Thursday, March 4, 2010

Accountability after the Haiti earthquake

Dear Colleagues

The issue of accountability in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake is going the way of accountability after all the other major disasters where ordinary people have parted with their money and nobody is able to inform them later on what happened with all the money.

I have tried to contact almost one hundred (100) major NGOs that have raised money for Haiti with a request that they give some accountability for the resources mobilized for work in Haiti ... with hardly any response beyond simply getting additional requests for donations.

Some weeks after sending my emails the news media is starting to ask the same questions ... and soon there will be the all too predictable embarrassment. This is an unacceptable state of affairs.

Today Relief Web posted one of these articles:

I have sent the following comment to Relief Web. I am not holding my breath that they will be responsive, but I am trying:
I read a lot of the material posted via the Relief Web and think it is a wonderful resource ... but the issue of accountability is NOT being adequately addressed by those with authority and responsibility. Based on my expertise in this area, the Haiti program is grading at F and for no good reason.
Peter Burgess
Community Analytics (CA)
The Community Analytics (CA) methodology is an ideal approach to the accountability issue. The public is not interested in the paperwork to prove that every dime is used correctly, but they are intensely interested in whether or not the big fund flows are used to produce big results, and that the relationship between the two is reasonably good ... or even very good.

CA recognizes that mistakes are made ... but there is no need for CA to address this incident by incident, but if, in the aggregate the organization is all mistake and no success, then there is a cause for concern. The key word in all of this is "materiality".

CA does not take the view that relief and development do not need accounting, cost accounting and performance analysis because "it is not a profit making business". CA argues that it is all the more important to have performance analysis because the funds are usually other people's money and it is irresponsible not to use the resources in the best possible manner, and be able to show this. Donors certainly are asking for it ... but they are not getting particularly clear answers.

This is a big problem ... and it has to be solved.

Stay tuned

Peter Burgess

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