Small step for USAID; Giant leap for Unlock Aid

Administrator Power recently took an important first step, describing “A New Vision for Global Development,” but we all know that delivering significant reform is a more challenging marathon. That’s where we fit in: past Administrators haven’t had the allies for change that our Unlock Aid community represents, and we’re already making a difference. Here’s one example how:

Two weeks ago, USAID published guidance for a public tender associated with its largest project, the multi-billion dollar NextGen Global Health Supply Chain (GHSC) initiative. Many of you flagged that language buried in the tender’s Q&A was problematic and, frankly, inconsistent with Administrator Power’s vision:

“The offeror and each subcontractor that the prime requests to be approved at the IDIQ level must include a complete copy of its most current NICRA or other documentation from its cognizant Government Audit Agency (GAA).”

You explained that this clause created requirements so restrictive that few organizations outside of the US government’s legacy contractors could comply. The result? Big contractors started cutting less-established players from their proposals because they didn’t want to risk submitting “noncompliant” bids.

Unlock Aid immediately shared our community feedback with USAID leadership. We also shared it with the media and our friends in Congress for good measure.

Last Friday, USAID took action to address the issue by revising its guidance to enable prime contractors to work with a more diverse partner base. While this welcome news came too late for some primes that had already firmed up their proposed consortia, this at least a positive step that provides USAID a path forward for its future tenders.

The Unlock Aid community wants to see big, structural reform to the ways that development partners like USAID do business. But process is also policy, so while we’re going to keep working with Congress and other parliaments to drive the big changes, we also want to help development agencies do better in the day-to-day. To that end, we’re ready to deploy this playbook again, this time for the $400 million “Global VAX” initiative, announced by USAID Administrator Samantha Power on December 6.

We’re still waiting on details from the Administration about how it plans to spend Global VAX resources, but rest assured we stand ready to help USAID live up to Administrator Power’s vision and, ultimately, get shots in arms. We would greatly appreciate your feedback, stories or ideas about both the Global VAX initiative and, more generally, how institutions like USAID can better identify and scale solutions in the global vaccination effort.