Ignoring a June 2010 House Report that calls for USAID consultation with the charitable sector before implementing its much-criticized Partner Vetting System (PVS), Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) pressed USAID Administrator Rajiv Shahabout why the program has not been implemented during an April 12, 2011 hearing before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State-Foreign Operations.   The questions renewed concerns about PVS, which would require USAID grantees to collect detailed personal information about foreign partners and staff, to be submitted to the U.S. government for “vetting” against secret databases.Nonprofits have consistently told USAID that the program is ineffective as a vetting strategy and jeopardizes the safety of aid workers. In March 2010 the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships advised the administration to reject the plan. Learn more about PVS in our Issue Brief.

What is PVS? It is a way of screening staff, volunteers and leaders USAID grantees work with outside the U.S. to determine if they have ties to terrorism.  It is the method, not the purpose, of PVS that has become controversial. Here is how the he Final Rules says it will work:

“Information provided to USAID by applicants will be transmitted to USAID employees who will check that information against one or more databases maintained by the intelligence community.” [p. 12]

The personal data required on the proposed Partner Information Form includes:

  • name and government issued photo identification number

  • place of birth and date of birth

  • citizenship

  • gender

  • occupation

  • current employer and job title

  • home address

  • email address

  • rank or title in organization

First proposed in 2007, the PVS Final Rule was released in 2009 and said “The decision as to whether to implement PVS will be made by the incoming Obama Administration.”  In February 2009 the Obama administration announced delay in implementation and asked for public comment.   Several nonprofits filed comments saying the program is burdensome, unwarranted, and dangerous for workers.

Since that time significant reservations about the PVS approach have been expressed by the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, which recommended against implementation  and in appropriations reports calling for further consultation with the nonprofit sector, both in the House and Senate.