Damning report criticises Ivanka Trump’s flagship policy programme

Office found that US Agency for International Development did not keep track of funding

James Crump
Saturday 03 April 2021 19:45

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The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released a new report criticising the implementation of legislation supporting a flagship policy project spearheaded by Ivanka Trump.

Ms Trump, the eldest daughter of former president Donald Trump, led the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative, a federal plan to empower women, while working as an adviser to her father from 2017 to January 2021.

The initiative was set up to financially support the women’s programmes of 10 US government agencies as part of the Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment Act signed into law by Mr Trump.

After being launched in 2019, the project mandated the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to allocate $265m (£192m) a year to support 19 women empowerment enterprises.

Half of the money was required to go to women and the other half to the very poor, with an overlap between the two groups expected, according to Politico.

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However, the GAO has criticised the implementation of the funds in a report released on Wednesday, writing that it found that USAID had not kept track of the money sent to the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) chosen.

The office also found that USAID did not implement guidelines to determine what constitutes a business run by women or create a process to successfully send the funds to the programmes chosen.

“We identified three key gaps that impair USAID’s ability to develop such a process. First, USAID has not identified the total funding subject to the targeting requirements,” the GAO wrote in the report.

“Second, although USAID has programs designed to help the very poor, it is unable to determine the amount of funding that reaches this group.

“Third, although USAID has MSME activities that benefit women, it has not defined enterprises owned, managed, and controlled by women and does not collect data by enterprise size,” the office added.

The GAO report concluded: “These gaps leave USAID unable to determine what percentage of its MSME resources is going to the very poor and enterprises owned, managed, and controlled by women.”

Some of the issues uncovered in the report at USAID date back to 2015, before Ms Trump began work on her project, and a senior Trump administration official told Politico that “everything was scattered with no real clear goal or purpose” when she started.

The official added that after Ms Trump and her team had worked on developing the project for two years, the initiative helped more than 12 million people in 2019 alone.

The GAO issued six recommendations for USAID going forward, including establishing “a definition for enterprises owned, managed, and controlled by women” and creating processes to provide “reasonable assurance” that the funds reach the intended recipients.

A spokesperson for USAID told The Independent that the agency has accepted the six recommendations and added that there were no findings of any mismanagement of funds or ineffectiveness of our women’s economic empowerment programming.

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