ArcWatch: Your e-Magazine for GIS News, Views, and Insights

March 2010

GIS: Bringing Accountability and Transparency to Haitian Relief Efforts

By Karen Richardson, Esri Writer

More than 100 international agencies came to the aid of Aceh Province in Indonesia after the 2004 tsunami. With the international agencies' host nations contributing, the organizations helped fund a US$4.5 billion rebuilding effort.

It was important to ensure that contributions went to the people who needed the help so that the next time a disaster occurred, such as the magnitude 7 earthquake in Haiti and the magnitude 8.8 earthquake in Chile, countries would once again be willing to provide relief. Trying to meet that challenge with the help of GIS is the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI).

INTOSAI, based in Vienna, Austria, serves as an umbrella organization for the international government audit community. It's an autonomous and nonpolitical organization that works with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). ECOSOC sets forth policy recommendations for promoting higher standards of living; identifying solutions to international economic, social, and health problems; and encouraging universal respect for human rights. For more than 50 years, INTOSAI has provided a framework to improve government auditing worldwide.

Over the last few years, INTOSAI has learned how to improve the transparency, accountability, and audit of the flow of international aid by using GIS.

Wanting to take a lesson from one of the countries affected by the tsunami, representatives of INTOSAI's Tsunami Task Force attended a weeklong training course in the spring of 2006 at Aceh's Syiah Kuala University. It was hosted by the GIS and Remote Sensing Laboratory at the university. The Tsunami Task Force members learned how to use geospatial information to help plan, coordinate, monitor, and audit disaster-related aid. The session was taught by staff from Badan Rehabilitasi dan Rekonstruksi (BRR) NAD-Nias, the temporary building and reconstruction arm of the Indonesian government in Aceh Province. Auditors from the Indonesian Supreme Audit Institute (Badan Pemeriksa Keuangan [BPK]) followed an intensive course focused on GIS and the use and integration of imagery data in their work. Training was provided by the International Institute for Geoinformation Science and Earth Observation (ITC), now part of the University of Twente in the Netherlands. Esri provided ArcGIS licenses for a hands-on tutorial.

As a result of that training, the Netherlands Court of Audit—the chair of the Tsunami Task Force and a member of INTOSAI—set up a knowledge center in 2007 that explores how GIS and geospatial data can be used in auditing. The center was supported by Esri Nederland B.V., Esri's distributor in the Netherlands. A year later, the Netherlands Court of Audit obtained ArcGIS licenses and trained its first group of auditors. Today, the Netherlands Court of Audit uses GIS to map the flow of money from the Netherlands to international programs that combat money laundering and terrorist financing. The technology also is used to help social programs target services for homeless children and for the distribution of Dutch funds for development assistance worldwide. By providing a visual representation, the Court of Audit can account for where money has gone and measure the success of each project. INTOSAI is now urging nations and agencies to use GIS and geospatial information for transparency and accountability as aid flows to Haiti for the earthquake recovery effort. In the Netherlands alone, about 100 million euros were collected for Haiti, with 43 million euros coming from the Netherlands' government.

The Netherlands Court of Audit intends to use its GIS knowledge and expertise to advise the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a group of major nongovernmental organizations on how to enhance transparency and accountability for tracking aid monies for Haiti.

Internationally, INTOSAI is making stakeholders aware of how important it is to use geospatial information in aid management systems at the agency level as well as in Haiti.

INTOSAI has published its findings in a report, Lessons on Accountability, Transparency, and Audit of Tsunami-Related Aid. INTOSAI also produced and distributed a flyer to help the auditing community understand why GIS and geospatial information are so important as the relief effort in Haiti continues.

Read INTOSAI's flyer, Haiti Accountability Starts Now!

Learn more about INTOSAI's Accountability for and Audit of Disaster-related Aid.

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