Ludlam statement House Congressional hearing May 11 2011

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Authored By Carl Sosebee Mar 27, 2009
Authored By Carl Sosebee Mar 27, 2009
   
   
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*http://www.peacecorpswiki.org/images/Testimony_Ludlam_Hirschoff_2011_HFAC.pdf
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Latest revision as of 19:41, 6 November 2011

Statement of Chuck Ludlam and Paula Hirschoff Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (Nepal, Kenya, Senegal) Regarding Peace Corps Reform Submitted to the House Foreign Affairs Committee May 11, 2011

Contents

[edit] Introduction and Overview

When we heard how Kate Puzey, a Volunteer whistle blower, was murdered by Peace Corps staff in Benin, we grieved but were not surprised. When we heard how Jess Smochek was treated by the Peace Corps after she was raped in Bangladesh, we were distressed but not surprised. Our statement will explain why these stories are rooted in Peace Corps culture, policies and practices and are not isolated incidents.

We loved serving as Volunteers in the 1960s and again from 2005 to '07. Over more than 40 years we have been proud of our service as Volunteers. In important ways, Peace Corps has shaped our lives. We are still involved with friends in Kenya, Nepal, and Senegal, the countries where we served. We feel a bond with other Volunteers. We think and act differently in the world as a result of our Peace Corps experiences. And the two of us met at a Peace Corps function. We deeply believe in the Peace Corps mission. It has been a force for good in the world.

During our second term of service, however, we became dismayed as we gradually realized the extent of mismanagement in the agency. Few Volunteers from the early decades have served again. If they did, most would share our alarm. During and after our recent service, we documented that the mismanagement is pervasive and deeply entrenched in Peace Corps culture. Because we still have faith in the Peace Corps ideals, we cannot keep quiet about its manifest failures. The bottom line is that over the decades, the Peace Corps has substantially declined. It falls far short of its idealistic goals and may be the worst managed agency of the Federal government.

This is a bipartisan loss and tragedy. The need for fundamental reforms has grown under Democratic as well as Republican administrations. The Peace Corps' refusal to listen to and protect Volunteers is bipartisan. Its failure to organize effectively as an agent of grassroots development is bipartisan. Its tendency to deny that there are any problems is bipartisan. And certainly, the failure of Congress to oversee the agency has been bipartisan. Bipartisan action to enact reform legislation is long overdue.

Why is the need for reform not well known? The Peace Corps has been tenacious in suppressing bad publicity. As we will explain, it conceals information about the many Volunteers who quit early and the serious problems revealed in its Volunteer survey results. During the recent campaign to expand the number of Volunteers in the field, the Peace Corps and National Peace Corps Association quashed pending reform legislation and discussion of reforms. Moreover, the Volunteers have little incentive to speak up for change. Instead, many quit early in frustration, often blaming themselves for the problems they experienced. When younger Volunteers return home, they are soon too preoccupied with readjusting to get involved with reform. Few Volunteers know how to organize to seek reform, and the Peace Corps gives them no effective outlets in policy-making circles. In this information vacuum, the media usually produce puff pieces when they cover Peace Corps. With no one holding the agency accountable, it’s no wonder that it has atrophied.

What are the underlying problems? Today’s Peace Corps is a hierarchy with Volunteers at the bottom. It’s highly bureaucratic and risk-averse. While many of the staff do excellent work under trying conditions, many others condescend to Volunteers, devalue what they offer, and focus on regulating rather than empowering them. Although Volunteers are in the best position to assess the agency's performance, their input is largely ignored. Typically, bureaucratic concerns trump the agency’s idealistic mission.

The Volunteers who do speak out about mismanagement are often shunned or sent home. In most countries Volunteers say that to survive the bureaucracy they must “fly under the radar” and stay clear of management. When Volunteers succeed, they often say that it’s in spite of, not because of the bureaucracy. The root cause of this labor-management divide is that the Peace Corps lacks sufficient respect for the Volunteers to establish effective listening mechanisms.

It follows that our lead reform proposal is to mandate that the Peace Corps establish listening mechanisms to encourage Volunteers to offer constructive input regarding staff performance and program effectiveness – on a confidential basis. This will empower Volunteers to reform the Peace Corps from the inside. In addition, we propose to empower applicants by publicizing metrics of the agency’s performance so that they can determine which Peace Corps programs are well managed. This will pressure the agency to reform from the outside. Finally, we propose to utilize the ultimate incentive – vigorous and healthy market competition between the Peace Corps and the newly authorized Volunteers for Prosperity program. With this combination of systems, incentives and pressure, we have hope that the Peace Corps will begin to live up to its iconic reputation.

[edit] Listening Mechanisms Guaranteeing Confidentiality and Protection Against Retaliation

Enactment of mandates for the Peace Corps to establish listening mechanisms is our first major recommendation. If the Volunteers are empowered to speak out on a confidential basis without fear of retaliation, the Peace Corps will face effective internal pressure to reform.

The urgent need for this reform was intensified by the murder of Peace Corps Volunteer and whistle blower Kate Puzey in Benin by a Peace Corps staff member who she had reported was raping students at her school. Kate begged that her identity as a whistle blower be held in confidence. The Peace Corps staff blew her cover and failed to warn her that she was in jeopardy. As a foreseeable consequence, the accused staffer murdered Kate.

It appears that the Peace Corps did not refer the case to the Federal Bureau of Investigation to determine whether the Country Director should be indicted for violating Kate’s civil rights.[2]

Two years before her murder in 2007, Senators Chris Dodd and Ted Kennedy introduced legislation mandating that the Peace Corps guarantee confidentiality for Volunteer whistle blowers and protect them against retaliation. In July 2007 while serving as Volunteers in West Africa, we flew to Washington to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in favor of the Dodd/Kennedy bill protections. The Peace Corps opposed that legislation. It disparaged the idea that there was anything broken in the Peace Corps. The National Peace Corps Association also opposed the legislation. Then in March 2009 Kate was murdered.

Would the Dodd/Kennedy bill protections have saved her life? It's a haunting question. We can’t answer a hypothetical, but it appears that the actions and policies of Peace Corps Headquarters were just as culpable as the actions and policies in Benin. The agency’s reluctance to listen to and respect Volunteer whistle blowers such as Kate is deeply entrenched in Peace Corps culture. The problems leading to her death are part of Peace Corps culture and policies. This cannot be dismissed as an isolated or unforeseeable event.

We failed Kate because we were not tough and persuasive enough to defeat the opponents of the Dodd/Kennedy bill reforms. We feel troubled and indirectly responsible for her death.

In March 2010, a year after Kate was murdered, we tried again to enact protections for Volunteer whistle blowers, raising them as amendments to the 2009 Dodd Peace Corps Reauthorization legislation. Again, the agency and NPCA opposed and killed them.

In June 2010 after Senator Dodd had formally requested that the Peace Corps “assess” mechanisms to solicit Volunteers' views on a confidential basis, the Peace Corps failed to do so.

On January 14, 2011, the same day that the 20/20 expose was broadcast, the Peace Corps promulgated its first rules to protect Volunteer whistle blowers. The rules are narrow, confusing, and cumbersome. They fall far short of the listening mechanisms and protections in the 2007 Dodd/Kennedy bill. Attached is our analysis highlighting 23 major problems with these rules.

The bottom line is that the Peace Corps has published poorly crafted rules 33 years after the rest of the government came under the Federal Whistle Blower Act of 1978. This is an unconscionable delay and the work is shoddy.

The timing of the new Peace Corps rules suggests that they are designed to discourage the Congress from enacting reform legislation. But with the issuance of these rules, the Peace Corps has acknowledged that Volunteer whistle blowers deserve protection. This step strengthens arguments for mandating that these protections become a permanent part of Peace Corps culture.

The Peace Corps’ hostility to Volunteer whistle blowers explains why the circumstances of Kate Puzey’s death do not surprise us.

It is time now – finally – to enact the Dodd/Kennedy proposals to establish mechanisms whereby Volunteer whistle blowers can speak out on a confidential basis and be protected from retaliation.[3] We should ignore Peace Corps staff objections that are based on fears of what the Volunteers will say about their performance. This proposal won’t bring Kate back but it will protect future Volunteers.

The Dodd/Kennedy listening mechanisms would ensure that Volunteers are heard when they review staff performance, Peace Corps policies, training, site preparation, and development programs. The Volunteers know best which staff members are competent and which programs are working. The Peace Corps must reverse course and heed their comments. But they won't speak out if the agency doesn’t guarantee them confidentiality and protection against retaliation. If Volunteers are empowered to speak out, the Peace Corps can begin a process for continuous renewal.

Organizations that respect their employees set up these listening mechanisms. They’re called 360 degree reviews. Such organizations do not fear what employees will report about management. Consumers in many areas have rating mechanisms.Examples are RateMyTeacher.com, Angie’s list, and Amazon. Now it’s time for the Volunteers to be given the means to rate their managers.

Unless Congress requires it to do so, the Peace Corps will not establish effective mechanisms to listen to Volunteers and protect whistle blowers.

[edit] Professional and Sensitive Policies for Rape and Sexual Assaults

Implementation of a new and professional strategy to prevent and manage rape and sexual assaults is our second major recommendation to revitalize the Peace Corps. The listening mechanisms and protections for whistle blowers are essential in this area too. They will ensure that the Peace Corps listens to Volunteer views regarding its policies and practices on preventing and responding to sexual assaults and rapes.

The Peace Corps has failed to develop sensitive, professional policies and practices to prevent rapes and sexual assaults and to follow modern procedures in caring for the victims. This delay is also unconscionable. This is consistent with its overriding failure to listen to and respect the Volunteers. This is why the stories of Peace Corps rape and assault victims do not surprise us.

Incidents of rape and sexual assault in the general population are substantially underreported because women fear that they will be blamed or demeaned. Peace Corps victims are especially reluctant to report these crimes because they have seen that the staff blames and demeans victims and tries to sever connections with them as soon as possible. The Peace Corps should take extensive additional steps to ensure that sexual assaults and rapes are reported, that Volunteer safety is the agency’s highest priority and that the incidents are managed to the highest standards of professional care. Safe practices include better security for Volunteer living quarters. The Peace Corps Inspector General has found that “40% of the Volunteers’ houses did not meet the [Peace Corps] posts’ own criteria for safe housing…”[4]

[edit] Emphasis on Quality, not Quantity, and Honest Metrics of Agency Performance

Ending the Peace Corps’ expansion campaign and mandating that the agency become more transparent with OMB, the Congress, and the applicants is our third major recommendation to revitalize the Peace Corps. Again, the Peace Corps must listen to the Volunteers, who support reform over expansion.

Unfortunately, the agency’s high priority over the decades has been to increase the number of Volunteers in the field. This effort has been led recently by the More Peace Corps campaign sponsored by the National Peace Corps Association and the Push for Peace Corps campaign. This is a classic example of favoring quantity over quality. Given the pervasive mismanagement, additional Volunteers is the last thing this troubled agency needs. The agency’s own survey of Volunteers found that they supported reform over expansion by a 5 to 2 margin. But, once again, their point of view was ignored.

The Peace Corps has recently added 1,000 Volunteers worldwide. These additional Volunteers were generally added to the workload of existing staff, many of whom have been stretched to the breaking point. The Peace Corps Inspector General (IG) has found that the agency has no definition of “quality” so it cannot even attempt to measure the inevitable tradeoffs between quantity and quality. The IG reported that Peace Corps staff had expressed concerns about a decline in Volunteer “quality and suitability for service…as (staff) face increasing pressure to meet agency growth targets.” It found that staff were being “encouraged to request lower-skilled trainees…[5] And now, with the government’s move toward budget austerity, all of the recent expansion must be unwound – a management nightmare. The expansion appears to have been a disastrous miscalculation. It has, however, succeeded in helping to kill reform legislation and silence any mention of the agency’s problems.

We believe that only by ending the expansion campaign will the Peace Corps be able to focus intently on reform. We believe this because honesty about the Peace Corps has been in short supply during the expansion campaign. This campaign rested partly on a misleading claim that there are 3 applicants for every Volunteer training slot. As recently as Fiscal 2008, 97% of the applicants who survived the medical selection process were invited to training. In Fiscal 2007 it was 96%. So in those years medical fitness was the basic criterion for service. In other words, nearly everyone who is considered medically fit gets to enter training to become a Volunteer. The scarcity of jobs probably contributed to a recent surge in applicants who are economic refugees, but they are not necessarily well motivated and qualified to serve as Volunteers. Peace Corps staff may complain about the Volunteers' motivation and sense of responsibility, but the agency itself has chosen not to be selective and to expand despite the absence of a surplus of well qualified applicants.

The expansion campaign has been premised on a second misleading claim that “20 countries” are shovel-ready for new or renewed Peace Corps programs. Apparently no such list exists. The Peace Corps could not find one in response to our FOIA request. The Volunteers in at least a dozen countries say their programs should be shut down, but again the Peace Corps doesn’t heed their point of view.

In addition, the Peace Corps hides the fact that 30-35% of Volunteers worldwide are talking with their feet and quitting early. In some countries and some programs the early quit rate is 40%, 60%, or up to 87%. Over the 2005-08 fiscal years, 35 different countries had an early-quit rate of 40% or more.[6] Fifteen of these countries have had early-quit rates greater than 40% in multiple years. During this reporting period, there were only six countries that didnt experience an early-quit rate of 30% or more[7] and not a single country that maintained an early quit rate of less than 20%. Since 2005 the Peace Corps has been manipulating statistics so it can conceal this embarrassing information from OMB, the Congress, the media, and the applicants. Of course, the applicants have a vital interest in knowing if they’ve been invited to a country with a high or low early quit rate. Why would any applicant accept an invitation to serve in a country with an early quit rate of more than 20%? High early quit rates demoralize those who stay to complete their service. They destroy continuity between Volunteers. They confuse and disappoint the communities where the Volunteers serve. One can make a strong case that the agency is squandering a percentage of its budget roughly equal to the early quit rate. The agency’s misrepresentation about this rate means that vital information is not used to target improvements in programs with the highest quit rate and poorest management. The Peace Corps dares not admit the truth about the early quit rates, because it would reveal that to expand, it must first fill these vacated slots – a costly and continuous treadmill.

The agency also hides the fact that its own surveys of Volunteers document pervasive malaise and mismanagement. We obtained a copy of the country-by-country results for the 2008 survey from a staff whistle blower. We created an excel spread sheet that ranks the countries from top to bottom on each survey question. The same countries land at the top or bottom on question after question. These results revealed that about 15 countries were well managed. The Volunteers give marginal or low ratings to many Country Directors and other staff and the programs to which they were assigned. The Country Director in Benin when Kate was murdered ranked in the bottom 10 worldwide. The survey data dovetails with the early quit rate data: The same countries rank low or high. The agency seems to have no system to use the surveys to overhaul the worst-managed programs.

The Peace Corps has refused to release the country-by-country results for the 2009 and 2010 in response to our FOIA requests. It denied us access to this information because the Peace Corps is loath to divulge the country-by-country and program-by-program results to applicants as they might refuse an invitation to serve in a low-ranked country. Also, were this information to become public, it would be toxic to the expansion campaign. These are not valid reasons for refusing to comply with FOIA or President Obama’s transparency initiative. We believe we have been successful in recruiting a top law firm to sue the Peace Corps to compel it to divulge the country-by-country results under FOIA.

We recommend that the Congress compel the Peace Corps to reveal the country-by-country and program-by-program early-quit rates and survey results to OMB, the Congress, the public and the applicants. If the applicants are empowered to be selective in accepting an invitation to serve, the Peace Corps will face effective external pressure to reform.[8] If the Peace Corps finds it difficult to persuade applicants to serve in the worst managed programs in countries with the highest early quit rates and the worst survey responses, it would feel pressure to intervene to fundamentally overhaul or shutter these programs. A powerful incentive for reform.

[edit] More Emphasis on First Goal

Our fourth major recommendation is for the Congress to mandate that the Peace Corps take the First Goal much more seriously as an essential element of the Peace Corps mission. Again, the key pressure will come from listening to Volunteers about the performance of the managers and the effectiveness of the programs in which they work.

Regarding its First Goal of sustainable grassroots development, the Peace Corps fails to acknowledge that it has fallen far short. For over 50 years, it has had no effective system to document the Volunteer projects that worked and those that did not. It has minimal systems to document Volunteers' work on a site-by-site basis or to develop strategic plans for each site. When the Volunteers develop an effective project, the Peace Corps has no system for taking those plans to scale. The Peace Corps makes essentially no use of Best Practice Guides. It could have developed thousands by now based on the experiences of 200,000 returned Volunteers. That it failed to do is an irretrievable waste and loss. In addition, the Peace Corps has not updated its philosophy or strategy for development and does not participate in the international debates about the most effective ways to spur development.

The Peace Corps does not provide seed capital for Volunteer projects. Yet such seed capital is sorely needed to launch demonstrations. Host country nationals are not persuaded by ideas and talk; they learn when they can see something demonstrated. The lack of seed capital is crippling and demoralizing. And the Peace Corps has set up bureaucratic rules that keep Volunteers from fundraising to support their projects. The Dodd/Kennedy bill allocates seed capital to Volunteers and permits more Volunteer fundraising.

As a result of these First Goal failures, new Volunteers usually start from scratch with little guidance on projects and strategies that they might seek to implement. Predictably, many young Volunteers get frustrated and quit – literally or figuratively. Of course, some individual Volunteers achieve substantial successes, but they often say that this is in spite of, not because of the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps' failures as a grassroots development agency not only hurt the Volunteers; they also deprive the host countries of the kind of assistance they desperately need and deserve.

The Peace Corps is more successful at its Second Goal – cultural exchange. Volunteers, who often speak the local language and live at the grassroots level, are wonderful cultural ambassadors for the United States. But the cost of some $50,000 per Volunteer per year is exceedingly expensive.

[edit] Upgrade Inadequate Administrative Infrastructure

Our sixth recommendation is that the Congress mandate that the Peace Corps upgrade its inadequate administrative infrastructure.

In its zeal to expand, the Peace Corps is not taking steps to reform its antiquated administrative infrastructure. The Peace Corps has more political appointees per capita than any other federal agency. For decades it has been a dumping ground for political appointees. We recommend cutting the number of political appointees at the Peace Corps by two-thirds. The Country Directors make or break the programs they lead. Yet the selection of country directors is not organized to eliminate favoritism based on political connections. The Peace Corps Inspector General is not appointed by the President so he or she is not independent of the political appointees. As a result, the lead in investigating crimes against Volunteers was taken away from the Peace Corps IG, a move designed to minimize the bad publicity that was arising from the IG’s investigations of these crimes and prosecutions of the perpetrators. The five-year limit on the tenure of Peace Corps staff means that no one stays very long, so the agency has little institutional memory. Short-term civil service staff cannot stand up to the political appointees. Staff turnover is constant and chaotic. Because of the five-year rule, agency staff do not have civil service rights. They are considered “temporary” employees who lack key rights of other federal employees. They can be fired arbitrarily at the whim of a political appointee. They need to be given whistle blower rights and protections. This is a way to respect the Peace Corps staff.

The Peace Corps prides itself on not having “rules” but this means that when it publishes guidance that has the effect of rules it does not comply with the Administrative Procedure Act and publish proposals for public comment. The Peace Corps is not transparent with applicants about the early-quit rate and survey responses in the country in which they are invited to serve. We have posted advice to applicants on PeaceCorpsWiki.org, the website for in-depth analysis of Peace Corps policies and performance, suggesting what they should know before deciding whether to accept an invitation to serve. Also, after “nominating” an applicant to a specific program and country, the Peace Corps actually “invites” the applicant to serve in a different country and program about 40% of the time; applicants are allowed only 10 days to decide whether to “take it or leave it.” These switches, done for the convenience of the Peace Corps, are unfair to the applicants. Such administrative shortcomings prevent the Peace Corps from listening to and respecting the Volunteers and civil service staff.

[edit] Market Competition to Spur Peace Corps Reform

Our final recommendation is for the Congress to put the Peace Corps into vigorous and healthy competition with the Volunteers for Prosperity (VfP) program. Even if Volunteers are empowered to speak out and applicants are empowered to be selective, we believe that only through intense market competition will the Peace Corps become committed to reform.

It is time to ask whether the Peace Corps model – an expansive, risk-averse, and rigid bureaucracy – is workable at current funding levels. The scandal exposed by 20/20 and the Federal Budget crisis act in synergy to raisethe risk that Congress will simply slash the Peace Corps budget, generating a net reduction in placements. However, if we act boldly, we can address the scandals and the budget crisis both at once and actually increase the number of these placements five to six-fold.

Had Peace Corps been less of a national icon, it might have evolved into a decentralized program that placed Volunteers with NGOs. This is how VISTA evolved into AmeriCorps in 1993. VISTA still exists, but it is dwarfed by AmeriCorps, which has far more volunteers. Compared to VISTA, AmeriCorps has minimal bureaucracy and cost because it connects volunteers with NGOs who handle selection, training, placement, and support. As a result, nearly 600,000 AmeriCorps volunteers have done domestic service in only 18 years since the program was established.

Since the Peace Corps was founded, NGOs have multiplied into the thousands, many led by host country nationals. The Peace Corps has failed to ask how this might fundamentally alter the Peace Corps model of service.

The Congress is well aware of the AmeriCorps model and has already enacted the VfP program for international service modeled on the domestic program. VfP was authorized as part of the Kennedy Serve America Act in 2009, although it has been operating since 2003. VfP connects American volunteers with international NGOs at a fraction of the cost per Volunteer of the Peace Corps. VfP applicants can choose among hundreds of NGOs, including those operating in countries that have no Peace Corps program and those with work assignments not offered by the Peace Corps. Because VfP is decentralized, it minimizes the participants' exposure to terrorist attack.

We propose that over a period of 3 to 4 years, half of the Peace Corps budget be allocated to VfP.[9] This would mean an allocation of about $200 million to the Peace Corps and the same to VfP. With its half, the Peace Corps could field 4,000 Volunteers. With its half, VfP could field up to 40,000 volunteers. Thus, by better utilizing the Peace Corps’ current budget, we could see a five to six fold increase in the total number of international voluntary placements.

The Peace Corps might argue that each of its Volunteer is worth five to ten times more than a VfP volunteer. Given the current mismanagement, however, it cannot credibly substantiate such a claim.

Of course, some NGOs, too, are poorly managed, but applicants can find out which ones are run well and apply to them. Indeed, with VfP we could set up a market competition among the NGOs to enable VfP applicants to make informed choices among potential positions; this would give the NGOs an incentive to improve their management of volunteers. No such market mechanisms operate for the Peace Corps. With fewer slots to fill, the Peace Corps would have a surplus of applicants and could select those with a demonstrated commitment to grassroots development and cross-cultural immersion and could provide them with substantially better training and technical support. This should reduce the costly early-quit rate.

Even if the Peace Corps were not mismanaged, this new divvy is a smart strategy given the Federal budget realities. We must make more cost-effective use of our resources as they grow scarce.

One key issue regarding VfP is whether the Peace Corps would make a bid to manage it. The Corporation for National Service manages both VISTA and AmeriCorps.

Our proposal is not to terminate the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps trains Volunteers in local languages, trains them to work at the grassroots level, and often sends them to villages where NGOs are less active or nonexistent. However, the proposal would end the Peace Corps monopoly on government-sponsored international voluntary service. The Peace Corps would continue as one of 2 major options for international voluntary service through the U.S. government. Achieving a balance between the Peace Corps and VfP would provide healthy market competition for the Peace Corps and spur it to embrace reform.

If over time the Peace Corps does not reform itself, then VfP would deserve greater and greater claims on the budget for international voluntary placements. The competition would thus determine whether the Peace Corps survives.

We know that our proposed divvy between the Peace Corps and VfP will be controversial. VISTA alumni vigorously opposed the establishment of AmeriCorps. The Peace Corps opposed the authorization for VfP. It is ironic that the Peace Corps opposed VfP and did not move to take it over, given that the Peace Corps has now organized a similar program: Peace Corps Response.[10] (If the Peace Corps takes over management of VfP, it’s not clear how VfP and Response might be meshed or merged.) Fortunately, both AmeriCorps and VfP were enacted. We hope that Peace Corps alumni will support this five to six fold increase in the number of international placements rather than merely defending the Peace Corps. We believe it’s time for the Congress to invest in VfP as it has invested in AmeriCorps so that we can preserve and increase the number of international placements.

To set up this competition, the Committee should adopt the amendments to the VfP authorizing legislation which are attached. And regarding Peace Corps reform, we have attached draft legislation to the Committee encompassing all of our recommendations.

[edit] Summary and Conclusion

In our statement we have explained why we were not surprised by the 20/20 expose. We have documented the hostility of the Peace Corps to Volunteer whistle blowers and its insensitivity to victims of rape and sexual assault. We have put these facts in the context of an agency that is hierarchical, risk averse, bureaucratic, and secretive. It misrepresents early-quit rates, hides results of its own surveys of Volunteers, emphasizes quantity rather than quality, makes false claims to support the expansion campaign, fails to organize itself for First Goal effectiveness, and continues ineffective management practices. These problems paint a consistent and coherent picture of an agency that has lost a sense of its mission.

We have not just complained; we have proposed mandating an array of interlocking systems that will apply pressure from the inside and outside and through market competition to ensure that the Peace Corps embraces reform. We trust that these systems will become a permanent fixture of Peace Corps culture so that the Congress will not again be forced to revisit the reform imperative. We have attached to this statement legislative language on the key reform issues.

The Committee does not need to rely on our viewpoint and recommendations but can listen directly to the Volunteers in the field. The Peace Corps has the email address of every Volunteer. With one key stroke the Committee could send them all a questionnaire about the agency's professionalism and reform options. Do not assume that the Headquarters staff speak for the Volunteers. The Volunteers are the most reliable source of information on the health of the Peace Corps. They have a markedly different point of view from that of management. We are confident that they will confirm our viewpoint and endorse our recommendations.

Thank you for listening to and respecting the Volunteer perspective. The Volunteers are the only reason for the Peace Corps; the agency is nothing without them. The Volunteers will enthusiastically endorse your oversight and legislative agenda for this troubled agency. We must empower Volunteers, enhance Congressional oversight, and encourage the press to ask penetrating questions. The immunity of the Peace Corps to constructive criticism must end.

Finally, with the 20/20 expose raising existential questions and this Committee listening to and respecting the Volunteers, we would like to be more confident that reforms will soon be mandated. But after fighting for reform for six years without success, we remain skeptical that the mandates will be enacted. For over 50 years this has been an agency that no one has been willing or able to hold accountable. We hope that the Committee will prove that our pessimism about the prospects for enacting reform is not warranted. The stakes are too high to abandon this agency. The Peace Corps is still America's best outreach to the world. In its fiftieth anniversary year, the Peace Corps deserves the time and attention needed to hold it to the high ideals with which it was founded. We are happy to answer your questions.

[edit] Appendix: Mechanisms for Listening to Volunteer Whistle Blowers on a Confidential Basis and Protecting Them Against Retaliation and Increasing Transparency of the Agency

(Taken in part from The Peace Corps Volunteer Empowerment Act, S. 932, Dodd/Kennedy: March 1, 2007)

[edit] PARTICIPATION OF PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEERS IN REVIEWS OF SENIOR STAFF AND PROGRAMS

[edit] CONFERING WHISTLE BLOWER RIGHTS ON PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEERS AND STAFF

The Director of the Peace Corps shall ensure that Peace Corps volunteers and staff reporting the misconduct of Peace Corps staff or advocating for reforms are treated in accordance with the provisions of chapter 23 of title 5, United States Code, prohibiting certain personnel practices (commonly referred to as whistleblower protection provisions).

[edit] INPUT OF VOLUNTEERS REGARDING SITE SELECTION AND TRAINING CURRICULUM

Country Directors and Associate Peace Corps Directors shall give substantial weight to the recommendations of Peace Corps volunteers regarding--

[edit] TRANSPARENTY REGARDING EARLY TERMINATION RATES OF PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEERS

In an effort to better determine early termination rates of Peace Corps volunteers, the Peace Corps shall--

[edit] TRANSPARENCY REGARDING SURVEYS OF PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEERS

The Peace Corps shall publish on line the results of surveys of volunteers, including a country-by-country and program-by-program break out of the results. It shall transmit such information to applicants and invitees.

[edit] PROVIDING FOR INCREASED TRANSPARENCY OF THE PEACE CORPS UNDER FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT

[edit] Appendix: Additional Reform Legislative Provisions

[edit] DIGITAL PEACE CORPS

The Director of the Peace Corps shall establish a system for promoting, by electronic means, improved communication among Peace Corps volunteers and staff, including the establishment of websites and e-mail links for use on a password-only basis by Peace Corps volunteers in country to discuss development strategies, funding sources, best practices guides, Peace Corps management practices and policies, and other issues. Such websites shall have an alumni section for returned volunteers with an interest and experience in supporting volunteer goals and programs, and this section shall be integrated into the larger system accessible to all volunteers. All close of service reports shall be available on such websites or e-mail links.

[edit] INDEPENDENCE OF THE PEACE CORPS INSPECTOR GENERAL

The Peace Corps Inspector General shall be appointed by the President subject to confirmation by the Senate.

[edit] INVESTIGATIONS OF CRIMES AGAINST PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEERS

The Peace Corps shall report to the Congress on the organization of investigations of crimes against Volunteers, including an evaluation of whether the Peace Corps Inspector General should be given the lead in these investigations.

[edit] LIMIT ON NUMBER OF POLITICAL APPOINTEES

The Peace Corps shall be limited to 15 Presidential political appointees.

[edit] COMPLIANCE WITH ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEDURE ACT

The Peace Corps shall comply with the Administrative Procedure Act. Public Law 79-404; 5 USC 500 et. seq. in promulgating rules, manual amendments, and similar guidances. Within one year it shall publish existing rules for public comment.

[edit] REPEAL OF FIVE-YEAR LIMITATION ON PEACE CORPS PERSONNEL

Sections 2506 (a)(2)(A), (a)(5) and (a)(6) of Peace Corps Act. Public Law 87-293 (September 22, 1961) (as amended) are repealed.

[edit] PERSONNEL RIGHTS OF PEACE CORPS EMPLOYEES

Peace Corps staff shall have the same personnel rights as Foreign Service Personnel under 22 USC 3905.

[edit] REIMBURSEMENT FOR WORK RELATED EXPENSES OF PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEERS

[edit] (1) AVAILABILITY OF FUNDS

The Director of the Peace Corps shall determine at the beginning of each fiscal year the amount of funding that will be available as reimbursement for work-related Volunteer expends for demonstration and similar projects for that fiscal year and inform each Country Director of the portion of that amount that will be available to distribute to volunteers under the supervision of such Country Director.

[edit] (2) AWARDING OF FUNDS

The Director of the Peace Corps shall promulgate rules pursuant to which each Country Director may reimburse Volunteers for work-related expenses utilizing funds made available under this section to eligible Peace Corp volunteers.

[edit] (3) ELIGIBILITY

To be eligible for reimbursement for work-related expenses under this subsection, a Peace Corps volunteer shall--

[edit] (4) AMOUNT OF REIMBURSEMENT

Reimbursement of work-related expenses provided to a volunteer based on his or her application or applications for reimbursement may not exceed a total $1,000, during the his or her initial term of service.

[edit] (5) REPORT

Each Peace Corps volunteer who receives reimbursement under this subsection shall submit to the Country Director or his or her designee of the country where the volunteer is serving before the close of such volunteer's service a report on the demonstration or similar project funded by the reimbursement.

[edit] CHARITABLE FUNDRAISING BY PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEERS

[edit] READJUSTMENT ALLOWANCES FOR PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEERS AND VOLUNTEER LEADERS

[edit] AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS

Section 3(b)(1) of the Peace Corps Act (22 U.S.C. 2502(b)(1)) is amended to read as follows: `(1) There are authorized to be appropriated to carry out the purposes of this Act $400,000,000 for fiscal year 2010, $??? for fiscal year 2011, $??? for fiscal year 2012, and ??? for fiscal year 2013'. NOTE: THE AUTHORIZATION FOR THE PEACE CORPS SHOULD DOVETAIL WITH THE AUTHORIZATION FOR VOLUNTEERS FOR PROSPERITY. WE HAVE RECOMMENDED THAT HALF OF THE CURRENT PEACE CORPS APPROPRIATIONS, $200 MILLION, BE DIVERTED TO FUND VFP.[11]

[edit] AMENDMENTS TO THE KENNEDY SERVE AMERICA ACT (VOLUNTEERS FOR PROSPERITY)

Adopt amendments to the VfP program so that it will provide healthy competition for the Peace Corps. Includes amendments to increase authorization for VfP – to be dovetailed with decrease in the authorization for the Peace Corps. Over five years, provide equal authorization for Peace Corps and VfP. Kennedy Serve America Act H.R.1388 (Public Law 111-13) Serve America Act (Enrolled Bill [Final as Passed Both House and Senate] - ENR)


[edit] TITLE V--VOLUNTEERS FOR PROSPERITY PROGRAM

[edit] SEC. 5102. DEFINITIONS.=

In this title:

NOTE: ONE CENTRAL QUESTION ABOUT VfP IS WHETHER IT SHOULD CONTINUE TO BE MANAGED BY US AID OR MANAGED BY THE PEACE CORPS.

[edit] SEC. 5103. OFFICE OF VOLUNTEERS FOR PROSPERITY.

NOTE: “MATCHING GRANTS” MEANS THAT THE APPLICANT AND/OR THE NGO MUST SUPPLY MATCHES TO THE VFP CONTRIBUTIONS. THESE MATCHES WILL ENSURE THAT THE APPLICANT AND NGO DEMONSTRATE A COMMITMENT TO THE SERVICE PROJECT.

(…) fostering partnerships between the private and public sectors to promote and facilitate the service of appropriately skilled * American volunteers in the developing world through matching grants and assistance;

(…) promoting and supporting initiatives of nonprofit organizations and corporations in the developing world to foster establishment of a non-profit sector and a tradition of voluntary service through matching grants and assistance.

(new) fostering establishment of a non-profit sector and tradition of volunteering in the developing world. NOTE: THE EMPHASIS ON “SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT” ENSURES THAT THE VOLUNTARY SERVICE BENEFITS THE HOST COUNTRY NATIONALS, NOT JUST THE VOLUNTEER.

The grants shall be paid to sponsoring organization on behalf of a appropriately skilled * American. The matching grants shall not exceed $10,000 and may not be used for tuition costs of the volunteer. This figure shall be adjusted annually for inflation. NOTE: IF VfP WERE TO AWARD $10,000 TO EVERY APPLICANT, IT WOULD COST 1/5 AS MUCH AS THE PEACE CORPS COST FOR ONE VOLUNTEER FOR ONE YEAR. IF VfP WERE TO AWARD AN AVERAGE OF $5,000, IT WOULD COST 1/10 AS MUCH. SO, IF VfP WERE TO BE APPROPRIATED $200 MILLION – HALF OF THE PEACE CORPS BUDGET – IT COULD FIELD 40,000 VOLUNTEERS – AS COMPARED TO 4,000 PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEERS. NOTE: THERE IS NO REQUIREMENT THAT THE NGO PROVIDE A DETAILED ITIMIZATION OF ITS EXPENSES ASSOCIATED WITH MANAGEMENT OF A SPECIFIC VOLUNTEER. IT MAY SET A STANDARD FEE FOR ALL VOLUNTEERS – A FEE THAT IS SUBJECT TO MARKET PRESSURES TO KEEP IT REASONABLE.

(2) NONDISCRIMINATION REQUIREMENT The VfP Office may not provide a stipend to an individual under paragraph (1) unless the nonprofit organization to which the individual is assigned has certified to the VfP Office that it does not discriminate with respect to any project or activity receiving Federal financial assistance, including a stipend under this title, because of race, religion, color, national origin, sex, political affiliation, or beliefs.

(3) The nonprofit organizations shall provide the VfP Office with evidence and metrics regarding the impact of their volunteer programs on sustainable development and the participants in VfP shall file reports on their service, including the impact of their service on sustainable development. Such information shall be made available to applicants for VfP to enable them to make better informed decisions regarding their own applications. NOTE: THIS INFORMATION WILL CREATE MARKET WITH INCENTIVES TO THE SPONSORING ORGANIZATIONS TO CONTINUALLY UPGRADE THEIR MANAGEMENT OF THE VFP VOLUNTEERS AND THE IMPACT OF THEIR SERVICE ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT.

[edit] SEC. 5104. AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS.

NOTE: THE AUTHORIZATION FOR VfP SHOULD DOVETAIL WITH THE AUTHORIZATION FOR THE PEACE CORPS. WE HAVE RECOMMENDED THAT HALF OF THE CURRENT PEACE CORPS APPROPRIATIONS, $200 MILLION, BE DIVERTED TO FUND VFP.

[edit] Appendix: Analysis of Peace Corps 2011 Whistle Blower Policy

The same day of the airing of the ABC 20/20 expose of the murder of a Volunteer whistle blower by Peace Corps staff in Benin, the Peace Corps issued its first rules regarding Volunteer whistle blower.[13] A copy of these new rules is printed below. This analysis shows that the rules – which appear as amendments to the Peace Corps Manual – are narrow and weak and confirms the view that the Peace Corps remains hostile to empowering Volunteers and that only with the enactment of legislation can Volunteer whistle blowers receive the protection and respect that they deserve. It is clear that the Peace Corps intends to use these new amendments to the Manual as an argument against enactment of legislation mandating that the Peace Corps protect the confidentiality of Volunteer whistle blowers and give them protections against retaliation. But, if the Peace Corps has finally acknowledged that Volunteer whistle blowers deserve protection, it surely has no argument left against the Congress ensuring that these protections become a permanent element of the Peace Corps Act and culture.

[edit] A. New Peace Corps Rules Regarding Whistle Blowers

On January 14, 2011 the Peace Corps Office of Safety and Security and Office of Global Operations (OSS/OGO) promulgated an amendment to the Peace Corps Manual regarding “handling of Volunteer / Trainee Allegations.” The amendment focuses on “misconduct, mismanagement, or violations of law or policy by Peace Corps staff or contractors or in connection with Peace Corps programs or operations; and on the handling of allegations or other concerns of Volunteers or Trainees about the conduct of host country nationals who are not Peace Corps staff regarding behavior and other matters that are beyond the legal jurisdiction of Peace Corps.” The amendment gives Volunteers the right to report violations to the Peace Corps Office of Inspector General. The amendment states that “Any Peace Corps staff member who receives or has knowledge of a V/T allegation or concern must treat the information with the utmost discretion and confidentiality” and “appropriate measures must be taken to ensure the V/T’s safety [and if] there is any uncertainty, it is critical that managers err on the side of caution and take every measure to ensure V/T safety.” The amendment also states that “No Peace Corps staff person may retaliate in any manner against a V/T because the V/T reported an allegation or concern under this subsection.”

The new Manual amendment “supersedes” a March 27, 2009 memo of the Peace Corps Office of General Counsel” regarding Volunteer whistle blowers.[14] The OGC memo is not an official agency rule. Technically, the Peace Corps does not issue “rules” in compliance with the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), which requires agencies to publish their proposed rules as drafts before they take effect, solicit public comment on them, give the public access to the rulemaking record so it can analyze the draft rule, analyze and respond to the public comments before finalizing the rule, and publish a complete record of the basis for the rule that may be subject to judicial review. The Peace Corps Manual is the Peace Corps’ equivalent of what for every other agency are “rules.” Under the APA, it can take a year or even many years to promulgate a final rule. But, because the Peace Corps does not comply with the APA, it can choose to amend the Manual in a matter of days. The OGC memo clearly has a much lower status than an amendment to the Peace Corps Manual. On March 10, 2010, a year after the OGC memo had been issued, we filed a FOIA request was filed with the Peace Corps requesting “Procedures for Peace Corps whistle blowers, including procedures for preserving their right to confidentiality, for protecting them against retaliation and for investigating their reports/complaints” and “Communications between the Peace Corps and the Office of Personnel Management regarding whether Volunteers have or could be granted whistle blower status under the Federal whistle blower statute.” The Peace Corps found that there were no documents on these two subjects, so even the Peace Corps itself seems to have not been aware of a 2009 PC OGC memo. As the Peace Corps seems to acknowledge in failing to locate the OGC memo in response to our FOIA request, an OGC memo has a substantially lesser status than that of a Manual amendment and is not a part of the official rules of the agency. If the Peace Corps had thought that the subject matter of the OGM memo was important, it surely would have moved expeditiously to incorporate it in the Peace Corps Manual. That this only happened on the day of the 20/20 expose casts doubt on the importance that the Peace Corps gives to protecting whistle blowers. It seems to indicate that giving the appearance of protecting Volunteer whistle blowers is more important than the reality of actually doing so.

[edit] B. Timing of New Peace Corps Rules Regarding Whistle Blowers

In terms of the timing of the policy announcement, it’s clear that it was issued not because of the fact that Kate Puzey was murdered but because of the fact that the murder was about to the subject of a 20/20 expose. In this sense, the policy announcement is an obvious public relations ploy. The Federal Whistle Blower Protection Act became law in 1978. In 2007 Senator Dodd introduced legislation to protect Volunteer whistle blowers. The Peace Corps belittled, opposed and killed these proposals. In 2009 Senator Dodd introduced legislation requesting that the Peace Corps “assess mechanisms” for soliciting the views of Volunteers on a confidential basis. The Peace Corps refused to do so in its June 2010 “comprehensive” assessment.

[edit] C. Substance of New Peace Corps Rules Regarding Whistle Blowers

Given the Peace Corps’ history of hostility to Volunteer whistle blowers, it is difficult to believe that the Peace Corps is now committed to protecting and respecting these Volunteers. An analysis of the substance of the new policy confirms this view.

All in all, it’s clear that the new amendment is narrow, weak and cumbersome. This is not surprising given that the new amendment was adopted under duress and not due to a change of heart at the agency regarding Volunteer whistle blowers. It is clear that the Peace Corps intends to use this new amendment as an argument against enactment of legislation mandating that the Peace Corps protect the confidentiality of Volunteer whistle blowers and give them protections against retaliation.

[edit] D. Legislative Proposals Regarding Protections of Peace Corps Whistle Blowers

In 2007 Senator Dodd introduced legislation to mandate that the Peace Corps establish mechanisms for soliciting the views of Volunteers regarding Peace Corps staff and programs. It also gave Volunteers whistle blower status under the Federal Whistle Blower Act of 1978. This approach is far preferable to the new Peace Corps Manual amendment and this mandate would ensure that confidentiality and protections become a permanent feature of the Peace Corps culture. This point of view is discussed in depth in the attachments.


[edit] OSS/OGO Amendment to Peace Corps Manual

January 14, 2011/ March 27, 2009 PC OGC Memo Excerpt from July 24, 2009 Comprehensive Peace Corps Reform Plan: Point Seventeen: Ensure Peace Corps Office of Inspector General Again Leads Investigations of Violent Crimes Against Volunteers/Staff

MS 271 HANDLING OF VOLUNTEER/TRAINEE ALLEGATIONS Date: January 14, 2011 Responsible Office: Office of Safety and Security and Office of Global Operations Supersedes: IPS 1-09 3/27/09

The Peace Corps Act, 22 U.S.C. 2503 (b); Executive Order 12137 (1979)

This Manual Section sets forth Peace Corps policies on the handling of allegations by Volunteers or Trainees of misconduct, mismanagement, or violations of law or policy by Peace Corps staff or contractors or in connection with Peace Corps programs or operations; and on the handling of allegations or other concerns of Volunteers or Trainees about the conduct of host country nationals who are not Peace Corps staff regarding behavior and other matters that are beyond the legal jurisdiction of Peace Corps.

With respect to the rights and Peace Corps expectations referred to in Section 3 (a) above, V/Ts must be informed that they should report to the Office of Inspector General (OIG) any activity which they reasonably believe constitutes (1) a violation of federal law, rule, or regulation; (2) mismanagement; (3) serious misconduct; (4) gross waste of funds; (5) abuse of authority; or (6) a substantial and specific danger to the public health and safety relating to the programs and operations of the Peace Corps. See MS 861. Such reports will be handled by the OIG as set forth in MS 861.

The effective date is the date of issuance.

[edit] IPS 1-09 - Handling of Volunteer/Trainee Allegations

Date: March 27, 2009 Responsible Office: Office of the General Counsel Issuance Memo

The purpose of this Interim Policy Statement is to set out explicitly Peace Corps policies for handling allegations by a Volunteer or Trainee of misconduct, mismanagement, or violations of law or policy.

The effective date is the date of issuance. Authored By Carl Sosebee Mar 27, 2009

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