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USAID Partner Vetting System Will Negatively Impact Organizations

On April 11, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced plans to move forward with its new Partner Vetting System (PVS). The stated purpose of the PVS is to ensure that no USAID funds are used to support individuals, groups, or organizations that are associated with terrorism. While U.S. resources should never be used to support terrorism, the proposed PVS is not the solution. If implemented, the PVS would violate civil rights protected by the Privacy Act of 1974 and could jeopardize the safety of employees working to improve the lives of people in developing countries.

The PVS would require organizations applying for USAID contracts or grants to submit personal information about officers, board members, and key employees that government personnel could use for security screening. The required information includes details such as full name, date and place of birth, and e-mail addresses. This system was proposed in July 2007 in the Federal Register, and the international nonprofit community voiced collective alarm at the proposal. EngenderHealth, which works in 40 countries through 18 offices, is opposed to this type of vetting system, which would:

  • Violate civil rights protected by the Privacy Act
  • Put the lives of American citizens and foreign nationals working for EngenderHealth at greater risk, because our staff may be perceived as representatives of U.S. law enforcement or intelligence-gathering agencies
  • Violate our organizational policies and practices, which demand that we protect the privacy of our staff and board members, and potentially violate the privacy laws of the countries in which we work
  • Add undue administrative burden, draining time and attention from our critical work

While USAID has reportedly made some changes to the initially proposed PVS, the final rule is not yet available. EngenderHealth will closely monitor the issue and post any new developments.

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