December 4, 2021

News

News Network

Drug Control: U.S. Nonmilitary Assistance to Colombia Is Beginning to Show Intended Results, but Programs Are Not Readily Sustainable

13 min read
<div>Since 2000, the U.S. government has provided a total of $3.3 billion to Colombia, making it the fifth largest recipient of U.S. assistance. Part of this funding has gone toward nonmilitary assistance to Colombia, including programs to (1) promote legitimate economic alternatives to coca and opium poppy; (2) assist Colombia's vulnerable groups, particularly internally displaced persons; and (3) strengthen the country's democratic, legal, and security institutional capabilities. GAO examined these programs' objectives, reported accomplishments, and identified the factors, if any, that limit project implementation and sustainability. We also examined the challenges faced by Colombia and the United States in continuing to support these programs.Although U.S. nonmilitary assistance programs have begun to produce some results, individual projects reach a relatively small number of beneficiaries, face implementation challenges, and may not be sustainable. For example, projects designed to promote legitimate economic alternatives to illicit crop cultivation have helped about 33,400 families. However, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) estimated in 2000 and 2001 that as many as 136,600 families needed assistance, and these projects face implementation obstacles, such as difficulty marketing licit products and operating in conflictive areas. U.S. assistance to Colombia's vulnerable groups has provided support to many internally displaced persons, but these program beneficiaries do not receive all of the assistance they need, and there is no systematic way for beneficiaries to transition from emergency aid to longer-term development assistance. The U.S. government has made some progress toward facilitating democratic reform in Colombia, but projects face certain obstacles, such as limited funding and security constraints. Despite the progress made by the three nonmilitary assistance programs, Colombia and the United States continue to face long-standing management and financial challenges. The Colombian government's ability to contribute funds for nonmilitary assistance programs is limited by a number of domestic and foreign factors, and Colombia's longstanding conflict poses additional challenges to implementing and sustaining nonmilitary assistance efforts. The U.S. government has not maximized the mutual benefits of its nonmilitary assistance programs and has not established a mechanism for vulnerable groups to transition from emergency aid to longer-term assistance. Furthermore, the Departments of State and Justice and USAID have not established timelines for achieving their stated objectives, nor have State and USAID developed a strategy to turn programs over to the Colombian government or to the private sector.</div>

Since 2000, the U.S. government has provided a total of $3.3 billion to Colombia, making it the fifth largest recipient of U.S. assistance. Part of this funding has gone toward nonmilitary assistance to Colombia, including programs to (1) promote legitimate economic alternatives to coca and opium poppy; (2) assist Colombia’s vulnerable groups, particularly internally displaced persons; and (3) strengthen the country’s democratic, legal, and security institutional capabilities. GAO examined these programs’ objectives, reported accomplishments, and identified the factors, if any, that limit project implementation and sustainability. We also examined the challenges faced by Colombia and the United States in continuing to support these programs.

Although U.S. nonmilitary assistance programs have begun to produce some results, individual projects reach a relatively small number of beneficiaries, face implementation challenges, and may not be sustainable. For example, projects designed to promote legitimate economic alternatives to illicit crop cultivation have helped about 33,400 families. However, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) estimated in 2000 and 2001 that as many as 136,600 families needed assistance, and these projects face implementation obstacles, such as difficulty marketing licit products and operating in conflictive areas. U.S. assistance to Colombia’s vulnerable groups has provided support to many internally displaced persons, but these program beneficiaries do not receive all of the assistance they need, and there is no systematic way for beneficiaries to transition from emergency aid to longer-term development assistance. The U.S. government has made some progress toward facilitating democratic reform in Colombia, but projects face certain obstacles, such as limited funding and security constraints. Despite the progress made by the three nonmilitary assistance programs, Colombia and the United States continue to face long-standing management and financial challenges. The Colombian government’s ability to contribute funds for nonmilitary assistance programs is limited by a number of domestic and foreign factors, and Colombia’s longstanding conflict poses additional challenges to implementing and sustaining nonmilitary assistance efforts. The U.S. government has not maximized the mutual benefits of its nonmilitary assistance programs and has not established a mechanism for vulnerable groups to transition from emergency aid to longer-term assistance. Furthermore, the Departments of State and Justice and USAID have not established timelines for achieving their stated objectives, nor have State and USAID developed a strategy to turn programs over to the Colombian government or to the private sector.

More from:

News Network

  • Secretary Blinken’s Call with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Medicare: Information on the Transition to Alternative Payment Models by Providers in Rural, Health Professional Shortage, or Underserved Areas
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found In recent years, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has developed and implemented new Medicare payment models, including alternative payment models (APM), in an effort to shift from paying providers based on the volume of care provided to the quality of care provided (value-based payments). One type of APM, Advanced APMs, are designed to encourage providers to share in both the financial rewards and risk of caring for Medicare beneficiaries. Providers must meet certain requirements to take part in an Advanced APM, such as using certified electronic health record technology. GAO's analysis of CMS data found that a smaller percentage of providers eligible to participate in Advanced APMs (eligible providers) in rural or health professional shortage areas (shortage areas) participated in them each year from 2017 through 2019 compared to providers not located in these areas. Percentage of Medicare Providers in Rural or Shortage Areas and Providers Not Located in These Areas Who Participated in Advanced APMs, 2017 – 2019 Providers in rural, shortage, or medically underserved areas face financial, technology, and other challenges in transitioning to APMs, including Advanced APMs, according to CMS officials and stakeholders GAO interviewed. These include a lack of capital to finance the upfront costs of transitioning to an APM, including purchasing electronic health record technology; and challenges acquiring or conducting data analysis necessary for participation. CMS has implemented models with certain features that may help providers in rural, shortage, or underserved areas transition to APMs, including Advanced APMs. This includes models that offer upfront funding to help with costs associated with participating in the APM, such as hiring additional staff; and technical assistance, such as education about APMs, to support providers. Why GAO Did This Study In 2017, in response to the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015, CMS implemented the Quality Payment Program—a payment incentive program intended to reward high-quality, efficient care. Advanced APMs, which offer a 5 percent incentive payment for Medicare providers seeing a certain percentage of their Medicare beneficiaries through the Advanced APM, are one part of this program. The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 included a provision for GAO to examine transitions to APMs for providers in rural areas, shortage areas, or medically underserved areas. This report describes (1) participation in Advanced APMs by providers in rural or shortage areas; (2) challenges providers in rural, shortage, or underserved areas face in transitioning to APMs, including Advanced APMs; and (3) actions CMS has taken to help these providers transition to APMs. GAO analyzed CMS data on participation in Advanced APMs for 2017 through 2019—the most recent years available at the time of GAO's analysis. GAO also interviewed officials from CMS and 18 stakeholder organizations that represent providers of various specialties that participate in APMs or that have conducted research and are knowledgeable of issues related to APMs. The Department of Health and Human Services provided technical comments on a draft of this report, which GAO incorporated as appropriate. For more information, contact Michelle B. Rosenberg at (202) 512-7114 or rosenbergm@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • The United States Urges an End to Violent Demonstrations in Honiara, Solomon Islands
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Ned Price, Department [Read More…]
  • Justice Department and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency Announce Actions to Resolve Lending Discrimination Claims Against Cadence Bank
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) today announced coordinated actions to address allegations of lending discrimination by Cadence Bank N.A.
    [Read More…]
  • Former Supplement Company Owner Pleads Guilty to Unlawful Distribution of Steroid-like Drugs
    In Crime News
    A New Jersey chiropractor pleaded guilty today to a felony charge relating to the distribution of steroid-like drugs in purported dietary supplements.
    [Read More…]
  • Justice Department Warns Taxpayers to Avoid Fraudulent Tax Preparers
    In Crime News
    With less than one month left in this year’s tax season, the Department of Justice urges taxpayers to choose their return preparers wisely. Return preparer fraud is one of the IRS’ Dirty Dozen Tax Scams. Unscrupulous preparers who include errors or false information on a customer’s return could leave a taxpayer open to liability for unpaid taxes, penalties, and interest.
    [Read More…]
  • Data Center Optimization: Agencies Report Progress and Billions Saved, but OMB Needs to Improve Its Utilization Guidance
    In U.S GAO News
    The 24 agencies participating in the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) Data Center Optimization Initiative (DCOI) continue to report progress toward meeting OMB's goals for closing data centers and achieving the related cost savings. According to data submitted by the 24 agencies, almost all of them met or planned to meet their closure and cost savings goals for fiscal years 2019 and 2020. As of August 2020, the agencies reported that they expected to achieve 230 data center closures, resulting in $1.1 billion in savings, over the 2-year period. Agencies expected to realize a cumulative total of $6.24 billion in cost savings and avoidances from fiscal years 2012 through 2020. However, agencies have excluded approximately 4,500 data centers from their inventories since May 2019 due to a change in the definition of a data center. Specifically, in June 2019, OMB narrowed the definition of a data center to exclude certain facilities it had previously identified as having potential cybersecurity risks. GAO reported that each such facility provided a potential access point, and that unsecured access points could aid cyber attacks. Accordingly, GAO recommended that OMB require agencies to report those facilities previously reported as data centers so that visibility of the risks of these facilities was retained. However, OMB has not taken action to address the recommendation. Overall, GAO has made 125 recommendations since 2016 to help agencies meet their DCOI goals, but agencies have not implemented 53. The 24 agencies reported varied progress against OMB's data center optimization targets for fiscal year 2020 (see figure). Agency-Reported Progress towards Meeting Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Data Center Optimization Targets, as of August 2020 Notes: Virtualization measures the number of servers and mainframes serving as a virtual host. Advanced energy metering counts data centers with metering to measure energy efficiency. A metric is not applicable if an agency does not have any agency-owned data centers or if its remaining centers are exempted from optimization by OMB. In June 2019, OMB revised the server utilization metric to direct agencies to develop their own definitions of underutilization, and then count their underutilized servers. As a result, agencies adopted widely varying definitions and were no longer required to report actual utilization, a key measure of server efficiency. In December 2014, Congress enacted federal IT acquisition reform legislation known as FITARA, which included provisions related to ongoing federal data center consolidation efforts. OMB's federal Chief Information Officer launched DCOI to build on prior data center consolidation efforts and improve federal data centers' performance. FITARA included a provision for GAO to annually review agencies' data center inventories and strategies. This report addresses (1) agencies' progress on data center closures and the related savings that have been achieved, and agencies' plans for future closures and savings; (2) agencies' progress against OMB's data center optimization targets; and (3) the effectiveness of OMB's metric for server utilization and how the agencies are implementing it. To do so, GAO reviewed the 24 DCOI agencies' data center inventories as of August 2020, their reported cost savings documentation and data center optimization strategic plans, and OMB's revised utilization metric. GAO reiterates that agencies need to address the 53 recommendations previously made to them that have not yet been implemented. GAO is making one new recommendation to OMB to revise its server utilization metric to more consistently address server efficiency. OMB had no comments on the report and the recommendation directed to the agency. Of the 24 DCOI agencies, five agreed with the information in the report, six did not state whether they agreed or disagreed, and 13 had no comments. For more information, contact Carol C. Harris at (202) 512-4456 or harriscc@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Afghanistan Reconstruction: GAO Work since 2002 Shows Systemic Internal Control Weaknesses that Increased the Risk of Waste, Fraud, and Abuse
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found GAO's body of work on Afghanistan reconstruction from 2002 through 2020 identified systemic weaknesses in human resources, monitoring, contracting, information quality, coordination, and other management areas where internal control issues could increase the risk of waste, fraud, and abuse. These systemic weaknesses cut across multiple sectors of reconstruction activities, such as security, roads and infrastructure, and agriculture. Fifty GAO reports on Afghanistan reconstruction discussed such weaknesses and explicitly or implicitly referred to an increased risk of waste, fraud, or abuse as a result of the weaknesses. GAO made 154 recommendations to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, of which 134, or 87 percent, were implemented. Why GAO Did This Study The U.S. government has allocated approximately $141 billion for reconstruction in Afghanistan since 2002. Since that time, GAO has issued roughly 100 reports covering U.S.-funded reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. GAO was asked to report on waste, fraud, and abuse that GAO had uncovered with respect to U.S. reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. This report summarizes the systemic internal control weaknesses that increased the risk of waste, fraud, and abuse related to Afghanistan reconstruction that were identified in prior GAO work.
    [Read More…]
  • Priority Open Recommendations: Nuclear Regulatory Commission
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found In April 2020, GAO identified seven priority recommendations for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Since then, NRC implemented one of these recommendations by issuing a risk management strategy that addresses key elements foundational to effectively managing cybersecurity risks. The remaining six priority recommendations involve the following areas: addressing the security of radiological sources. improving the reliability of cost estimates. improving strategic human capital management. NRC's continued attention to these issues could lead to significant improvements in government operations. Why GAO Did This Study Priority open recommendations are the GAO recommendations that warrant priority attention from heads of key departments or agencies because their implementation could save large amounts of money; improve congressional and/or executive branch decision-making on major issues; eliminate mismanagement, fraud, and abuse; or ensure that programs comply with laws and funds are legally spent, among other benefits. Since 2015, GAO has sent letters to selected agencies to highlight the importance of implementing such recommendations. For more information, contact Mark Gaffigan at (202) 512-3841 or gaffiganm@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Opening Remarks at a Civil Society Roundtable
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • UN High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Navistar Inc. to Reduce 10,000 Tons of NOx Emissions and Pay $52 Million Civil Penalty in Federal Settlement of Clean Air Act Claims
    In Crime News
    Navistar Inc., an integrated manufacturer of trucks and diesel engines based in Lisle, Illinois, has agreed to mitigate at least 10,000 tons of oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emissions and pay a $52 million civil penalty in a consent decree, lodged today, to resolve violations of the Clean Air Act. In particular, Navistar illegally introduced into commerce on‑highway Heavy-Duty Diesel Engines (HDDEs) that were not covered by EPA-issued certificates of conformity.
    [Read More…]
  • International Religious Freedom Day
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Black Hole Collision May Have Exploded With Light
    In Space
    In a first, astronomers [Read More…]
  • Florida Tire Importer Pleads Guilty in Tax Conspiracy
    In Crime News
    A Miami, Florida, tire importer pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to defraud the government, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Department of Justice’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Ariana Fajardo Orshan of the Southern District of Florida.  
    [Read More…]
  • 2020 New Zealand General Election
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • Gangster Disciple gang member handed significant sentence for multiple offenses
    In Justice News
    A 34-year-old Houston [Read More…]
  • Rebuilding Iraq: Reconstruction Progress Hindered by Contracting, Security, and Capacity Challenges
    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of Defense (DOD) has relied extensively on contractors to undertake major reconstruction projects and provide support to its deployed forces, but these efforts have not always achieved desired outcomes. Further, the Iraqi government must be able to reduce violence, sustain reconstruction progress, improve basic services, and make a positive difference in the daily lives of the Iraqi people. This statement discusses (1) factors affecting DOD's ability to promote successful acquisition outcomes on its contracts for reconstruction and for support to deployed forces in Iraq, (2) the deteriorating security situation and the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces, and (3) issues affecting the Iraqi government's ability to support and sustain future reconstruction progress. The testimony is based upon our work on Iraq reconstruction and stabilization efforts, DOD contracting activities, and DOD's use of support contractors spanning several years. This work was conducted in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.The challenges faced by DOD on its reconstruction and support contracts often reflect systemic and long-standing shortcomings in DOD's capacity to manage contractor efforts. Such shortcomings result from poorly defined or changing requirements, the use of poor business arrangements, the absence of senior leadership and guidance, and an insufficient number of trained contracting, acquisition and other personnel to manage, assess and oversee contractor performance. In turn, these shortcomings manifest themselves in higher costs to taxpayers, schedule delays, unmet objectives, and other undesirable outcomes. For example, because DOD authorized contractors to begin work before reaching agreement on the scope and price of that work, DOD paid millions of dollars in costs that were questioned by the Defense Contract Audit Agency. Similarly, DOD lacks visibility on the extent to which they rely on contractors to support their operations. When senior military leaders began to develop a base consolidation plan, officials were unable to determine how many contractors were deployed and therefore ran the risk of over- or under-building the capacity of the consolidated bases. U.S. reconstruction efforts also continue to be hampered by a security situation that continues to deteriorate. Although the number of trained and equipped Iraqi security forces increased to about 323,000 in December 2006 and more Iraqi Army units have taken the lead for counterinsurgency operations, attacks on coalition and Iraqi security forces and civilians have all increased. Aggregate numbers of trained and equipped Iraqi forces, however, do not provide information on the capabilities and needs of individual units. GAO has made repeated attempts to obtain unit-level Transition Readiness Assessments (TRAs) without success. This information is essential for the Congress to make fully informed decisions in connection with its authorization, appropriations, and oversight responsibilities. As the U.S. attempts to turn over its reconstruction efforts, the capacity of the Iraqi government to continue overall reconstruction progress is undermined by shortfalls in the capacity of the Iraqi ministries, widespread corruption and the inability to fund and execute projects for which funds were previously budgeted. Iraqi government institutions are undeveloped and confront significant challenges in staffing a competent, nonaligned civil service; using modern technology; and managing resources and personnel effectively. For example, according to U.S. officials 20 to 30 percent of the Ministry of Interior staff are "ghost employees" whose salaries are collected by other officials. Further, corruption in Iraq poses a major challenge to building an effective Iraqi government and could jeopardize future flows of needed international assistance. Unclear budgeting and procurement rules have affected Iraq's efforts to spend capital budgets effectively and efficiently, according to U.S. officials. At the Ministry of Oil, for example, less than 1 percent of the $3.5 billion budgeted in 2006 for key enhancements to the country's oil production, distribution, and export facilities, had been spent as of August 2006.
    [Read More…]
  • State Partnership Program: Improved Oversight, Guidance, and Training Needed for National Guard’s Efforts with Foreign Partners
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO FoundMany State Partnership Program stakeholders, including State Partnership Program Coordinators, Bilateral Affairs Officers, and combatant command officials, cited benefits to the program, but the program lacks a comprehensive oversight framework that includes clear program goals, objectives, and metrics to measure progress against those goals, which limits the Department of Defense’s (DOD) and Congress’ ability to assess whether the program is an effective and efficient use of resources. The benefits described by all stakeholders focused on the program’s contributions to meeting their specific missions, such as building security relationships, providing experience to guardsmen, and supporting combatant commands’ missions. Goals, objectives, and metrics to measure progress are necessary for management oversight, and National Guard Bureau officials told GAO that they recognize the need to update the program’s goals and develop metrics and have initiated efforts in these areas. Officials expect completion of these efforts in summer 2012. Until program goals and metrics are implemented, DOD cannot fully assess or adequately oversee the program.State Partnership Program activity data are incomplete as well as inconsistent and funding data are incomplete for fiscal years 2007 through 2011; therefore GAO cannot provide complete information on the types and frequency of activities or total funding amounts for those years. GAO found that the multiple data systems used to track program activities and funding are not interoperable and users apply varying methods and definitions to guide data inputs. The terminology used to identify activity types is inconsistent across the combatant commands and the National Guard Bureau. Further, funding data from the National Guard Bureau and the combatant commands were incomplete, and while the National Guard Bureau provided its total spending on the program since 2007, it could not provide information on the cost of individual activities. Although the National Guard Bureau has initiated efforts to improve the accuracy of its own State Partnership Program data, without common agreement with the combatant commands on what types of data need to be tracked and how to define activities, the data cannot be easily reconciled across databases.The most prominent challenge cited by State Partnership Program stakeholders involved how to fund activities that include U.S. and foreign partner civilian participants. Activities involving civilians, for example, have included subject-matter expert exchanges on military support to civil authorities and maritime border security. Although DOD guidance does not prohibit civilian involvement in activities, many stakeholders have the impression that the U.S. military is not permitted to engage civilians in State Partnership Program activities and some states may have chosen not to conduct any events with civilians due to the perception that it may violate DOD guidance. DOD and the National Guard Bureau are working on developing additional guidance and training in this area. Until these efforts are completed, confusion may continue to exist and hinder the program’s full potential to fulfill National Guard and combatant command missions.Why GAO Did This StudyThe National Guard’s State Partnership Program is a DOD security cooperation program that matches state National Guards with foreign countries to conduct joint activities—including visits between senior military leaders and knowledge sharing in areas such as disaster management—that further U.S. national security goals. The program has partnerships between 52 U.S. state and territory National Guards and 69 countries. In fiscal year 2011, program expenditures were at least $13.2 million. The 2012 National Defense Authorization Act directed GAO to study the program. GAO determined (1) the extent to which State Partnership Program activities are meeting program goals and objectives; (2) the types and frequency of activities and funding levels of the program; and (3) any challenges DOD faces in the program’s implementation. GAO collected written responses to questions from State Partnership Program Coordinators at the state level, Bilateral Affairs Officers at the U.S. embassies in the partner nations, and officials at the combatant commands, reviewed documents, and interviewed DOD officials.
    [Read More…]
  • On the Departure of Ambassador James F. Jeffrey
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]

Crime

Network News © 2005 Area.Control.Network™ All rights reserved.