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Could a government agency to manage donated funds be the answer in Haiti?

February 23, 2010

A proposed solution to the lack of transparency and consistency of the NGO sector in Haiti:

Although it’s true that the Haitian state cannot run mass service provision, the government could realistically allocate the funding for it. So, instead of donating to NGOs, donor money would all be streamed into a common pool. A new government agency would be charged with overseeing the common pool, setting clear criteria for NGO performance, monitoring the NGOs, and giving out money from that pool based on the set standards and community needs.

Paul Collier suggests that the agency should be co-managed by donors, to teach best practices and increase confidence. He argues that a centralized source of funding, thoughtfully allocated by Haitians, would be the best way to distribute the money being sent right now. I agree, but I have one major hesitation: corruption.

Would there be any way to prevent widespread corruption from determining which NGO gets a grant or contract? Could donor presence in leadership roles provide enough oversight? I don’t know nearly enough about Haitian political culture before the earthquake to know about the extent of corruption. But in a context where so many homes, livelihoods, and lives have been destroyed, sending a contract to a friend’s NGO, or granting money for a health center to be built by a family member’s contracting company, would seem like quite an attractive option, wouldn’t it?

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