Judicial Watch • Haiti

Haiti Archives | Judicial Watch

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.

 

Roughly half of the $1.14 billion that the U.S. government allocated to help Haiti recover from the 2010 earthquake has gone to wasteful projects with the single largest chunk—$170.3 million—going to a failed port and power plant adventure heavily promoted by Bill Clinton and the State Department under the leadership if his beloved wife.

Can you say scandal? The former president, who has been heavily involved in distributing Haiti earthquake reconstruction funds, pushed hard for the power plant and port for an industrial park in northern Haiti billed as the centerpiece of the United States’ effort to help the ravaged island nation rebuild. As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined her husband in the effort, making several trips to Haiti to promote the project and encourage foreigners to invest in it.

In fact, Bill and Hillary Clinton led a star-studded delegation last year to inaugurate the industrial park, located about 100 miles from Port-au-Prince, tied to the power plant and port. Hollywood actors, a famous fashion designer and a British business magnate joined the Clintons as did high-ranking Obama administration officials such as then Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.

Hillary delivered a heart-felt speech saying “we have been united behind a single goal – making investments in this country’s people and your infrastructure that help put Haiti finally on the path to broad-based economic growth with a more vibrant private sector and less dependence on foreign assistance. And we believe that our work here in Haiti and here in the north is beginning to show results.”

Not really, according to a federal audit of the $1.14 billion that Congress approved to help Haiti recover from the powerful earthquake that killed more than 200,000 and left over 1 million homeless. The probe was requested by a Florida congresswoman who chairs the House Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee because hundreds of millions have been spent in Haiti with virtually no accountability.

The investigation focused on $651 million that American taxpayers have given Haiti via the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) since 2010. The probe “reveals a troubling lack of progress and accountability,” according to the lawmaker who ordered it, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. “More than three years after the devastating earthquake of January 12, 2010, we find that much of the assistance that the U.S. has provided Haiti for reconstruction efforts has suffered from ineffective stewardship on the part of USAID,” the veteran congresswoman says in a statement posted on her website.

The Clinton-backed power and port venture is the biggest and most expensive failure mentioned in the report. An astounding $170.3 million later, it is years behind schedule, lacks a qualified engineer and has unrealistic timeframes. As a result, planning has been hindered, the report says, and “funding will be insufficient to cover a majority of projected costs.” It will take an additional $117 to $189 million to complete it and it’s unclear whether the Haitian government will be able to find a private sector company willing to finance the remainder of the project.

That means Uncle Sam must come to the rescue or the $170.3 million already wasted on the project will be lost. Either way, U.S. taxpayers get screwed. Besides the scandalous, Clinton-backed power and port experiment, congressional investigators found mismanagement of a crucial housing plan that was supposed to accommodate up to 90,000 Haitians. USAID claims it will only be able to handle 3,200 to 15,900 people at nearly double the original cost of $59 million. That means the cost per house is nearly triple the original estimate, according to the report.

Back to the Clinton prominence in all things Haiti; the United Nations named the former commander-in-chief as a special envoy to the island and his Clinton Foundation has raised $34 million for Haiti since the catastrophic earthquake hit. Additionally, the former president has distributed $54.4 million from the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, which was launched shortly after the earthquake. The fund closed in December after distributing the last of the money and claims that it has “helped Haitians create a better future through smart, sustainable economic development” though it acknowledges that “much work remains to be done in Haiti.”

Combined with the U.S. government money and other charities that have raised huge sums for Haiti earthquake recovery, the island has received billions to rebuild. Yet three 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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