GAO: State Could Improve Mérida Initiative Monitoring

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has reviewed issues related to the Mérida Initiative implementation and objective, and published its findings in a May 12 report.

The Mérida Initiative is a bilateral U.S.-Mexico partnership to address crime and violence and enhance the rule of law in Mexico. It focuses on combating the threats of drug trafficking, transnational organized crime, and money laundering.

Through this initiative, the United States has provided a wide range of assistance, including training and equipment. Since fiscal year 2008, U.S. funding for the Mérida Initiative has totaled about $3 billion. 

GAO has identified key practices for monitoring foreign assistance programs that agencies should implement to address impediments, effectively manage foreign assistance, and meet assistance goals. 

For the 15 Department of State (State) Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (State/INL) projects GAO reviewed, State/INL generally followed key monitoring practices about half of the time. For example, State/INL almost always assigned staff with appropriate qualifications to monitor Mérida Initiative projects. However, for most projects, GAO found State/INL did not generally follow the key practices for developing monitoring plans that identify project goals and objectives and address risks to achieving them. In addition, the review found that State/INL did not consistently track project performance data. 

For the five United States Agency for International Development (USAID) projects GAO reviewed, USAID almost always followed key monitoring practices and tracked performance data. GAO reported that USAID established procedures, such as periodic portfolio reviews, to ensure its staff consistently monitored projects. However, while USAID identified risks to implementing projects, it did not address those risks in its monitoring plans.  

GAO is therefore making two recommendations, including that State establish procedures to verify monitoring staff follow key practices, and that USAID ensure that monitoring plans address risks. State and USAID concurred with the recommendations.

Read the full report at GAO

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