Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) and Ranking Member Dick Lugar (R-IN) today released a U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) study of the Vietnam Education Foundation (VEF). The report was commissioned by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Congress created the Vietnam Education Foundation in 2000 as an independent agency in the executive branch to run an international science, technology, medicine, and mathematics fellowship program. The program allows selected Vietnamese students to pursue graduate studies in the United States and U.S. citizens to teach at Vietnamese universities. Since 2003, the VEF has established three exchange programs that support over 300 students and professors, along with some smaller initiatives. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee requested the study to explore financial controls and answer questions about the overall management of VEF.
"The VEF is an important symbol of reconciliation between Vietnam and the United States, but this study makes clear that additional reforms are needed to make certain that VEF is managed efficiently and employs rigorous accounting and personal management policies," said Chairman John Kerry.
The GAO report found that since 2003, VEF has taken a number of steps to strengthen internal controls, but the study also identified areas that remain to be addressed, namely:
· VEF, "still lacks a comprehensive risk-based internal control framework," leaving the organization vulnerable to fraud, waste, and mismanagement.
· VEF still does not have an office manual for its Washington office that summarizes policies and procedures, such as conditions of employment, leave, and travel policies.
· VEF has no written criteria that clearly lay out how raises and cash awards occur for its Washington staff, and has provided cash bonuses in excess of $10,000 to staff without proper notification to the Office of Personnel Management.
The Committee believes that VEF can build on its past accomplishments and serve as a valuable educational bridge between the United States and Vietnam. Toward that end, the Committee will be following up on a number of points raised in the GAO study and work with VEF as it implements the reforms recommended by the GAO.
Senators Kerry and Lugar have sponsored legislation, which was passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as part of the State Department Authorization Act of 2010, that would place VEF under the management authority of the Bureau of Educational Cultural Affairs in the State Department.
We invite you to read the entire report at: http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d10442.pdf