New Partners Initiative
In PEPFAR I, USAID was the lead agency for the New Partners Initiative (NPI), which was started in 2005 and aimed toward improving local capacity and increasing the number of local partners. A director for NPI was situated at OGAC headquarters. Early in the program, NPI offered nearly $200 million to new community-based organizations through cooperative grants in the 15 focus countries. These organizations may have had experience providing prevention, treatment, and care services, but little experience working with the USG (USAID OIG, 2007).
Under PEPFAR, NPI was created to build the capacity of organizations at the community level to achieve local ownership and enhance the long-term support and viability of HIV/AIDS responses. Specifically, NPI’s goals are to (1) increase PEPFAR’s ability to reach people with needed services by identifying potential new PEPFAR partner organizations, (2) increase the total number of partner organizations and their capacity to provide prevention and care services, and (3) build capacity in host nations by developing indigenous capacity to address HIV/AIDS to promote the sustainability of host nations’ efforts. (USAID OIG, 2007, p. 3)
USAID’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) had several audit findings. First, mission teams reported an increase in their workloads, including for their technical officers, because of the new initiative and uncertainty about the future residence of the partners had a negative effect on USAID interaction with these partners. Secondly, these partners did not have the capacity to comply with USAID administrative requirements tested, though partner improvements in some of those areas were identified during the audit. “Specifically, the audit noted weaknesses in NPI partners’ ability to comply with program and financial reporting, accounting practices, and work plan requirements” and USAID OIG made recommendations to the Office of HIV/AIDS for corrective action to address these deficiencies (USAID OIG, 2007, p. 1). Despite the weaknesses in the organizational assessments, USAID’s OIG also recognized that many of the deficiencies were being addressed. During the partner country visits, the committee overall heard from the NGOs, partner country government, and USG representatives that local capacity building was having a net positive effect. Even non-country visit interviewees noted that early introductions and efforts were critical to developing or building relationships.
“Another area not appreciated enough is the effort getting PEPFAR programs going on the ground, building the partnerships and ownership with the people running the programs. Getting the buy-in