Created by the U.S. Congress in 2004, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) is an independent U.S. foreign aid agency. The agency has strong bipartisan support and helped revolutionize how the U.S. delivers foreign assistance.
MCC works by giving out time-limited grants to partnering countries, which broadly go toward “promoting economic growth, reducing poverty, and strengthening institutions.” But for each of its compacts and programs, MCC specifically reports what is being spent where, by whom and with what results. In other words, MCC is dedicated to transparency.
10 Ways MCC Maintains Transparency
- Maintaining an easy-to-use and up-to-date website: An easy-to-use website makes it easier for the public or other agencies to navigate the site. An up-to-date website ensures that people are accessing and consuming new and relevant data.
- Expanding the Evaluation Catalogue: The Evaluation Catalogue shares studies, evaluations and data sets in a searchable database that is open for public consumption. MCC is working to increase the efficiency of the accompanying approval process and release information to the catalogue more quickly.
- Releasing Principles into Practice: Principles into Practice is a long-running series of reports in which MCC discusses in detail how it implements its core model and operation policies. These reports include frank discussions of failures and lessons MCC has learned. The agency also has an edition dedicated to MCC transparency.
- Using sub-national data and geo-coding: Gathering more detailed and location-specific data provides a better picture of MCC’s spending and results. Location-specific data can also help MCC compare data from different areas and increase its efficiency.
- Upgrading information management systems: Updated information management systems help MCC improve the accessibility and usability of its data internally and in partner countries. MCC also funds an analytics team to standardize and deliver data to staff for internal analysis.
- Having a Data Governance Board: MCC recently created its Data Governance Board, an independent group made up of representatives from throughout the agency. The Board’s purpose is to streamline MCC’s data management approach and promote data-driven decision making across the agency’s investment portfolio.
- Ensuring data consistency: MCC pulls all of its data sets from the same base data, ensuring consistency across data sets. Consistency allows MCC and anyone else to compare data sets without having to control for differences in collection or calculation.
- Adding new data and information fields: MCC has expanded its data fields relating to results, and the agency gets higher marks from the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) for performance data than any other agency. MCC has also expanded its information to include conditions associated with MCC funds. MCC is very invested in data collection and uses it to inform program development processes, such as pricing data.
- Working with implementing organizations to compile data: Like most U.S. aid agencies, MCC’s programs provide funds for projects that are implemented on the ground by partner organizations. MCC works directly with those implementing its projects to collect and publish data.
- Reporting directly to IATI: Like other U.S. aid agencies, MCC used to report its data through the Department of State. Now, MCC reports directly to IATI, giving MCC greater control over what, how and when they publish.
ATI and MCC Transparency
Transparent aid is especially important to donor and recipient governments. For example, MCC transparency ensures that it and other donors avoid duplicating efforts in some areas and under-funding in others. Recipient governments also need to know what aid is invested in their countries to coordinate their own budgets with incoming aid and make the most effective use of their limited money.
MCC began participating in the Aid Transparency Index (ATI) in 2013 and was actually ranked the most transparent agency in the world its first year. Rankings consistently change between years, and while MCC has not remained number one, the agency is consistently among the top five transparent agencies in the world.
MCC was once again ranked as the most transparent agency in the U.S. Government for 2018. Ranked fifth overall in the world, MCC is one of only seven agencies in the top “Very Good” category. Transparency is essential for aid effectiveness and accountability, and MCC’s ranking shows that the agency is committed to disclosing detailed material about its activities.
– Kathryn Quelle