Friday, July 5, 2013

Bigger isn't always better

As part of my history in responding to disasters I've had the good fortune to spend time in Haiti, albeit under difficult circumstances. One of those times followed the January 12, 2010 Earthquake...which is why reading the report issued by the GAO was and continues to be so infuriating.

The Governmental Accountability Office released an interim report on the efforts of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) 3 years on...remember to take deep breaths. 

Haiti Reconstruction: USAID Infrastructure Projects Have Had Mixed Results and Face Sustainability Challenges 

The Highlights:
  • Of the $651 million Congress allocated for Haiti reconstruction to the USAID, only $204 million has been spent three years later. And much of that has gone to questionable use.
  • USAID is building a power plant, port, and industrial park all of which the GAO has concluded will not be able to be maintained upon their completion without continued outside support. Not only that but the projects were poorly mapped out and budgeted for and will likely require an additional $120-$190 Million to complete.
  • USAID has reduced its permanent housing construction targets in Haiti. USAID initially underestimated the funding needed for its New Settlements housing program. As a result, the agency increased the amount allocated by 65 percent, from $59 million to $97 million, and decreased the projected number of houses to be built by over 80 percent, from 15,000 to 2,649. The estimated number of beneficiaries was reduced from 75,000 to 90,000 to its current estimates of approximately 13,200 to 15,900.
The Report makes the following recommendation:

The GAO recommends that Congress consider requiring regular reports from the State Department on USAID’s progress. It also recommended that USAID hire an engineer to oversee construction of the port and suggested the organization put community support programs in place for housing development projects.

Excuse me...I need to go scream.

Read more here:
How is this possible? How was regular reporting and proper fiduciary oversight not part of the agreement in receiving $651 Million dollars?! I realize that implementing programs of this size and scope is not easy, especially in Haiti where nothing goes according to plan, corruption is commonplace, and the government wants things like flush toilets in new houses with no municipal septic system to process the waste produced. Be that as it may, the findings in the report do not paint a happy picture, and I hope for the sake of those still living in tent camps struggling with getting back to life as it was can expect better now that more eyes will be on recovery programming.

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