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Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction

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Emergency and Transitional Shelter Provision Flawed, New Evaluation Shows Print
Tuesday, 13 December 2011 11:32

An independent evaluation of shelter provision released last week by Estudios Proyectos y Planificación S.A., under commission of the International Federation of the Red Cross, provides perhaps the first systematic evaluation of the provision of shelter since the earthquake nearly two years ago. The report, while acknowledging the tremendous constraints in post-earthquake Haiti and pointing to some notable successes, is highly critical of the overall effort on the part of the international community despite the fact that “money was not an issue for the shelter response.”

The report focuses on the Shelter Cluster, which took the lead in providing emergency and then interim shelter solutions in Haiti, finding that affected populations and Haitian institutions were excluded from the process and a rigid, singular focus on transitional shelters (T-shelters) hindered the ability to develop a comprehensive housing solution.

Meetings were most often conducted in English and access was restricted inside the UN Log base leading to “a barrier between the international response system and the Haitian institutions.” One government official states that, “[o]ur ideas were not taken too much into consideration. Some said it is because we didn’t have the capacity [to actively participate in the cluster’s decisions] (…) Perhaps we were weak but we were there and tried, but they [shelter agencies] wouldn’t listen to us.”

The evaluation found that “a more participatory strategy would have been desirable to better address the affected population’s needs and plans and to seek collaboration with them, to allow a more self-driven response and to reduce the burden on the humanitarian actors.”

“Affected people were not consulted nor their capacities considered, the response was what those with the [foreign] money decided,” one interviewee told the evaluation team.

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MINUSTAH by the Numbers Print
Thursday, 08 December 2011 14:19

The United Nations Peacekeeping operation in Haiti, MINUSTAH by its French acronym, has been the target of recent popular protests and a source of controversy because of its role in re-introducing cholera to Haiti, the sexual assault of a young Haitian man and other past abuses. On November 3, 2011 the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and Bureau des Avocats Internationaux filed a legal complaint on behalf of over 5,000 cholera victims seeking damages from the United Nations. The UN has so far not responded or given a timetable for a response.

Here is MINUSTAH, by the numbers:

Percent of worldwide UN peacekeepers that are in Haiti, despite it not being a war zone: 12.5

Number of MINUSTAH troops (military and police) currently in Haiti: 12,552

Rank in size among the 16 UN peacekeeping operations worldwide: 3

Rank in size of Darfur and the Democratic Republic of Congo, respectively: 1, 2

Percent of Haiti’s annual government expenditures to which MINUSTAH’s budget is equivalent: 50

Percent of Haiti’s GDP to which MINUSTAH’s budget is equivalent: 10.7

Total estimated cost of MINUSTAH since the earthquake: $1,556,461,550

Percent of UN peacekeeping operations worldwide funded by the United States: 27

Percent the U.S. has disbursed out of its $1.15 billion pledge at the March 2010 donor conference: 18.8

Percent of the U.S.’ contributions to MINUSTAH since the earthquake that this represents: 41

Factor by which MINUSTAH’s budget exceeds the amount of funds the UN’s cholera appeal has raised: 8

Percent of MINUSTAH’s budget it would take to fully fund the UN’s cholera appeal: 1.7

Number of days operating expenses it would take to fund a cholera vaccination campaign that would cover the entire country: 18

Percent of a single day’s MINUSTAH budget that the cholera vaccination pilot program will use over its multiple-week lifespan: 40

Minimum number of people killed from cholera in Haiti since October 2010: 6,908

Number of people killed by homicide in Haiti in 2010: 689

Number of people, per 10 million (roughly the population of Haiti), killed by homicide in Brazil, the largest troop contributor to MINUSTAH: 2,270

Number of cholera victims who filed a claim with the UN seeking damages: 5,000

Number of cholera victims: 513,997

Rate per minute that Haitians were falling ill with cholera in July 2011: 1

Amount by which MINUSTAH’s budget exceeds the UN’s 2012 humanitarian appeal for Haiti: $562,517,100

Number of MINUSTAH personnel who were repatriated this year after a cell phone video emerged showing troops sexually assaulting a young Haitian man: 5

Number of successful prosecutions against over 100 MINUSTAH troops repatriated to Sri Lanka after allegations of involvement in child prostitution surfaced in 2007: 0

Number of standing claims commissions set up by the UN under Status of Forces Agreements so that local population may have means of redress from peacekeepers, historically: 0

Years MINUSTAH has been in Haiti: 7

Shortfall in trained national police officers that are supposed to take over for MINUSTAH: 10,000

Rank among Haiti’s top donors, including governments, that MINUSTAH would be if its budget went towards relief and reconstruction efforts: 3

Date on which cholera was discovered: October 21, 2010

Date the head of MINUSTAH was reported saying it was “really unfair” to accuse the UN of bringing cholera to Haiti: November 22, 2010

Distance, in miles, from the Nepalese MINUSTAH base to the location of the first reported case of cholera: .1

Date on which scientific paper confirmed that Haitian and Nepalese samples of cholera were "almost identical": August 23, 2011

Days since the cholera outbreak it has taken for the UN to accept responsibility: 413 (and counting)

Date on which MINUSTAH’s mandate was extended through 2012: October 14, 2011

Percent of Haitians in a recent survey who said they wanted MINUSTAH gone within a year: 65

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Blacklisted Contractor Continues Receiving Government Money Through Haiti Contracts Print
Friday, 02 December 2011 15:06

CEPR research assistant and HRRW contributor Jake Johnston writes in The Hill's Congress Blog today:

Following the devastating earthquake in Haiti on January 12, 2010, the U.S. launched an unprecedented relief effort, eventually totaling over one billion dollars. But the lead agency in the immediate aftermath was not the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), as is typically the case when our nation provides humanitarian assistance, but the military.  Just after the earthquake, the U.S. had over 20,000 troops in Haiti. Of the $1.1 billion in humanitarian funding from the U.S. in 2010, nearly half was channeled to the Department of Defense.

As has been the case in Iraq and Afghanistan, relief efforts have relied heavily on contractors, a number of which have a history of waste, fraud and abuse. An analysis of federal contracts has revealed that Kuwait-based Agility Logistics (formerly PWC Logistics) -- currently under indictment for overcharging the U.S. military by up to $1 billion -- has benefited from over $16 million in funding awarded in the aftermath of the earthquake.

With so much on the line, the U.S government, across the board, must step up its oversight of contractors to ensure taxpayer dollars are not wasted on companies with poor track records.

Agility has been barred from receiving government contracts since November 2009, when a federal grand jury indicted the company for overcharging the U.S. military on $8 billion in contracts to supply food for troops in Iraq, Kuwait and Jordan. Agility was accused of “intentionally failing to purchase less expensive food items, knowingly manipulating and inflating prices, and receiving product rebates and discounts that it did not pass on to the government as required.” The prospect of additional charges still exists.

In November 2009 Agility was added to the U.S.’s Excluded Party List System (EPLS), which prevents them from procuring contracts from any government agency. The EPLS designation has been extended to over 125 related organizations as the investigation has continued; all of them have been indefinitely barred.

Despite the blacklist designation Agility was able to secure government funding for work in Haiti through a joint venture. An analysis of the Federal Procurement Data System shows that Contingency Response Services LLC (CRS) has received over $16 million in government funding from the Department of the Navy since the earthquake.  The particularly bland sounding Contingency Response Services consists of three defense contractor giants -- Dyncorp, Parsons and Agility Logistics (then PWC logistics).

Read the rest here. The full version with more background on the other partners in CRS is available here.

 
With Poor Track Records For-Profit Development Companies Team Up to Fight Reform Print
Thursday, 01 December 2011 16:02

This is the final part of a series of posts analyzing USAID's increasing reliance on contractors and how this has affected efforts to provide greater oversight, implement procurement reform and improve the efficacy of U.S. aid. Part one is available here, part two here.

As was discussed in the previous post, the lack of oversight of large USAID contractors makes tracking the percent of funds disbursed to local subcontractors nearly impossible, yet this is not the only reason for increased transparency. It is also justified given that many of these contractors have previously been found to have performed their missions inadequately. Without increased efforts to monitor their actions, the likelihood of increased waste, fraud and abuse is only heightened. In addition to their work in Haiti, Chemonics has received hundreds of millions of dollars for activities in Afghanistan, including a $153 million contract in 2003 to improve the agricultural sector.  In 2005, the GAO found that Chemonics had failed to "address a key program objective", and that "consequently, during its first 15 months, the project’s progress in strengthening Afghanistan`s market chain was limited."

Despite this, Chemonics received a contract in 2006 for $102 million. Once again, the USAID Inspector General found significant problems with the program:

Chemonics reported results for all eight indicators for the first year of the program. However, the audit identified that for two of the eight indicators, reported results fell considerably short of intended results. Targets had not been established for the other six indicators making it difficult to tell how well the project was proceeding. In addition, Chemonics did not have documentation to adequately support reported results for six indicators. In two of the six cases, the support was inadequate, while in four cases there was no support at all. For example, Chemonics had inadequate support for the reported result that 1,719 individuals had received short-term agricultural training, and no support for the reported result that project activities had generated an economic value in excess of $59 million. In addition, the audit found that a major program activity—the Mazar foods initiative—was behind schedule. This $40 million initiative to cultivate 10,000 hectares for a commercial farm was not finalized in time to take advantage of the summer planting season as initially planned.

The Inspector General has also found problems with Chemonics’ performance in Haiti. The AP reported at the time of the report:

And an audit this fall by US AID's Inspector General found that more than 70 percent of the funds given to the two largest U.S. contractors for a cash for work project in Haiti was spent on equipment and materials. As a result, just 8,000 Haitians a day were being hired by June, instead of the planned 25,000 a day, according to the IG.

Additionally, the IG noted that Chemonics was using cash-for-work programs to remove rubble from private lots, contrary to USAID policy. The report states:

[T]he audit team observed workers removing rubble from the lots of private residences next to two of the four Chemonics rubble removal sites visited during the audit. Chemonics officials later confirmed that it was clearing the residential lots in conjunction with a road renovation project. USAID program officials confirmed that there are no formal procedures for selecting private homes for clearance, that private homes do not meet USAID/OTI’s site selection criteria, and that the implementing partner had not notified USAID/OTI of the exceptions.

The most egregious part of the IG report, however, is that Chemonics and Development Alternatives International (DAI), another for-profit development firm, were operating in Haiti with no oversight. The IG report found that USAID/OTI had not conducted financial reviews of their implementing partners, concluding that “Although DAI and Chemonics were also expending millions of dollars rapidly on CFW [cash-for-work] programs in a high-risk environment, USAID/OTI had not yet performed these internal control reviews.”

The fact that these internal controls were not applied is especially troubling given information in the contract that Chemonics was operating under at the time. Specifically, the contract required that detailed financial information be provided.

Read more...

 

 
Investigation Finds Evidence of Violations of Union Rights in Garment Industry Print
Wednesday, 30 November 2011 15:41

On the same day as a high profile event laying the corner stone of “one of the largest and most modern” industrial parks in the Caribbean, an investigation by Better Work Haiti found "evidence of violations of freedom of association" at other Haitian textile factories. Alison Macgregor of the Montreal Gazette reports:

Gildan Activewear Inc. has ordered its Haitian subcontractor to reinstate four workers after an independent investigation concluded they were illegally fired in September because of their involvement with a local union.

The union members worked for the Genesis S.A. factory near the Portau-Prince [sic] airport. The tax-exempt plant, owned by the powerful Apaid family, produces almost exclusively for Gildan. The investigation found there was "evidence of violations of freedom of association" at the factory, Peter Iliopoulos, Gildan's senior vice-president (public and corporate affairs) said in an interview Tuesday.

[It is also worth noting that the workers’ reinstatement follows pressure from the International Labor Rights Forum, United Students Against Sweatshops, Workers Rights Consortium and other labor solidarity groups.]

Until this past September there was only one union in the Haitian garment sector, and none in Port-au-Prince. In September, the Sendika Ouvriye Takstil ak Abiman (SOTA) union was formed as a sector wide movement. On September 16, SOTA obtained registration from the Haitian Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, yet as the Better Work investigation states:

Between 23 and 30 September 2011, six members of the Executive Committee of a new trade union formed by workers in the garment sector in Haiti (SOTA) were terminated by three factories in Port-au-Prince.


In each case, Better Work found that the “employer has not provided sufficient information to counter the allegations of anti-union discrimination”. The report suggests the re-hiring of those fired with back pay and concludes:

There is strong circumstantial evidence to demonstrate that the officers of the SOTA trade union were terminated based on their trade union affiliation. The fact that 6 out of 7 officers of the SOTA union were fired by three employers within two weeks of the registration of the union with the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs strongly suggests an effort by employers to undermine the new union, and to curtail its growth before it had the opportunity to expand its membership.

With the garment industry heavily promoted by the Haitian government and international donors, it will be imperative to ensure that worker’s rights are respected and strengthened.

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Leaked Contract Reveals Inadequate Oversight of Beltway Contractors; Haitian Firms Remain Sidelined Print
Monday, 28 November 2011 15:31

This is the second part of a series of posts analyzing USAID's increasing reliance on contractors and how this has affected efforts to provide greater oversight, implement procurement reform and improve the efficacy of U.S. aid. Part one is available here.

Procurement Reform – Moving Forward?

One primary aspect of USAID Forward is procurement reform. The goal is to “Increase use of reliable partner country systems and institutions”, strengthen local capacity by allocating more grants to local NGOs and increase the “percentage of total dollars through direct contracts with local private businesses.” The program also aims to “[d]ecrease both the number and/or dollar value of large indefinite quantity contracts” which have been labeled as “high risk”.

These reforms deserve to be supported, and there is some evidence that efforts are being made to implement them. The GAO report (discussed in the part one), for instance, acknowledges that procurement documents indicated, “whether those activities will be targeted at local firms or organizations or use traditional partners.”

Nevertheless, in Haiti, only .02 percent of contracts from USAID have gone directly to Haitian companies, while the largest contracts have gone to for-profit development contractors in the form of “high-risk” indefinite quantity contracts. The overwhelming majority of contracts have gone to companies in the Washington DC area (Beltway), as can be seen in Table I. The percentage that has gone to local firms in Haiti is even lower than USAID’s worldwide average, which over the past three years has been 0.63 percent. Through USAID Forward, the agency aims to reach 2 percent by fiscal year 2013.

Table I.

Contractor Location

Amount Received

Percent of Total

Beltway

 $ 242,204,401

82.96

Haiti

 $           48,641

0.02

All Other

 $   49,691,198

17.02

Total

 $ 291,944,240

100

Source: FPDS, author’s calculations.

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GAO Report Suggests that USAID Remains "More of a Contracting Agency Than an Operational Agency" Print
Monday, 21 November 2011 13:33

“But I think it's fair to say that USAID, our premier aid agency, has been decimated. You know, it has half the staff it used to have. It's turned into more of a contracting agency than an operational agency with the ability to deliver.” – Hillary Clinton, Senate Confirmation Hearing as Nominee for Secretary of State

This is the first part of a series of posts analyzing USAID's increasing reliance on contractors and how this has affected efforts to provide greater oversight, implement procurement reform and improve the efficacy of U.S. aid.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has changed drastically over the past 20 years. Beginning in the early ‘90s and continuing through the 2000s, USAID saw its reliance on contractors increase drastically. From 1990 to 2008 USAID experienced a 40 percent decline in staff, from 3500 to 2200. Over the same period, funds under their responsibility skyrocketed. The American Academy for Diplomacy noted in a 2008 report that, “[i]mplementation of programs has shifted from Agency employees to contractors and grantees and USAID lacks the technical management capacity to provide effective oversight and management.” The Academy also noted that “USAID employs only five engineers worldwide, despite a growing number of activities in that sector.” However it was not just NGOs that benefited from the increased use of contracts and grants; the for-profit development industry has gained as well. From fiscal year 1996 to fiscal year 2005, “the share of funds awarded to for-profit contractors rose from 33 percent to 58 percent.” These companies, generally based in the greater Washington, DC area, have taken a leading role in U.S. foreign aid.  In a 2008 Senate hearing on USAID, Senator Patrick Leahy stated (PDF):

USAID’s professional staff is a shadow of what it once was. We routinely hear that the reason USAID has become a check writing agency for a handful of big Washington contractors and NGOs is because you don’t have the staff to manage a larger number of smaller contracts and grants.

Sometimes these big contractors do a good job, although they charge an arm and a leg to do it. Other times they waste piles of money and accomplish next to nothing, although they are masters at writing glowing reports about what a good job they did.

Meanwhile, the small not-for-profit organizations are shut out of the process. This is bad not only for U.S. taxpayers but also for the countries that need our help.

With the election of Barack Obama and a change in the leadership of the State Department and USAID, this situation was supposed to change. Incoming USAID director Rajiv Shah announced the USAID Forward project, which aims to “change the way the Agency does business.” Additionally, in 2008 Congress appropriated funding for the Development Leadership Initiative that aimed to double USAID’s Foreign Service workforce by 2012, overturning the previous decades of declining staff. However both the USAID Forward program and the Development Leadership Initiative have not led to drastic changes on the ground as of yet, and potential funding cuts from Congress will only exacerbate the slow pace of reform.

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Slow Pace of Reconstruction Leads to Lower Economic Growth Print
Thursday, 10 November 2011 15:30

The level of grant support is only marginally higher than in 2009, before the earthquake, while overall spending levels are actually below 2009 levels. Despite the billions pledged in aid, budget support for the Haitian government was lower in 2011 than it had been in 2009.

The January 12 earthquake, which caused an estimated $8 billion in damages, led the Haitian economy to contract by 5.5 percent in 2010. With the prospect of large reconstruction projects backed by donor pledges of $4.6 billion, the economy was expected to begin growing rapidly in 2011. The IMF projected growth of over 8.5 percent in their first review of Haiti’s economic program in May:

Real GDP is expected to grow by 8.6 percent, assuming concerted strong efforts by the authorities and the international community to speed up the reconstruction.

As we have written about previously, disbursements from donors have been slow to materialize, a problem only exacerbated by the five months it took to form a new government. In addition to the effects on the ground, over 550,000 still living in tarp shelters with little services, the slow pace of reconstruction is also slowing economic growth. Updated projections from the IMF now expect slower growth of 6 percent in 2011.

Surprisingly, given the immense needs, government spending contracted sharply in 2011 compared to 2010. In 2010, with substantial grant support (including direct budget support) from donors, government spending reached 27.5 percent of GDP. In 2011 expenditures were significantly lower at 19.7 percent of GDP as grants decreased by ten percentage points to just 7.5 percent of GDP in 2011. The level of grant support is only marginally higher than in 2009, before the earthquake, while overall spending levels are actually below 2009 levels. Despite the billions pledged in aid, budget support for the Haitian government was lower in 2011 than it had been in 2009. The decreased expenditure most drastically affected capital expenditures, which fell from 16 percent of GDP in 2010 to below 10 percent in 2011.

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Haitian Cholera Victims Seek Justice Print
Tuesday, 08 November 2011 15:40

The Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) held a press conference today in New York regarding the complaint [PDF] they filed Thursday on behalf of 5,000 cholera victims seeking damages from the UN. The complaint states that

The cholera outbreak is directly attributable to the negligence, gross negligence, recklessness and deliberate indifference for the health and lives of Haiti’s citizens by the United Nations (“UN”) and its subsidiary, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (“MINUSTAH”).

IJDH Director Brian Concannon explained on Democracy Now! this morning:

“We’re hoping that this is the case that’s too big to fail. That the evidence against the United Nations is so overwhelming here that the U.N. will have no choice but to finally take responsibility for its malfeasance.” “What we’re asking for, what our clients are asking for, is the U.N. and international community to step up and to give Haiti the sanitation infrastructure it needs to stop the epidemic."

The AP’s Trenton Daniel summed up the goals of the complaint in an article today:

Concannon said he hoped the U.N. mission would set up a tribunal to evaluate the claims filed on behalf of the cholera victims. He also said he hoped the U.N. force would fund and create a lifesaving program that would provide sanitation, potable water and medical treatment. He also said he wants a public apology.

“We’re obviously hoping that the U.N. will step up and do the right thing,” he said by telephone.

If that doesn’t happen, the group plans to file the claims in a Haitian court, he said.

As the complaint [PDF] notes, the UN has failed to provide Haitians with the mechanisms they need to seek redress that are required under the Status of Forces Agreement governing MINUSTAH’s legal status:

Read more...

 

 
Local Purchases of Rice as Food Aid Overstated Print
Friday, 04 November 2011 16:32

In addition to the problems of allocating food aid discussed in the previous post, another significant problem is the lack of local procurement, which can be more effective than importing in emergency situations. The U.S. government, which has begun a local and regional procurement pilot project, found in a 2009 study (PDF) that:

Local and regional purchase is an important tool, enabling food aid agencies to respond quickly to emergency food needs, both during and after food crises and disasters.

Local and regional purchase can be a timely and effective complement to in-kind food aid programs.

The pilot project is also “based on the view that local and regional purchase has potential value for strengthening and expanding commercial markets, stimulating local and regional production, and reducing emergency food aid requirements.”  Yet thus far, the pilot project has only limited funds and was undertaken in just 12 countries in 2010 (only seven countries are benefactors of the program in 2011).  Together the 12 country programs made up less than one percent of all U.S. food aid in Fiscal Year 2010.

After the earthquake, noting that Haiti has gone from producing nearly 50 percent of their annual rice consumption in 1988 to around 15 percent now, CEPR published a report on food aid  that proposed “that international donors seeking to support Haiti’s agricultural sector and provide food to those in need could help Haiti become more self-sufficient by” using local procurement to purchase Haitian rice. According to the World Food Program Food Aid Information System, Haiti received over 110,000 metric tons (MT) of rice as food aid in FY2010, with the U.S. providing 57,000 MT of the total. According to the WFP, only about five percent of this came in the form of local procurement, despite the previously discussed advantages. Upon further review, however, even this low number is drastically overstated.

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