XVIII International AIDS Conference

Abstract

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Shooting oneself in the foot: is donor-imposed bureaucracy turning civil society organizations into malfunctioning machines?

M. Huff-Rousselle1, J. Toyo2, F. Sala-Diakanda2

1Social Sectors Development Strategies, Boston, United States, 2Social Sectors Development Strategies, Inc, Abidjan, Cote D'Ivoire

Issues: Donor agency regulations and policies attached to financial aid in international health programs are designed to guarantee transparent financial administration, but often serve to undermine internal systems, especially financial systems, even in the process of strengthening them.
Description: The presentation is based on two studies conducted 10 years apart:
1) a PhD dissertation that used qualitative methods to study seven regional- or national-level Caribbean organizations dependent on different donors;
2) findings from applications of a financial assessment tool that scored seven CSOs receiving PEPFAR funding in Cote d´Ivoire, using 32 categories of questions and a 5-point scale.
Lessons learned: Although external funding was a significant source of support for the 14 organizations and their programs, the regulations and policies undermined efforts to unify management systems and financial administration in the following ways:
1) fragmentation into a patchwork of mini-systems, responding to donor/project requirements, with no unified system;
2) internal inconsistencies in policies and procedures;
3) donor requirements taking precedence over local laws (e.g. USAID bio-data forms completed but local payroll taxes never paid);
4) donor requirements taking precedence over internationally recognized accounting standards (e.g. project reporting takes priority over annual fiscal year reports;
5) project-driven system strengthening that has become a historic artifact, filed away after the project is completed, as it was never an "organizational" system; and
6) double standards for local and international organizations.
Next steps: Findings highlight the need for organization-wide strengthening of CSOs, and a review of donor policies and practical “social justice” in the way such policies are applied to CSOs.


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