U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Alina Romanowski’s Remarks
USAID Iraq’s Governance and Performance Accountability Program Handover
January 31, 2023
I am delighted to be here today to celebrate the success of this important USAID program and its follow on to our Iraqi partners. The primary goal of USAID assistance is to create sustainable solutions that help Iraqis address their most critical development challenges.
As USAID’s Iraq Governance and Performance Accountability (IGPA) project comes to completion, we are proud to share the achievements made in collaboration with our Iraqi partners.
On behalf of the United States, I would like to express our deep gratitude for the support that the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government provided in reinforcing good governance and improving essential public services.
Over the past five and a half years, USAID has supported all levels of Iraqi government – federal, regional, and provincial – to ensure greater accountability, transparency, and citizen participation in government decisions related to public service delivery.
Since 2017, USAID has invested over $172 million to improve the delivery of essential services, promote transparent budgeting, and improve the responsiveness and effectiveness of government in addressing public service needs.
Through IGPA, USAID assisted Iraqi communities in accessing safe water, contributed to cleaner communities through efficient solid waste management, and improved engagement of citizens in the government decision making process.
In response to citizen concerns, USAID worked with local water directorates to detect leaks and improve the operations of 72 water treatment plants, increasing total water production by 30 percent. This directly benefitted 8.1 million Iraqis. On-the-job training and water plant maintenance initiatives lowered operational costs by as much as 80 percent in targeted communities. All of these measures increased access to potable water, responding to the most basic needs of each community and strengthening public confidence in the government.
With the Ministry of Planning, USAID developed more transparent and innovative procurement processes. Using this approach, the Iraqi government awarded 195 projects worth $943.5 million to qualified Iraqi and allied enterprises. These initiatives included water desalination, school and bridge construction, and education, health, and public service enhancements such as electricity provision, sewage, and solid waste management.
Using this process, the government also resumed 1,500 suspended or delayed projects such as the opening of the Betta Bridge, connecting Babil to Baghdad and the middle Euphrates provinces, and serving more than two million commuters per year. Another example is the previously stalled desalination plant in Abi al-Khaseeb, south of Basrah, that now provides access to potable water for half a million people.
In partnership with the Ministry of Finance and local governments, USAID helped government financing entities address fiscal challenges in budget transparency and infrastructure investments. Substantive improvements were introduced in public financial management, local revenue generation, and economic development. In an effort to increase accountability of federal revenues allocated to the provinces, USAID supported the General Commission to Monitor Federal Revenues to help ensure that these funds are efficiently managed and transparently spent.
In Kurdistan, with the Kurdistan Deputy Prime Minister’s Office, USAID improved the functionality and accessibility to Xizmat, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s service portal. USAID also developed a study on non-oil revenue endorsed by the Kurdish Regional Government’s Council of Ministers and helped shape e-commerce legislation that now allows Kurdish citizens to transfer funds electronically.
To ensure that these reform initiatives continue, USAID identified and empowered 80 Iraqi change agents; members of government or civil society who will continue to advocate for improved services within their organizations. These change agents continue to identify service gaps and propose sustainable interventions within their areas of expertise. In Baghdad, Mr. Qasim Muhammad Hassan, deputy director of the Citizens Affairs Department, worked to improve access for people with disabilities accessing government services by designating staff in the reception areas of provincial government buildings to guide visitors with disabilities, installing ramps for wheelchair access, and increasing the availability of sign language interpreters.
I am pleased that as this project ends, it will leave behind robust and engaged civil society partners prepared to engage positively with national and local governments. These initiatives bolstered citizen driven oversight, transparency, and accountability measures to help all levels of the Iraqi government engage more effectively on public service needs.
The activities under the IGPA project also supported notable gains in climate change adaptation and mitigation including promoting renewable energy, methane gas capture, climate-smart agriculture practices, and advocating for a national climate change fund.
Even though the project is formally coming to an end, we are confident that its positive impact will continue for many years to come both through the deliverables presented today and through the strong partnerships forged over the past five years.
Once again, I would like to thank the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government for their support of this initiative and express my heartfelt congratulations to all those here today who played an integral role in these successes! We look forward to working together again on more projects for the betterment of the Iraq people.