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Monday, June 5, 2023

GAO Calls for Strengthened Oversight of Partnerships to Combat Human Trafficking

Without information on partner government contributions and sustainability measures, GAO said the State Department lacks knowledge on partner country contributions and plans to sustain progress under the Child Protection Compacts.

Trafficking in persons, or human trafficking, is a longstanding problem throughout the world. The United Nations estimates about one third of detected victims of trafficking are children. 

Child Protection Compacts (CPCs) are partnerships, lasting at least four years, between the U.S. government and selected partner countries to combat child trafficking. The Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP Office) supports CPCs by providing funding to project implementers that assist partner country governments in strengthening their capacity and efforts to combat child trafficking.

A review by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found that as of January 2023, the TIP Office had selected and signed partnership documents with seven partner countries: Ghana, Philippines, Peru, Jamaica, Mongolia, Colombia and Cote d’Ivoire. Together, these partnerships develop plans to achieve shared objectives through U.S.-funded projects aimed at strengthening countries’ efforts to prosecute and convict child traffickers, provide comprehensive care for child victims, and prevent child trafficking.

GAO’s review found that the TIP Office has tools to help monitor CPC progress, but none of them include discussions of key performance indicator data or indicator targets. According to TIP Office officials, the primary monitoring tool is the annual dialogues, meetings between agency officials, partner governments, and project implementers, to share information on CPC efforts. Participants at the dialogues provide examples of various activities, but they do not identify key CPC performance indicators beforehand to discuss or directly mention any during the dialogues. The TIP Office developed two new tools that include indicators to assist with collecting performance data, a broad CPC framework and a country-specific reporting template, but GAO said neither addresses the need for indicator targets. TIP Office officials told the government watchdog that they have not focused on indicators or targets because they did not prioritize them, although based on agency guidance, the annual dialogues should include discussions of indicators. 

Stakeholders GAO interviewed described some CPC activities, but the TIP Office does not track partner government contributions or sustainability measures. The activities included creating child-friendly spaces for victims and increasing coordination among agencies addressing child trafficking. However, GAO found the TIP Office does not formally track partner government contributions to the CPCs like personnel or funding. Stakeholders also noted the importance of sustainability measures like the sustainability plans called for in the partnership documents, but the review determined that partner governments did not provide such plans nor did the TIP Office follow up on them. Without information on partner government contributions and sustainability measures, GAO said the TIP Office lacks knowledge on partner country contributions and plans to sustain progress under the CPCs.

GAO is making six recommendations to the State Department, including sharing information on key CPC performance indicators at annual dialogues; creating targets for CPC performance indicators; tracking partner country contributions; and discussing CPC sustainability measures with partner governments at annual dialogues. The Department of State agreed with the recommendations.

Read the full report at GAO

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