“The Peace Corps is a small agency that finds itself challenged to meet its global mission while at the same time complying with all of the requirements of a Federal agency. While the Peace Corps has shaped its core values around Volunteer wellbeing, commitment to national service, and other areas related to quality programming, diversity, and innovation, the agency has not made complying with Federal laws, regulations, and other requirements a priority.”
Every federal agency has an Office of the Inspector General. Peace Corp’s Office of the Inspector General was established in 1989 and its purpose is:
“The purpose of the Office of Inspector General (OIG) is to prevent fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement and to promote effectiveness and efficiency in government. OIG is an independent entity within the Peace Corps. The Inspector General reports directly to Congress and the Peace Corps Director, keeping them fully and currently informed concerning the programs and operations of the Peace Corps. The inspector general for the Peace Corps is Kathy A Buller.”
The Inspector General also evaluates Peace Corps Programs and Operations in Host Countries. There are some RPCVs on the OIG staff, although the Inspector General of the Peace Corps is not one.
These are the most current and most important reports from the OIG.
- The third report is the Semiannual Report to Congress for the first half of FY 2018 and will cover the time from October 1, 2017 though March 31, 2018. It should be released in the next few weeks and will be posted here. It should evaluate progress being made. This report should also cover the time when the 20% reduction in staff began.
Director Olsen will be dealing with these Management Challenges and Peace Corps responses. She was only actual Director for a few days at the end of March. So, this coming report will focus on the work of Acting Director Crowley, who may well have made significant progress during her tenure. The final report for 2018 will be published in November and only then will Olsen’s action on these challenges be evaluated.
The report on Management Challenges found the following:
“Significant management challenges facing the Peace Corps:
- Information Technology Security Management
- Planning and Implementation
- Human Capital Management
- Volunteer Health and Safety”
Here is an excerpt about one of the concerns, Information Technology Security Management:
“OIG is concerned about the quality of the agency’s IT security program, especially considering the sensitive data that the Peace Corps maintains about Volunteers, such as health records and sexual assault incident information. Since FY 2009, we have reported in our management and performance challenges that the Peace Corps has not achieved full compliance with FISMA or fully implemented an effective IT security program.2 Some of the identified issues have been outstanding for over 7 years, and the agency has struggled to implement corrective actions. Year after year, our results demonstrate that the Peace Corps lacks an effective information security program because of problems related to people, processes, technology, and culture.”
Gabriel Krieshok is an RPCV, a IT expert, who worked in the IT Department at Peace Corps. Read John Coyne’s interview with him: https://peacecorpsworldwide.org/author/jpcoyne/page/6/
Another concern is that of Volunteer Health and Security. From the report:
“While the Peace Corps works to prioritize the safety, security, and physical and mental health of its Volunteers, OIG country program evaluations and audits have identified aspects of the agency’s safety and security and Volunteer medical care programs that present management challenges. Specifically, these challenges relate to the Volunteer health care program, processes for selecting and approving sites for Volunteers, procedures and documents that prepare the agency to respond to emergencies, and sexual assault risk reduction and response.”
Volunteer Health Care
“In 2010, OIG reviewed the medical care provided to Volunteers following the death of a Volunteer in Morocco.14 The review found that the methods used to measure and monitor the quality of Volunteer
health care were insufficient. A follow-up review released in March 2016 found
that the agency enhanced the Volunteer health program with regard to our 2010 findings, but further improvements were still needed.15 Specifically, overseas health units had experienced turnover and staffing gaps that resulted in poor transfer of patient information and documentation which can put Volunteers’ health and safety at risk.”
Legislation is pending in Congress to address some of these health and safety concerns.
Peace Corps is not the only struggling federal agency.
Last April, the Council of Inspectors General issued a report. Here is an excerpt from that report:
“The report, being released at a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing Wednesday, catalogues the seven “top management and performance challenges” cited by 61 inspectors general (IG). Those challenges are information technology security and management, performance management and accountability, human capital management, financial management, procurement management, facilities maintenance and grant management.”
- “The “protection of federal IT systems from intrusion or compromise by external or internal entities … is a long-standing, serious, and ubiquitous challenge for federal agencies across the government … failure to meet this challenge can have significant consequences in any number of ways, including by exposing individuals’ personal information and compromising national security,” as happened when “data breaches at the Office of Personnel Management exposed the personal information of over 20 million people.”