Skip to content

The accidental NGO and USAID transparency test

The following post was written by Till Bruckner, PhD candidate at the University of Bristol and former Transparency International Georgia aid monitoring coordinator.  An op-ed from Bill in Monday’s Wall Street Journal mentioned Till’s struggles with USAID; here Till provides the details.

The aid industry routinely pushes institutions in developing countries to become more transparent and accountable. But a slow and almost comically incomplete donor response to a request to see some specific project budgets sheds light on exactly how willing donors are to apply such “best practices” to themselves.

As I described in a previous Aid Watch blog post, I filed a Freedom of Information request with USAID after ten international NGOs working in the Republic of Georgia refused to publish their project budgets. After a painful, 14-month struggle, including failing to respond at all to my first three communications, USAID finally released a set of documents covering project budgets of 19 UN bodies, NGOs and private contractors.

A portion of World Vision project budget provided by USAID

The documents are disappointingly full of blacked-out non-information. The level of disclosure varies drastically from one document to the next. Some budgets are provided in full, while others appear as blacked-out row upon row. In three cases, USAID even withheld the identity of the contractor itself. USAID explained this inconsistency saying that it was legally required to contact each grantee to give it “the opportunity to address how the disclosure of their information could reasonably be expected to cause substantial competitive harm.”

I wondered why USAID is legally bound to follow its grantees’ wishes in deciding which information to withhold. Can the grantees of a US federal agency really compel that agency to keep the total amount disbursed, or even their very identities, secret? Why doesn’t USAID specify full disclosure as a grant condition? I have filed an appeal with USAID to address these questions, and will keep the readers of this blog updated.

Since according to USAID every piece of blacked-out information was withheld on request of the grantee, the budgets provide a fascinating glimpse into aid agencies’ willingness to open their books. If USAID blackouts do NOT correspond to NGO requests, I would be happy to correct the record.

Perhaps surprisingly, the United Nations showed the highest consistent commitment to transparency. The budgets of the two UN agencies funded by USAID are both reproduced in full.

UMCOR, Mercy Corps, and AIHA emerge as the most transparent NGOs. These charities apparently felt that they had nothing to hide, and did not request USAID to black out any of the information contained in their budgets.

In contrast, Save the Children apparently asked USAID to withhold all information related to salaries. As even the aggregate subtotals for international and national staff have been blacked out, concerns about the privacy of individual staff members cannot have been the sole concern driving the organization’s response. Still, the fact that all non-salary related budget lines remain visible put Save the Children in the middle ground in terms of NGO transparency.

CARE’s response is harder to interpret as USAID inexplicably sent only an aggregated “summary budget” that leaves little to conceal. What information exists shows that CARE did not object to the release of unit prices for supplementary food items, or of aggregated staff and operational support costs. In contrast, CARE appears to regard its “indirect cost rate” and “cost share” as confidential. To hide this information, USAID also had to black out the budget’s bottom line, thus leaving unclear how many taxpayer dollars were handed over in total.

Portion of CNFA project budget provided by USAID

The least transparent NGOs in this test are CNFA, World Vision, and Counterpart International. They apparently requested that USAID black out all information in their budgets except for the grand total. Apparently, these NGOs consider budget items such as “office furniture” (CNFA), “visibility items (t-shirts, caps, publications)” (World Vision) and “forklift expenses” (Counterpart) as confidential information whose release could cause them substantial competitive harm.

What does this transparency test tell us? First, USAID’s mechanism for responding to Freedom of Information requests desperately needs an overhaul. It took USAID 14 months to respond to a simple information request. Ironically, in terms of FOIA responsiveness, USAID is less transparent than public institutions in the Republic of Georgia, as recently assessed by a local watchdog organization. And we are still waiting to hear why USAID allows its own contractors to operate in secrecy whenever they wish. All of this places USAID in an awkward position as it recommends greater transparency and accountability to Georgia.

Second, NGOs have publicly committed themselves to transparency and accountability, but their actions show that their interpretations of what this entails in practice differ widely. For example, World Vision is a full member of the Humanitarian Accountability Partnership, but still asked USAID to hide all of its budget information apart from the bottom line. The Georgian country office of Mercy Corps had earlier refused to release its project budgets, but its headquarters apparently has no such reservations. Save the Children is willing to release indirect cost rates but refuses to divulge even aggregate salary information, while CARE appears more relaxed regarding human resource expenses even as it fiercely guards information on its indirect costs rates. Both USAID and the NGOs have too often violated the elementary principles of transparency.

This entry was posted in Accountability and transparency and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.


  1. Scott wrote:

    Here here Till. Any thoughts on why USAID is like this? An old dinosaur slow to change? Embarrassing information about poor budgeting? Legitimate security or privacy concerns?

    Posted August 18, 2010 at 7:25 am | Permalink
  2. Carla wrote:

    Till, keep up the great work.

    Posted August 18, 2010 at 8:31 am | Permalink
  3. Inayet H. wrote:

    Thank you for your investigation into NGO’s corruption and lack of transparency. I must say that in Afghanistan the situation of International NGO’s corruption & fraud is criminal. Another reason why the Taliban are winning.

    Posted August 18, 2010 at 9:46 am | Permalink
  4. Andy wrote:

    Kudos, Till. You are fighting a difficult (and no doubt frustrating) fight but this really exposes the blatant hypocrisy of many involved in development agencies – do as we say, not as we do.

    Posted August 18, 2010 at 9:50 am | Permalink
  5. Ned Breslin wrote:

    This is of course disturbing and thanks for bringing it to light. Sadly, its only part of the lack of transparency that dominates the NGOs, bi-laterals and multi-laterals. We will get nowhere until we also look at issues of transparency and accountability in terms of field outcomes. Have a look at the short 2-pager (starting on page 10) on why outcomes in the water sector are also hidden

    Keep up the good work!

    Posted August 18, 2010 at 9:55 am | Permalink
  6. Jeff Barnes wrote:

    While I admire and support the spirit of this post, the world, alas, is not so simple. In fact there is a conflict between the principle of transparency and the principle of open competition. If donors only gave out grants on an uncompeted basis, they could require grantees to share all of their information with anyone who wants it. I don’t think anyone seriously thinks uncompeted grants is the best way of procuring services from organizations with the expertise to make aid more effective. If you accept that competition is necessary, then you have to accept the fact that organizations that compete with each other to obtain USAID funding want to keep some of their cost information confidential. Knowing what my competitors pay their staff, what their indirect rates are and how much they may devote technical inputs will give me an advantage in bidding against them.

    Posted August 18, 2010 at 10:48 am | Permalink
  7. Well done, Till. This is the kind of detailed (but painful) analysis that one has to do to show just how ridiculously non-transparent the USG is about aid data. We have encountered all of the experiences you describe in our work on PEPFAR (as part of the HIV/AIDS Monitor at CGD) in DC and in 3 African countries. We have called for greater sharing of program and financial data, and things are improving slowly, but very slowly. For example, the annual COPS or country operating plans for PEPFAR countries were released on PEPFAR’s website with financial information (obligations or commitments) redacted, much like you describe. Lovely squares and strips of black all over the 1000 page docs! With our’s and others’ efforts, PEPFAR began to post without the black outs, but guess what? You have to go through a1000 page document to find what an NGO receives for a given fiscal year, and repeat that all over again for every cop, (I think we are up to 7 now) if you want to figure out a cumulative total an NGO received from the USG for PEPFAR. Of course, no detail about allocations. We have bemoaned this lack of transparency over the last 4 years because it has made our work on aid effectiveness so difficult, but we discovered recently that PEPFAR, was by far one of the better examples of USG programs for which data are shared. Can’t get much data from the USG on other health programs. The glimmer of hope is that this administration is committed to transparency, so let’s see what happens with that!!

    Posted August 18, 2010 at 11:17 am | Permalink
  8. Bill Stepp wrote:


    Why don’t you call for an end to the tax-perping UN, as well the IMF, World Bank, OECD, and various other statist ngos?
    Btw, I don’t know why they’re called ngos. After all, their budgets are met by taxes, particularly those stolen from Americans.

    Posted August 18, 2010 at 12:13 pm | Permalink
  9. Scott Gilmore wrote:

    I agree with Jeff Barnes above. In open competition, NGOs like these have to worry about the beltway bandits rigging their bids to undercut on price (and likely under deliver on value.)

    Also, it is important to realize that transparency on impact is what we need, not transparency on process. If one NGO can out perform everyone else, but blows 50% of its budget on first class tickets and leather office chairs, I don’t care, I just want the most people helped on the ground.

    Posted August 18, 2010 at 1:12 pm | Permalink
  10. didier wrote:

    To say the NGOs are not transparent is an overstatement. They all publish their tax statements, income statements and balance sheets as a matter of course. They are transparent in the sense that the law requires them to.

    To say they are not accountable is again an overstatement. They are required to be audited regularly if they receive USAID funding and regularly submit expenditure reports to USAID, the entity that funded them.

    What you are reaching for here is a degree of granularity for public disclosure that has heretofore not really been explored – it is the disclosure of line item detail at the project level which is not usually looked at when reporting institutional transparency and accountability except when you are looking at things like executive salaries and compensation packages – which NGOs do publish.

    It is certainly worth exploring to what point an institution needs to publish the cost of an item by project, but at some point the need to know how much a paper clip cost in each project might be less useful than just checking the total spent on office supplies (both for the people who hold themselves up as watchdogs and the folks that have to put out the information).

    Posted August 18, 2010 at 1:40 pm | Permalink
  11. Depend Dance wrote:

    Scott’s comment delivers (unintentionally?) the crushing, brutal punch line:

    “In open competition, NGOs like these have to worry about the beltway bandits rigging their bids to undercut on price (and likely under deliver on value.)”

    But, no value was delivered, was it? :-(

    Nor will it ever be. Shut this agency down.

    Posted August 18, 2010 at 1:41 pm | Permalink
  12. As the representative of a vast network of NGOs that receive significant funding either directly from USAID or through various other USG mechanisms, I confess: I do know of this or the other “sole sourced” Cooperative Agreement issued to (sometimes for-profit) HRI affiliates and it’s not unheard of that competed RFAs/ RFPs are hand-tailored for HRI affiliates, in countries where HRI is not even present, for work we know nothing about. But that ain’t illegal, right? Coz our “compliance” unit never found a flaw in the contracts and USAID assures us it’s all legit.

    Besides, never mind filing freedom of info requests, the beauty is that even international organizations (local ones don’t count they are always “subs”) that could do a better job for less money have to play nice with us while we offer them small “sub-agreements”, otherwise their pathetic little funding will dry out completely: anybody knows there is no sin greater than appearing to be uncooperative in this business. And both USAID and HRI know how to keep a grudge.

    So, see y’all at the next USG coordination meeting called to pretend feedback is sought from “partners” on issues well decided beforehand (a “weasel hold’em” in HRI jargon:

    Posted August 18, 2010 at 2:56 pm | Permalink
  13. Nate wrote:

    Some interesting materials here. As with some previous comments, I think looking budgetary information alone is not enough to determine accountability. While detailed info about office furniture may help head off certain types of misappropriation, it does not allow analysis of actual field outcomes. In terms of accountability, I am more interested in seeing NGOs open up their non-financial design, reporting, and evaluation work to external scrutiny. If CNFA spent more on ergonomic office furniture that enabled them to achieve better results, ok. Although figures may not be as transparent as they should, in my experience NGOs are, at least internally, relatively concerned with financial accountability. Operations accountability, on the other hand, I find to be very weak. NGOs spend the money, but do they fulfill what they promise? This is much more than a financial question.

    Posted August 18, 2010 at 4:36 pm | Permalink
  14. Raphael wrote:

    Hurray for the UN, UMCOR, Mercy Corps, and AIHA! At least that is the good news, right?

    For Save the Children, can’t you just take the total budget and subtract the other line items to get the total for salaries? Seems pretty simple. I understand why they would not disclose specific salaries.

    For the other orgs, I’m amazed they are so opaque!

    It would be interesting to compare this disclosure with private sector and governmental agencies. Do they provide this type of detailed project level information?

    BTW, budgets are the least sensitive part of any proposal. You would get a completely blacked out document if you asked for the technical narrative. That is where the meat is, and that is where the competition is most important. For proposals I write, I would be loath to share the design (strategies, interventions, etc) I’m using!

    Posted August 18, 2010 at 5:43 pm | Permalink
  15. AA wrote:

    @ Barnes and Gilmore:

    The competition line is tired. These are not revenues, they are public funds being administered to contractors and NGOs, who tend to NOT compete with each other–these are entirely different niche markets with different capacities.

    Posted August 18, 2010 at 7:20 pm | Permalink
  16. Jeff Barnes wrote:

    @AA: Clearly you do not work in the USAID world. For profits and non profits compete with each other all the time. Some organizations have for profit and non profit arms. Some non profits are able and do charge fees the same way for profits do. The government funding is certainly revenue for the organizations that bid for them.

    Posted August 19, 2010 at 1:06 am | Permalink
  17. AA wrote:

    @ Barnes

    Yes, Jeff, I actually do work in the sector and know first hand that the work of NGOs and contractors, for example, overlap but do not directly compete, and each has very different approaches to service provision. Often the sectors collaborate.

    Further, USAID’s use of public funds in this work does, I think, legitimately change our expectations about what level of transparency should be enforced. You didn’t address that point.

    Posted August 19, 2010 at 1:24 am | Permalink
  18. Jeff Barnes wrote:

    @AA: Well I don’t know what your experience has been, but I have worked for non profits and am currently working for a for profit (although with an average profit margin of 1%, we barely qualify). I can assure you we compete directly with non profits and are in the same market. We just recently lost a bid to a non profit and we spent over $90,000 on the proposal effort.

    Re the larger point of how much transparency donors should provide and require of their “implementing partners”, my main point is that there are no absolutes. I agree with some of the other posts that the first area for greater transparency would be to objectively evaluate program impacts and publish those results openly. USAID has also been lacking in that area. That is far more important than how much we are paying our staff and how much goes to office supplies.

    Posted August 19, 2010 at 8:55 am | Permalink
  19. AA wrote:

    Nice comment about ‘no absolutes’, Jeff, I completely agree there. And I would submit that NGOs and private contractors could be said to compete for contracts in the sense that they develop different niche advantages or different strengths and capacities to implement as a way to deal with a competitive marketplace.

    Except from your initial post it sounds like you have a pretty absolutist attitude toward market competitiveness as a concept–particularly if you see it being a legitimate reason not to disclose internal financial processes. After the recent financial crisis, I find that a hard pill to swallow. I don’t think I’m alone there either.

    I’m not with you on your second point. I think disclosure of staff salaries, travel expenses, holiday excursions on institutional monies, etc. are an essential component of internal spending transparency overall and that it should be required and enforced. Particularly because USAID, who administers the funds to NGOs and contractors in this case study, is using US tax revenues, or public monies, to do so. If the NGOs and contractors are misusing those funds, I should think USAID would want to know about it. Unless, of course, it has a reason to look the other way.

    Posted August 19, 2010 at 3:38 pm | Permalink
  20. AA wrote:

    I don’t think better salaries necessarily mean better results, either. That’s a personal observation from inside the industry.

    Posted August 19, 2010 at 3:49 pm | Permalink
  21. Jeff Barnes wrote:

    AA: One final comment or we should take this discussion offline.. We need to distinguish between public transparency and transparency between a donor and its contractors. I completely agree that a donor should have a say on what a contractor pays its staff and should be able to examine the books. USAID does that all the time. I disagree that the general public (including competitors of the contractor) should have free and open access to that information at all times. The benefits of that transparency are outweighed by the constraints it puts on competition.

    Posted August 19, 2010 at 5:12 pm | Permalink
  22. Adam Baker wrote:

    As a methodological issue, I would caution about interpreting the lack of disclosure. I’m imagining that the FOIA was delivered not to the CEO in an FBI raid, but to a secretary in the mail. The secretary passes it on to an accounting underling, the accounting underling to his boss. That boss searches for someone to take responsibility for this unique decision, which falls under nobody’s purview. Finally, some one says “if they’re going to let us redact it, just redact the whole thing.”

    So, I think it’s quite possible the reaction was not a nefarious, “The competition must not learn how much we spend on office furniture!” but a more apathetic, “Bill, would you look into this?”

    Posted August 20, 2010 at 9:45 am | Permalink
  23. jon thiele wrote:

    Given the nature of this forum it is understandable that the talk would get a little too “inside baseball” so the comments about the NGOs’ competition and self interest are expected (and valid). The question, though, is about how tax money is spent. The deal is simple: if you get some of it you must follow certain rules such as disclosure so taxpayers can see where their money went. In this case, USAID has failed in its fiduciary responsibililty by allowing contractors and grantees to decide what USAID will report in response to FOIs.

    (Prediction: the next will begin “Well, USAID has outsourced every other aspect of ….”)

    Posted August 20, 2010 at 11:41 am | Permalink
  24. Marc Maxson wrote:

    To AidWatchers – great post! I already posted it to fans of FOIA on facebook.

    To Jeff Barnes RE: competitive advantage of transparency: The NIH runs a transparent competitive research granting system where the indirect costs of university overheads and salaries are known by all players. And yet… that’s all irrelevant in the end. The REALLY MATTERS to getting NIH grants is whether the research proposal has merit, which sadly is something that none of these large NGOs seem to be very competitive at – measuring how their work improves lives compared to the next guy.

    I’ll be the first to admit that “merit” in science is easier to compare than merit in development, but let’s not lose sight of this goal.

    Posted August 21, 2010 at 12:47 am | Permalink
  25. SteveinVT wrote:

    I suspect USAID’s concern here is that they want to prevent future protests. If they simply disclosed the detailed financial information for these NGOs and not other groups or contractors, these NGOs could claim competitive disadvantage and protest the results of future RFAs and RFPs. USAID has to treat all applicants equally, so they probably asked the NGOs so that the NGOs would take responsibility for information disclosed.
    This leads to a second point: if USAID is going to disclose financial information, it needs a uniform standard for disclosure. This type of financial information is quite helpful for competitors. Just glancing at it, I can infer a lot about an NGOs cost structure and allocation (direct v indirect). That can be critical info when a highly competitive RFP might come down to cost/value at the BAFO stage. Therefore, the disclosure has to be standardized so that all competitors have access to the same info.

    On the broader goal of the post, I fully support these types of efforts. USAID needs to be pushed on this so that they will take stakeholder accountability more seriously.

    Posted August 21, 2010 at 7:03 am | Permalink
  26. Till Bruckner wrote:

    @Adam Baker:
    I fully agree with your assessment. One aim of my work is to establish what NGOs’ (and donors’) paper commitments to “transparency” and “accountability” actually translate into in practice. My impression to date is that NGOs themselves do not know because nobody has ever put them on the spot and forced them to think about it. So we’re witnessing a very messy process of disjointed ad hoc policy formulation through the creation of precedents.
    Hopefully, my appeal to USAID (see link to full text above) will establish a very clear precedent in untested waters from the donor side.

    I agree that all of USAID’s grant applicants should receive the same treatment from USAID. My FOIA did not only cover NGOs, but also commercial contractors (see its orginal text, linked in the blog), and some budgets supplied (see link above) are those of commercial contractors.
    However, when confronted by submitter notifications in response to a FOIA, I would expect NGOs – who have made public commitments to transparency and accountability, who claim the mantle of charity, and who solicit individual donations from members of the public at large as well as competing for government contracts – not to instruct USAID to withhold information that USAID itself would be willing to release, which seems to be what happened in some of the cases discussed in the blog.

    Posted August 21, 2010 at 10:53 am | Permalink
  27. Firstly; when everything is transparent you don’t see anything…. the first prospectus I wrote for an investment fund in NL was fifteen pages (and we never had any complaints and everybody understood what was done etc). The last subscription form ( ! ) I signed for a US investment fund was 24 pages and connected to a prospectus of almost 150 pages. These 150 pages were written by a law firm and I do not hold a law degree….. Everything was in the prospectus, so it was ‘transparent’ but does that help in any way for the original purpose ? NO it really does not.

    Secondly; we have seen what happened in a sector that was driven towards more en more transparency.
    The financial sector is a case in point where (just one example..) Madoff was able to scrape away 65 billion dollar while being ‘transparent’ according to the rules….

    We will not solve these issues by making longer checklists and imposing more rules and regulations.

    There are two items we have to look at more and better (as well as in the financial sector);

    – Size does matter…..
    – Who is in charge (not a popular item) and how do we remunerate them (much too popular item).

    These two items hold the key (at least for a large part).

    Posted August 28, 2010 at 4:14 am | Permalink
  28. Jeffrey K. Silverman wrote:

    Sleeping in the same bed with AEI makes for strange bedfellows for a whistle blower against USAID abuses

    The underlying motivations are not crystal clear, why a lone scholar like Till Bruckner, accruing a long list of enemies who label him a whistle blower with an axe to grind against USAID lack of even basic transparency. Till Bruckner, whose name cannot pull up much at all on Google unrelated to this new polemic emerging circa April 2010, sprang out of nowhere to bemoan the lack of transparency that may be hiding corruption in USAID and their nongovernmental organization affiliates, including their religious aid networks, would pick the American Enterprise Institute’s magazine, THE AMERICAN, to lead the armada as a flagship into the murky waters of investigating the similarties between World Food Program and USAID, which may itself today have grown to be a bloated behemoth of intelligence affiliates.

    The AEI is well known and notorious among its detractors for being the birthplace of hard core neo convervatism, which has been a frightful infestation of American democratic ideals and foreign policy for over 20 years now.

    You may be thinking by now that I am a blind supporter of USAID and the black clouds of legitimate and illegitimate NGOs swarming around USAID and the Republic of Georgia like flies. On the contrary, I have been a long time investigative reporter dredging up such information for public disclosure for a few decades here in the Caucasus.

    The author’s motivations portrayed by some as purely PhD research is a mouthful to chew on and not choke. One can simply Google his mentors, allies, and affiliations and see that there is enough envy and jealousy of a vast rival power network to make an overflowing Georgian ‘supra’ table seem meager. USAID now eclipses the former glory of AEI and their tangled web of patronages.

    Something akin to the legendary rivalry between the Templars and the Hospitallers during the Crusades is going on here, and I don’t think i am the only muckracking hillbilly in these here hills that has noticed so effortlessly, do you?

    And I question if the poor and needy of our planet, and their even more unfortunate brothers and sisters living under bloody repression, who truly need humanitarian aid and development assistance, would be impressed by this infighting and feuding squabble between two juggernauts who in the end will lay out very little for the poor themselves, and leave the recipients questioning the sincerity of the benefits coming from “the American People”. Remember Katrina and Ward 9? Charity starts at home, as well as transparency.

    I have to give Mr. Bruckner credit for coining one of the pithiest sentences i have read in a very long time, “Secrecy and charity make for strange bedfellows.”

    I absolutely agree, and whistle blowing against abuses of U.S. monies exemplified by USAID projects, makes strange bedfellows for AEI.

    Jeffrey Silverman,
    Freelance journalist and former Editor of Georgian Times, 18 years resident of Georgia, who has investigated large scale corruption within USAID in Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Afghanistan.

    Posted August 29, 2010 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

11 Trackbacks

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Conduit Journal, r3publican. r3publican said: The accidental NGO and USAID transparency test – The following post was written by Till Bruckner, PhD candidate… […]

  2. […] no Brasil que a farra acontece, como mostra o exemplo das irmãs ricas das ONGs brasileiros. Onde? Aqui. […]

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by ICFJ Knight, Carla Murphy. Carla Murphy said: great on-going investigation into USAID/NGO transparency […]

  4. […] his Aid Watch blog post, Till Buckner gives this run down on who had nothing to hide and who did not. Perhaps surprisingly, the United Nations […]

  5. […] issue is this.  Aid Watchers has a guest blog up today, by Till Bruckner of University of Bristol.  In it, he laments the unwillingness of USAID […]

  6. By Today’s News « Budget Insight on August 19, 2010 at 6:03 am

    […] The accidental NGO and USAID transparency test The aid industry routinely pushes institutions in developing countries to become more transparent and accountable. But a slow and incomplete donor response to a request to see some specific project budgets sheds light on exactly how willing donors are to apply such “best practices” to themselves. […]

  7. […] trust | An interesting debate about transparency in the aid process is developing, started by this guest post on Bill Easterly’s Aidwatchers […]

  8. […] those of you keeping score at home, Till Bruckner from the University of Bristol lamented that USAID, World Vision, and others refused to provide […]

  9. […] story begins, at least for most of us, with Bruckner’s post on AidWatch in which he singles out two locally familiar humanitarian organizations — World Vision, for […]

  10. By Corruption in USAID Georgia « geonews on August 27, 2010 at 4:33 am

    […] 18 PhD candidate Till Bruckner guest posts again on the AidWatch blog after he is mentioned in a recent OpEd by Bill Easterly. In it he picks […]

  11. […] The accidental NGO and USAID transparency test guest post by Till Bruckner on the Aidwatchers blog is yet another example of recent pieces of research questioning delivery agencies’ transparency and has unleashed a wave of reactions from both the NGO community and the aid transparency community (see Aidinfo blog on What is meaningful transparency for NGOs?).  Another blogger, Francis Bacon, described his attempt to obtain, two years in a row, information on detailed project expenditure form 8 large INGOs and NGO groupings. His requests were either ignored or received an indication to search the information in the organisations annual report. The author openly questions what is the point of NGOs signing the INGO Commitment to Accountability Charter if “they won’t answer a simple query about spending”. […]

  • About Aid Watch

    The Aid Watch blog is a project of New York University's Development Research Institute (DRI). This blog is principally written by William Easterly, author of "The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists' Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics" and "The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good," and Professor of Economics at NYU. It is co-written by Laura Freschi and by occasional guest bloggers. Our work is based on the idea that more aid will reach the poor the more people are watching aid.

    "Conscience is the inner voice that warns us somebody may be looking." - H.L. Mencken

  • Archives