Around January 15th, a few days after the Haiti earthquake I wrote the following email to more than 100 of the well known NGOs that respond to emergencies.
/////////////////////////////////////////////The response to the e-mails was effectively zero. A small number of automated responses came back with information about how to make a donation ... none responded on the subject of accounting and accountability.
HAITI EMERGENCY ... TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY
One of the great issues with large scale emergency rescue, relief and rehabilitation assistance is the question of "where did the money go". In the aftermath of the South Asia tsunami it was impossible to understand where much of the resources were actually used. As much as $2 billion remains unaccounted for ... a huge sum. Some of this is lack of feedback ... with good works not put in the record ... but a big part is lack of basic accounting and feedback with the funds being misappropriated and used for other purposes. Some of this was systematic, and by organizations that ought to know better. There have been similar experiences post 9/11, post Katrina, post Pakistan earthquake, post China earthquake, etc. It is almost a standard
The same, or worse, is going to happen in the case of this Haiti Earthquake of 2010 ... there are going to be large amounts of money mobilized with little or no feedback about what the money is being used for ... no transparency ... no accountability. This must not be allowed to happen.
My specialty is community analytics (CA) ... a system to measure socio-economic progress and performance. CA incorporates both monitoring and evaluation, and transparency and accountability (METRAC). CA is based on almost 50 years of experience with the corporate world and consulting for the World Bank, several UN agencies, NGOs and others. The CA METRAC methodology is low cost and powerful ... and developed to get easy feedback about the money that is being raised and the work being done ... specifically what work and where. The system is based on text message technology and the mobile phone and relational database organization of data. The data acquisition is neutral, independent and verifiable ... and ubiquitous.
I hope that in this instance of catastrophic disaster it will be possible to have 21st century accountability excellence. I am contacting the well known relief and development organizations to see to what extent they will be implementing something like this or better and request cooperation in achieving excellent transparency and accountability!
Tr-Ac-Net Community Analytics
I tried to follow up with some of the organizations by telephone ... and had almost the same experience. Some of the better known organizations routed a caller round and round with the end destination always being about making a telephone donation!
I am appalled at the lack of commitment to accountability ... it is a deep problem that allows all sorts of sloppy performance if not outright thievery. In any event, there is much less impact than there should be from scarce resources.
My plans are to continue to put pressure on the whole of the relief and development community to address the issue of accountability with seriousness. It is too important not to have good accountability.