JANUARY 06, 2014
The scandal-plagued government agency that annually spends huge sums on global humanitarian assistance has found yet another noble cause to blow a chunk of American taxpayer dollars on—improving the quality of media content in a former Soviet republic with a democratic government.
It’s simply the latest of many questionable allocations of public funds by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which is charged with providing economic, development and humanitarian assistance worldwide. In a recent announcement titled “USAID from the American People/Armenia,” the Obama administration revealed that it’s dedicating $3.35 million to make media more efficient in the southwestern Asian country.
The program is officially called “Media for Informed Civic Engagement” and the goal is to increase citizen access to independent and reliable sources of information about the government of Armenia’s policies and planned reforms. Special emphasis will be put on “reforms in decentralization, transparency and accountability, and social sector policy,” according to the USAID announcement.
In the end “media capacity to meet professional standards of journalism and reflect a diversity of perspectives in reporting” will be strengthened, USAID says. Journalists will be more professional, networks of media outlets will be stronger and access to credible and professionally produced information will increase. With the U.S. economy hurting for years and unemployment sky high, it’s fair to say this isn’t a priority for most Americans.
Then again, that can be said about many of the causes that USAID funds with our tax money. The agency has a massive budget and it doles out billions of dollars to feel-good causes like reducing global poverty and under nutrition in Africa and to help Asians learn enough English to work in offshore call centers for American businesses. You can’t make this stuff up. USAID actually spent $10 million to train Filipinos to work in Asian call centers that serve the very U.S. businesses President Obama threatened to strip of tax deductions for moving jobs and profits abroad.
In the last few months alone, USAID has been embroiled in two massive scandals that have fleeced Americans out of hundreds of millions of dollars. The first one involves the allocation of $236 million to the fraud-infested Afghan Ministry of Public Health. The money is supposed to fund prenatal care for women, hospitals, physicians’ salaries and other medical costs but the Islamic republic’s health agency lacks the necessary controls and oversight to prevent waste, fraud and abuse so no really knows where the money has gone.
In fact, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), which was created precisely to protect American tax dollars in the country’s assistance effort, has repeatedly warned USAID about the corruption that plagues the health agency. The continuous flow of U.S. cash to the Afghan Ministry of Public Health is a “reckless disregard toward the management of U.S. taxpayer dollars,” the watchdog writes in a recent report.
Just a few weeks ago Judicial Watch wrote about a mainstream newspaper exposé detailing how millions of dollars in malaria drugs provided to Africa by the U.S. government—via USAID—are stolen each year and sold on the black market. More than 20% of the mostly American-financed malaria drugs are diverted each year, with a street value of about $60 million, according to inside government sources cited in the news story. The U.S. provides the medication via a USAID program called President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI).
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