implementation plan.

    Recommendation: To provide a more complete picture and enhance the tracking of U.S. assistance for the FATA, USAID should take steps to incorporate the funding amounts for its nationwide attributed programs into the USAID controller in Islamabad's FATA pipeline report.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: USAID concurred with the recommendation. In response, USAID officials have said that they made a number of attempts to implement it such as by developing new information systems, but were unsuccessful. For example, the U.S. Mission in Islamabad tested a new system, OPS Master, in 2010. However, the manual data entry was deemed to be too onerous for their specific program. A later version of OPS Master which corrected for this problem was tested but discontinued by the USAID's Chief Information Officer due to security concerns. USAID then developed and tried a new performance management database called PakInfo. However, this system was unable to incorporate all the funding information. We are closing this recommendation as unimplemented by USAID given that 1) USAID did not undertake any effort to incorporate any information on its nationwide programs in Pakistan that may also benefit the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA)/KP (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) region, this includes the lack of a reference that such additional assistance exists; 2) USAID's existing information management systems are not currently designed to capture or report on the totality of USAID's investment in any specific geographical location such as FATA/KP; and 3) USAID officials have said they have no further plans to try to implement this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To improve upon existing efforts to measure the progress of U.S. development assistance projects associated with the fulfillment of the U.S. pledge, consistent with ADS requirements, and to provide a basis for planning future development assistance for FATA, the USAID Administrator should include in its performance management plan for the FATA Development Program: (1) possible evaluation efforts, (2) a calendar of performance management tasks, (3) the baseline and targeted values for each performance indicator in the Performance Management Plan, and (4) a description of the known data limitations for each performance indicator.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: USAID concurred with our recommendations, stating USAID would continue to improve its performance management system to further address the weaknesses GAO identified. Subsequently, in July 2013, USAID issued a new Mission Strategic Framework that includes the new performance management plan. In response to the first part of our recommendation, USAID's new performance management plan includes possible evaluation efforts as well as a discussion of the responsibilities for updating and reviewing these evaluation efforts. The new information on possible evaluations also includes large projects and innovative development initiatives. In response to the second part of our recommendation, the new performance management plan also includes a performance management schedule in a calendar format that includes the performance management tasks such as the development of the next performance management plan, the mission monitoring and evaluation plan, data quality assessments, and operational plan, when they are to be performed, and how often they should recur. In response to the third and fourth parts of our recommendation, the new performance management plan also includes information on baseline and targeted values for a performance indicator as well as information on the associated known data limitations. Therefore, USAID has completely addressed the four parts of our recommendation to improve the performance management plan for the FATA.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that the government of Pakistan is using U.S. funds as intended, the Secretary of State should take steps to improve INL's performance reporting documentation.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: State concurred with our recommendation and committed to take it under consideration as it refined the existing process and defines new requirements for performance measurement and reporting. Subsequent to our recommendation, INL has taken steps to improve documentation of its monitoring efforts. For example, in April 2013, INL showed us copies of monthly progress reports from 2012 and 2013 that provide information on the expenditures made on projects and copies of review minutes, also from 2012 and 2013, for its project review board meetings, which detail the allocation of project funds, as well as decisions affecting projects and their activities. The documents INL showed us close some of the documentation gaps we identified in GAO-10-289, including a lack of contract approvals and documentation of project review meetings for certain projects. The documentation State showed and provided us of contract approvals, periodic progress reports, and periodic review meetings provide a more complete view of how the State projects are performing and therefore show State has taken steps to improve INL's performance reporting documentation.

    Recommendation: To improve upon U.S. efforts to monitor assistance programs in the FATA, the USAID Administrator should take steps to improve USAID's documentation of its alternative monitoring efforts related to the FATA.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: USAID has subsequently taken actions to improve its monitoring efforts related to the FATA. In 2011, USAID began conducting and documenting assessments of their implementing partners' monitoring and evaluation processes. These assessments examined data collection, documentation, and monitoring procedures and identified key steps that needed to be taken to improve monitoring. Further, effective in 2012, USAID issued two task orders to improve the monitoring of its development efforts in the FATA. These task orders instruct implementing partners to improve their monitoring and reporting to USAID for two key programs, the Child Protection Program Affected by the Conflict in Khyber Pahktunkwa province and FATA and the Housing Uniform Subsidy Assistance Project. In addition, USAID provided examples of monitoring trip reports made in 2011 to multiple geographic regions to further demonstrate improvements it has taken to document its monitoring of development efforts.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should take steps to improve State's documentation of its monitoring efforts for programs that cover FATA and the western frontier region.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In their July 2010 letter to the Senate Foreign Relations committee, the Department acknowledged that reporting on the efforts in the FATA and Western Frontier could be improved. State also wrote that the GAO report prompted them to initiate new efforts to improve their monitoring documentation. INL provided a copy of a site visit report dated March 2012 that reflects improvement over the documentation we originally reviewed for our 2010 report. The report includes photographs for each of the ten projects being reviewed, the names of staff participating in the visit, the date of the visit, and the location of the projects, including coordinates.

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