Sneak Preview: USAID’s Allocation of FY 2014 Funds Deemed Proper

May 27, 2016 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

xgran_bookshot(The following was excerpted from a recent article in the Federal Grants Management Handbook.) The Government Accountability Office (GAO), Office of General Counsel recently ruled that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) did not violate federal law when it obligated less than its congressional appropriations for nonemergency food aid under the Food for Peace program for federal Fiscal Year (FY) 2014.

The Office of General Counsel ruling specifically focused on congressional inquiries relating to two separate appropriations that support nonemergency food assistance programs: (1) the Food for Peace program, which receives nonemergency appropriations under Title II of the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies Appropriations Act; and (2) the Feed the Future program, which receives nonemergency appropriations from the Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations Act. Of note, the Food for Peace program receives both emergency and nonemergency funding to support needs around the world, but the Feed the Future program receives nonemergency funding only.

In federal FY 2014, USAID obligated $261.4 million out of its $350 million Title II nonemergency allocation for 30 nonemergency food assistance projects in 14 countries. USAID did not obligate all of its $350 million appropriation to nonemergency projects because it transferred some of the funding to emergency assistance, primarily related to human conflicts in South Sudan. Therefore, approximately $90 million of nonemergency funds were transferred to emergency activities, which totaled about $1.067 billion in Title II emergency food assistance in FY 2014.

Section 412(a) of the Food for Peace Act required USAID to make at least $350 million of its Food for Peace Title II appropriation available for nonemergency food assistance in FY 2014. Because the agency obligated only $261.4 million, the House Appropriations Committee’s Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies subcommittee requested that the GAO Office of General Counsel determine whether USAID improperly failed to obligate nonemergency assistance funds as intended.

USAID conceded that although it obligated about $90 million less than the required $350 million appropriation for the Food for Peace Title II grants for nonemergency food assistance, the agency explained that a “notwithstanding clause” in section 202(a) of the Food for Peace Act allowed it to obligate less than the Title II nonemergency funding level when funds are needed to support emergency assistance. The clause states that, “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the [USAID] administrator may provide agricultural commodities to meet emergency food needs under this title … in such manner and on such terms and conditions as the administrator determines appropriate to respond to the emergency.” Therefore, the agency transferred planned Title II nonemergency funds to emergency assistance under section 202(a), and it was not required to meet the minimum funding requirement under section 412(a).

(The full version of this story has now been made available to all for a limited time on Thompson’s Grants Compliance Expert site.)

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