Monday, March 1, 2010

Haiti ... the missing accountability

Dear Colleagues

The question of accountability is on the public agenda ... but very little attentions is being paid to the matter, or so it would seem.

There are some modest efforts to make some financial numbers visible ... but in fact, these are doing little more than highlighting how much ... or how little ... anyone really knows about the way the money and in-kind resources are being used.

The approach that CA uses in its normal community analysis is well suited to accountability in a crisis such as in Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake. The idea of tracking progress in a specific location, and relating this progress to the activities that are responsible for change is a simple idea that can be replicated over and over again.

A lot may be learned when a place is the focus of analysis ... and the information can be verified relatively easily.

When an organization is the focus of analysis ... the data presented cannot be related to anything, the data are totally incapable of verification, and the organization may do exactly what it wants with little or no concern about accountability.

This is going to change. When an organization is using a very large amount of money ... and there is very little of the activity on the ground that can be attributed to this very large amount of money ... then something is wrong. In the case of the very large fund raisers for the Haiti emergency, it would appear that there are very large amounts for which there is no apparent activity. This may be an oversight on the part of the large organization ... a matter of cavalier behavior where accountability never matters ... or it may be something worse.

A good accounting and accountability framework assumes that it is something worse ... and works up from there. CA uses this mindset. There is a lot of "something worse" ... and now the challenge is to get verification that all this money has been put to good use. The sooner the organizations get to address this the better for everyone.

The fact that accountability is not a priority for any of the major organizations ... as far as I can tell ... is not a good start.

If anyone has other information ... please let me know ... post a comment!

Peter Burgess

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