Why Don’t They Spend the Money Now, When People Need It?

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Thursday, 13 May 2010 10:40
As described in a CBS News investigation last night, some of the large NGO’s that have received millions of dollars in individual donations – and, we would note, in some cases, U.S. taxpayer money via USAID – have spent relatively little of it, despite the urgent crises facing many Haitians during the rainy season, and with the hurricane season just around the corner.

CBS investigated 5 major charities: CARE, the American Red Cross, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund, and the Clinton Foundation Haiti Fund. Of these:
Only the Clinton-Bush fund and Clinton Foundation refused to answer our questions, despite repeated e-mails and phone calls. Their websites say they've received $52 million in donor dollars, and have spent only about $7 million: less than one-seventh.

The Red Cross has raised $444 million and spent about 25 percent ($111 million) of it, including $55 million for "emergency relief," such as food and kitchen items, and $42.9 million for shelter including tarps, tents and blankets.

CARE has raised $34.4 million and spent about 16 percent ($5.75 million), $2.5 million of that on "shelter."

And at Catholic Relief Services: of $165 million committed to Haiti, it spent no more than 8 percent ($12.2 million), including $2.5 million on food $1.28 million on emergency shelter.

(Click on the links above for PDF’s with charts and reports breaking down income and expenditures.)
This blog has previously reported on the questioning of the Red Cross’ spending priorities here, here, and here. The slow spending by CRS is all the more troubling considering that it has received over $21 million from USAID (PDF) specifically to provide shelter and sanitation in Haiti. If it has only spent $1.28 million on emergency shelter, what is CRS waiting for? Should U.S. taxpayers, and the many donors who have given to CRS for Haiti relief, be content that CRS is letting their money sit in the bank?

CBS asked some of the NGO’s this question:
The charities argue they've already helped millions of people and would get criticized if they spent too much up front instead of addressing the long term.

"At the same time we move quickly, we move also prudently with spending the funds so that we ensure that the investment is made prudently," said Gary Philoctete, CARE Assistant Country Directory Haiti.
Of course these 5 are not the only NGO’s that have raised significant amounts of money for Haiti relief, and not the only ones that appear slow to spend it. The Chronicle of Philanthropy has an update on the totals of funds raised so far. Other major charities, including World Vision, which also has raised over $103 million worldwide, and has received over $19 million from USAID (PDF), have spent only a small portion of that on shelter, based on distribution data from the Shelter Cluster. Hopefully CBS or other major media will begin to question these other NGO’s about their spending priorities as well.

Tags: aid distribution | care | catholic relief services | clinton-bush fund | red cross | world vision