Some 24 hours after his inauguration in 2009, Barack Obama told federal agencies “openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in government.”
But as the Washington Post discovered during Obama’s first term, “the reality has not matched the president’s rhetoric,” and the Associated Press reported just a few months ago that the Obama administration “more often than ever censored government files or outright denied access to them last year.”
“The administration has made few meaningful improvements in the way it releases records despite its promises from Day 1 to become the most transparent administration in history,” wrote reporters Ted Bridis and Jack Gillum.
But changes to government transparency are in the works with a plan to spend up to $600 million of U.S. taxpayers’ money to launch programs to “foster greater accountability of institutions and leaders to citizens.”
However, Obama’s plan won’t benefit the U.S. taxpayers, who will be on the hook for the changes.
His plan is to help make foreign governments more accountabile to their citizens.
The Democratic, Responsive, and Accountable GOverNance, or DRAGON, project is to develop strategies to encourage citizens “to participate actively in governance,” according to a “concept paper” that WND discovered during routine database research.
WND’s discovery of DRAGON comes as U.S. citizen demands for accountability in multiple Obama scandals is mounting, combined with growing, organized opposition – with hundreds of protests planned or unfolding – “against the Obama-inspired illegal immigrant invasion.”
The discovery follows claims from the White House as recently as this week that Obama “absolutely” is the most transparent president in history.
The latest foreign-assistance scheme, which has not yet solicited bids from contractors, likewise has arisen as Congress weighs the merits of the administration’s overall FY 2015 request of $46.2 billion for Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs, plus $5.9 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations.
The bill has received congressional support – even in the Republican-majority House of Representatives – with the House Committee on Appropriations approving the measure. The committee version, with amendments, alternately boosted and reduced some programs, ultimately coming in $277 million below the president’s request.
The DRAGON initiative will be led by the Center of Excellence on Democracy, Human Rights and Governance, or DRG Center, a unit of the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID.
The DRG Center on its website boasts of its support for governments such as South Africa, for whom it has strengthened the prosecution of sexual offenses committed against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered “community.”
The center, operating under the umbrella of the USAID Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance, also provides assistance to vulnerable populations such as children in war zones as well as support for “free and fair electoral and political processes” in various nations.
The DRAGON project is separate from a related global endeavor – the International Rule of Law Technical Assistance initiative – that the administration launched last year at a potential cost of $500 million, as WND reported.
That program is based on the United Nations principle that “all persons, institutions and entities, public and private, including the state itself, are accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated, and which are consistent with international human rights law.”
The following is a rundown of other recent U.S. foreign aid-related developments. The list is by no means exhaustive, but simply offers a snapshot of additional federal spending.
Contracts with a maximum value of $500 million over five years were rolled out this past week to provide technical assistance and support for USAID’s Office of Global Health, Health Infectious Diseases and Nutrition. The agency awarded 15 separate contracts to help it carry out continent-wide health and nutrition programs.
The reduction of land-based greenhouse gas emissions and the promotion of biodiversity conservation in forests and mangroves is the goal of a new program under development at USAID. The agency, which did not disclose the project’s estimated cost, within two months will release a Statement of Work governing the endeavor, which it referred to as LESTARI.
USAID/Indonesia on July 7 held a meeting in Jakarta to discuss its plans with government officials, NGOs and private-sector groups.
The agency separately is devising the Sustainable Ecosystems Advanced, or SEA, program to help improve Indonesia’s conservation and management of its marine biodiversity, cost unknown.
USAID awarded a $68.3 million contract to Management Systems International to help various Mexican state and federal entities reach their 2016 justice-system reform deadlines.
The agency’s Promoting Justice Project last year also awarded a $78.7 million contract to Tetra Tech DPK for similar support services.
A USAID program designed to improve education in northern Nigeria seeks to strengthen the ability of the government of Nigeria to increase student enrollment “in appropriate, relevant and approved educational” settings, especially for girls and Almajiri children.
Many Almajiri children reportedly are forced to attend Quranic schools where they receive a free education but must live a life as beggars to satisfy their daily needs.
Frequent terrorist attacks take place in northern Nigeria, including the abduction of hundreds of students from a girl’s boarding school, carried out by the Islamist group Boko Haram, whose name is loosely translated as “Western education is forbidden.”
The Northern Education Initiative Plus, or NEI+, project will cost $80 million-$120 million over five years, subject to the availability of funds.
USAID “regretfully” canceled its $61.5 million Youth Workforce Development project as the administration redirected funding “to address shifting priorities.” The endeavor’s aim was to “provide 47,400 youth with job skills and employment or entrepreneurial opportunities” over five years.