A December 2014 conference in London focused international attention on Afghanistan’s future. At the conference, President Ashraf Ghani outlined steps taken to reform Afghanistan and to deliver economic security. To help achieve these reforms, President Obama committed $800 million to fund the New Development Partnership between the United States and Afghan Governments. A memorandum of understanding that solidified the commitment was signed in August 2015. The partnership was conceived as a set of 40 results and associated indicators spread across three objectives: fiscal sustainability, better governance, and reducing poverty. Funding would be provided for each result measured by one or two associated indicators, once the USAID mission in Afghanistan verified the results reported by the Afghan Government.
We found that when entering into the memorandum of understanding between the Afghan and United States Governments, USAID did not apply a key aspect of Agency guidance on monitoring, evaluating, and learning from its activities. Specifically, USAID did not use performance indicator reference sheets to clearly define the terms associated with each performance indicator to promote consistent interpretation and reliable measurements of achievement. Without reference sheets, the indicators we reviewed were not clearly defined and had no specific sources of data to support the reported achievements.
By not using reference sheets for partnership indicators, the mission had difficulty verifying achievements before approving payments, as specified by the memorandum of understanding, and we identified several examples of paid results that lacked adequate verification. Loosely defined indicator results and inadequate verification procedures resulted in the partnership being primarily used as a way to pass cash from one entity (USAID) to another (Afghan Ministry of Finance).
While we made no recommendations because the mission terminated the New Development Partnership memorandum of understanding in July 2018, our work shows what can happen when there is lack of agreement on how to define expected outcomes and measure achievements.