USAID Should Implement Additional Controls To Prevent and Respond To Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Beneficiaries

Audit Report
Report Number
9-000-21-006-P

Sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) has been a longstanding problem in the foreign aid sector given the inherent power disparity between aid workers and beneficiaries. After the Oxfam scandal came to light in February 2018, USAID began prioritizing the need to ensure that sufficient safeguards are in place to protect beneficiaries from SEA. USAID established a zero-tolerance stance on SEA and an intra-Agency alliance focused on sexual misconduct. The Agency also strengthened policies and identified process improvements to address SEA. However, there were gaps in USAID’s approach for preventing SEA in Agency award and monitoring processes. USAID did not require key pre-award SEA measures across all awards, which led to variances across acquisition and assistance awards as well as humanitarian and development assistance. Additionally, USAID did not monitor implementers’ efforts to prevent SEA, as the Agency did not have requirements and guidance in place to enable staff to continuously monitor the design and effectiveness of implementers’ SEA prevention measures. USAID also lacked clearly defined roles and responsibilities and a centralized tracking mechanism for responding to and managing SEA allegations. We made nine recommendations to improve the Agency’s controls to prevent and respond to SEA of beneficiaries.

Recommendations

Recommendation
1

Issue a work plan to implement pre-award protection and monitoring measures outlined in the Agency's "Policy on Protection From Sexual Exploitation and Abuse."

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Recommendation
2

Standardize acquisition and assistance award requirements to include (a) codes of conduct specific to sexual exploitation and abuse for all implementers and (b) requirements for implementers to review and certify that subimplementers establish sexual exploitation and abuse-related internal controls and codes of conduct.

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Recommendation
3

Issue guidance to Agency staff on roles and responsibilities for assessing implementers' internal controls designed to protect beneficiaries from sexual exploitation and abuse when conducting pre-award risk assessments.

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Recommendation
4

Issue guidance to implementers on information they must provide to USAID pursuant to the new pre-award risk assessment requirement that includes measures to protect beneficiaries from sexual exploitation and abuse.

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Recommendation
5

Issue guidance to implementers on information they must provide to USAID pursuant to the new pre-award risk assessment requirement that includes measures to protect beneficiaries from sexual exploitation and abuse.

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0
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Recommendation
6

Issue guidance to implementers detailing what is expected of them in response to sexual exploitation and abuse allegations, including defining when to report, to whom to report, what information to provide, what actions to take in response to sexual exploitation and abuse allegations, and how to respond using a survivor-centered approach.

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Recommendation
7

Develop and implement an Agency-wide process, including clear delegation of roles and responsibilities, for responding to allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse. This process should specify to whom within USAID allegations must be communicated and define responsibilities for reviewing implementers' handling of allegations, while establishing safeguards to protect sensitive information and adhering to a survivor-centered approach.

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Recommendation
8

Coordinate with relevant USAID offices to develop and implement a long-term Agency-wide centralized tracking mechanism to support the Agency's management of allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse.

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Recommendation
9

As the Agency develops a long-term mechanism, implement an interim reporting process and centralized tracker for sexual exploitation and abuse allegations. An office or position should be identified to manage the centralized tracker, which should include, at a minimum, all allegations received by USAID from February 2018 forward in order to enable the Agency to determine the universe of allegations and the status of each.

Questioned Cost
0
Funds for Better Use
0