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Senate Committee Says USAID Must Reconsider Proposed Vetting System

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Seeking a "comprehensive review" of USAID's proposed Partner Vetting System (PVS), a Senate appropriations bill (S.1434) would halt implementation pending full review by the yet-to-be named USAID Administrator. The Senate State, Foreign Operations Appropriations Committee approved the bill on July 9, 2009. It mandates nongovernmental organization (NGO) involvement in further inquiry of the "scope, methodology and effect" of PVS. Although the rule went into effect Aug. 4, 2009, implementation will be delayed until the new Administrator is in place. The Senate review requirement is a significant victory for nonprofits, who have opposed PVS as ineffective, wasteful and potentially dangerous for NGO workers abroad.

The PVS for NGOs would require grant applicants to submit detailed personal information on their "key individuals" to intelligence agencies for conducting vetting procedures.Additionally, a separate PVS for contractors has been proposed and public comments are due Aug 25, 2009.

The text about PVS from the Senate appropriations bill says:

"(m) Partner Vetting - No further action to finalize or implement a Partner Vetting System (PVS) shall be taken by the Secretary of State or the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) until a new USAID Administrator has been confirmed and has undertaken a comprehensive review of the scope, methodology and effect of PVS, including consultation with affected organizations, the Committees on Appropriations and Foreign Relations of the Senate and the Committees on Appropriations and Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives."

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A related Senate report warned of PVS's "unintended, adverse consequences" for international aid and development programs run by NGOs and contractors.It seeks "to ensure a new PVS" that strikes "the right balance between security, privacy and effective implementation of assistance programs." Both the report and the bill call on the yet to be selected head of USAID to confer with NGOs and congressional committees in both the Senate and House before going into effect.

The text about PVS from the Senate report says:

"The Committee supports effective vetting procedures to prevent U.S. foreign assistance funds from supporting individuals or organizations involved in terrorism. Such procedures are being implemented in the West Bank and Gaza. The Committee is concerned that USAID plans to put into effect a new PVS which, as currently proposed, could have unintended, adverse consequences for assistance programs implemented by NGOs and contractors. In order to ensure a new PVS reflects the right balance between security, privacy and effective implementation of assistance programs, the Committee requires a new USAID Administrator to conduct a review of PVS and consult with affected organizations and Congress."

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Suraj K. Sazawal is the Communications/Research Coordinator for the Charity and Security Network. Prior to that, he had worked at OMB Watch and the Campaign Finance Institute. Suraj is a graduate of the University of Virginia and has earned an MA in (more...)
 

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