October 1, 2013
Majuro (Marianas Variety) - After 10 years of focusing Compact funding on health and education, neither the Marshall Islands nor the Federated States of Micronesia “can demonstrate progress toward health and education goals,” said the author of the U.S. Government Accountability Office report on the Compacts issued earlier this month.
“At the midpoint of the 20-year amended Compact’s term, the FSM and RMI face critical challenges in Compact implementation,” said GAO Director of International Affairs and Trade David Gootnick. “During the first 10 years, both countries spent the majority of their funds on education and health. However, in large part because of data gaps, neither country can demonstrate progress toward its health and education goals.”
The GAO report, titled “Micronesia and the Marshall Islands Continue to Face Challenges Measuring Progress and Ensuring Accountability,” says high spending of Compact funding on personnel working in health and education, coupled with the annual reduction in Compact funding, led JEMFAC to put a limit on how much Compact money can be used to pay salaries.
While the four FSM states completed plans to address annual decreases in Compact funding, neither the FSM national government nor the Marshal Islands have submitted plans to address these annual reductions as agreed, said GAO. “Without plans, the countries may not be able to sustain essential services in the education and health sectors in the future,” GAO warned.
In the final 10 years of amended compact sector funding, both countries need to plan for reduced grant resources and resolve the accountability issues that have plagued them to date, said Gootnick.
GAO expressed concern over the poor quality of indicators and data collected that are supposed to allow people to measure progress toward meeting goals in the heavily-funded health and education sectors.
Only one of 14 indicators used in FSM or the Marshall Islands to track progress in education “was capable of demonstrating progress,” Gao said.
The only good indicator, according to the GAO, is the education level of teachers in Marshall Islands.
“The U.S.-FSM and U.S.-RMI joint management and accountability committees have also raised concerns about the reliability of FSM’s education and health data and Marshall Islands’ health data and required that each country obtain an independent assessment and verification of these data; both countries have yet to meet that requirement, and, as a result, neither country can determine its progress in these sectors.”