APRIL 23, 2014
More than four years after an earthquake devastated Haiti, the U.S. government’s costly initiative to build housing on the poverty-stricken Caribbean island has failed miserably even though tens of millions of American taxpayer dollars have been spent on the effort.
Fraud and corruption in the largely U.S.-funded Haiti recovery effort is old news and Judicial Watch has been reporting it for years. Congress approved $1.4 billion to help Haiti bounce back from the catastrophic 2010 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 and left over 1 million homeless. Most of the money has flowed through the famously crooked—and scandal-plagued—United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which is charged with providing economic, development and humanitarian assistance worldwide
USAID has a massive budget and it doles out billions 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. Just a few months ago a mainstream newspaper published a shameful exposé about the agency’s multi-billion-dollar program to treat malaria in Africa. A chunk of the malaria drugs provided to Africa by the U.S. are actually stolen each year and sold on the black market for a profit.
Similar boondoggles are going on in Haiti. In fact, last summer a federal audit revealed that hundreds of millions of dollars have gone to wasteful projects on the island with the single largest chunk—$170.3 million—going to a failed port and power plant adventure heavily promoted by Bill and Hillary Clinton. The Clinton-backed power and port venture is the biggest and most expensive failure mentioned in the probe, which was ordered by a Florida congresswoman who confirmed a “troubling lack of progress and accountability” in Haiti reconstruction projects.
This month USAID’s Inspector General published a report blasting the agency’s outrageous Haiti housing effort, which is rife with all sorts of serious problems and has exceeded costs and deadlines. For $55 million USAID was supposed to build 4,000 houses outside Haiti’s capital by 2012 but only 816 have been constructed even though funding increased to a startling $90 million. “The mission did not achieve its goals for constructing houses and developing home sites within budget and on schedule,” the audit says diplomatically.
Besides drastically overestimating the number of houses it would be able to construct in the allotted time, USAID failed to provide adequate oversight of contractors doing the work and severely underestimated costs, according to the agency watchdog. USAID also failed to keep complete records as is required in these sorts of projects and the agency didn’t bother enforcing a key provision; that contractors, hired with American tax dollars, document, track and correct deficiencies.
“The Federal Acquisition Regulation requires agencies to evaluate and report on contractor performance for each contract exceeding the simplified acquisition threshold, which is currently $150,000,” the report says. “USAID policy guidance also requires contracting officers and contracting officer’s representatives to evaluate contractor performance at least annually and, on contract completion, provide information for future source selection and other acquisition decisions.”
This didn’t happen with any of the six contracts awarded to four companies performing the “new settlement construction” in Haiti, auditors confirm. It gets better; even when a “technical office” pointed out to USAID officials that they were violating all these regulations, the agency continued doing it. Not to worry, the money will continue flowing despite the fleecing and severe mismanagement because the report mentions that following the rules will help with “upcoming awards.” More than $50 million has already gone to a number of contractors in Haiti that aren’t included in this probe, according to USAID’s own figures.
Huge sums of money have poured into Haiti in the earthquake’s aftermath, including $34 million from the Clinton Foundation and $54.4 million from the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund. On its website the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund claims that it has helped Haitians transform their own country and that the money has helped promote smart, sustainable economic development. Yet four years later news report after news report reveals that a large number of Haitians still live in deplorable, shanty town tent cities and an ongoing epidemic of cholera has claimed thousands of lives. Makes you wonder if someone is pocketing the money.
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