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Haiti Earthquake: GAO Reports on Past Disasters
       Haiti Home     GAO Disaster Assistance Reports GAO Haiti Assistance Reports International Audit Community
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Haiti Earthquake: GAO Reports on Past Disasters
GAO has long
conducted
work on the
effectiveness of
U.S. disaster
assistance,
both
domestically
and overseas.
This Web site
focuses on
GAO's disaster
assistance
work; the
findings
contained in
these reports
may be
applicable to
ongoing and
future aid
efforts in Haiti
as well as to
other natural
disasters.

GAO's work
includes
insights into
improving
assistance,              Haiti's National Palace building              Haiti's National Palace building damaged by the earthquake.
based on                 damaged by the earthquake.
limitations and
successes
identified with
past efforts.            Source: USAID/uncredited photo

For foreign
disaster
assistance,
GAO's prior
work highlights
the need to             I m a g e 1 of 9

coordinate with
host
governments
and local
organizations,
and establish
monitoring
procedures to
ensure
accountability.
After
Hurricane
Katrina, GAO
emphasized
that clearly
defined
leadership
roles and
responsibilities,
appropriate
capabilities,
and
accountability
over resources
are necessary
elements for
addressing a
catastrophic
disaster.

Key GAO Reports

Highlighted below are key GAO reviews of U.S. assistance following particular events, including U.S. government responses to

           ¡    Hurricanes Katrina and Mitch in 2005 and 1998, respectively,
           ¡    the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004,
           ¡    tropical storms and hurricanes in the Caribbean in 2004, and
           ¡    earthquakes in El Salvador in 2001.
Foreign Assistance: USAID Signature Tsunami Reconstruction Efforts in Indonesia and Sri Lanka
Exceed Initial Cost and Schedule Estimates, and Face Further Risks
      GAO-07-357, February 28, 2007
      Summary (HTML)   Highlights Page (PDF)   Full Report (PDF, 53 pages)   Accessible Text          Completed section of
                                                                                                      U.S.-funded road construction
        Recommendations (HTML)                                                                        in Indonesia. Source: USAID

Indian Ocean tsunami, 2004: USAID established financial and technical oversight for its recovery
programs, including a concurrent audit of a major road-construction project. However, GAO found
that USAID increased initial cost estimates and reduced or canceled some project activities.
USAID later extended completion dates for some major construction efforts. In response to GAO
recommendations, USAID's reports to Congress included funding information showing progress in
reconstruction activities, factors affecting project implementation, and mitigation strategies.
Catastrophic Disasters: Enhanced Leadership, Capabilities, and Accountability Controls Will
Improve the Effectiveness of the Nation's Preparedness, Response, and Recovery System
      GAO-06-618, September 6, 2006
      Summary (HTML)   Highlights Page (PDF)   Full Report (PDF, 147 pages)   
                                                                                                      House in New Orleans
      Accessible Text   Recommendations (HTML)                                                        rehabilitated with
                                                                                                      U.S.-government funding.
                                                                                                      Source: FEMA/ Barry Bahler
Hurricane Katrina, 2005: Dedicated efforts by many representing government and other entities
saved thousands of lives after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. For example, the Coast Guard quickly
mounted a massive search and rescue effort, many states sent personnel and supplies, and private
and nonprofit organizations supplemented governmental efforts. However, GAO reported that
numerous U.S. departments' and agencies' disaster assistance programs were ineffective, and
identified means of improvement. In response to a GAO recommendation, FEMA established
contracts for supplies and service that can be activated quickly.
Foreign Assistance: USAID Completed Many Caribbean Disaster Recovery Activities, but
Several Challenges Hampered Efforts
       GAO-06-645, May 26, 2006
       Summary (HTML)   Highlights Page (PDF)   Full Report (PDF, 51 pages)   Accessible Text         U.S.-funded drainage canal
                                                                                                      cleanup in Haiti. Source:
         Recommendations (HTML)                                                                       USAID

Hurricane and storms in the Caribbean, 2004: USAID completed many of its recovery activities
within the one-year time frame, despite periods of severe weather. GAO also found that USAID
experienced coordination and security challenges, resulting in construction delays and disruptions,
and GAO compiled lessons learned for use in future assistance efforts. In response to a GAO
recommendation, USAID provided staff with lessons learned from prior disaster recovery programs
to manage future efforts more effectively.
Foreign Assistance: USAID's Earthquake Recovery Program in El Salvador Has Made Progress,
but Key Activities Are Behind Schedule
       GAO-03-656, May 15, 2003
       Summary (HTML)   Highlights Page (PDF)   Full Report (PDF, 44 pages)   Accessible Text         U.S.-funded house for
                                                                                                      low-income family in El
         Recommendations (HTML)                                                                       Salvador. Source: GAO

El Salvador earthquakes, 2001: USAID used implementing organizations with a proven record in
accounting for funds. However, GAO reported that some USAID construction activities, such as
the construction of some houses for low-income people, were behind schedule and lacked
benchmarks to measure progress. In response to a GAO recommendation, USAID accelerated
construction activities and established interim milestones to benchmark progress toward achieving
program goals.
Foreign Assistance: Disaster Recovery Program Addressed Intended Purposes, but USAID
Needs Greater Flexibility to Improve Its Response Capability
       GAO-02-787, July 24, 2002
                                                                                                      U.S.-funded bridge
       Summary (HTML)   Full Report (PDF, 59 pages)   Accessible Text                                 constructed in Honduras.
         Recommendations (HTML)                                                                       Source: GAO


Hurricane Mitch in Central America, 1998: USAID, in coordination with numerous other U.S.
departments and agencies, carried out a large-scale recovery program mostly within agreed-upon
time frames. GAO further reported that USAID lacked a 'surge capacity' to quickly design and
initiate key program activities. GAO recommended that USAID develop and implement procedures
for quickly hiring and reassigning personnel in post-disaster situations.

International Audit Community

GAO and other Supreme Audit Institutions in more than 180 countries are members of the International Organization of Supreme
Audit Institutions (INTOSAI), an independent, nongovernmental umbrella organization of external government audit institutions
worldwide.

Following the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, INTOSAI established a Task Force to enhance transparency of and
accountability for assistance to the tsunami-affected countries. In November 2008, the Task Force ended its work and presented
numerous conclusions and lessons learned that highlighted the importance of, among other things, planning before a disaster
occurs, monitoring funds in post-disaster situations, coordinating among donor and recipient governments and other organizations,
and using geospatial information in planning, monitoring and coordination.

Since then, as a result of the work of the Task Force, INTOSAI has established a follow-on Working Group on the
Accountability for and Audit of Disaster-related Aid (AADA). AADA's focus is on the development of good practices relating to
the accountability and audit of international assistance. See the AADA's Web site to learn about its mission and work.

 
 

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