Haiti Relief & Reconstruction Watch

Haiti Relief & Reconstruction Watch

Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch is a blog that tracks multinational aid efforts in Haiti with an eye towards ensuring they are oriented towards the needs of the Haitian people, and that aid is not used to undermine Haitians' right to self-determination.

Caracol Flood houses
Image of flooding at Caracol EKAM Shelter site from internal USAID document. Caption reads: “Site flooding due to improper drainage”

Despite USAID allocating some $1.7 billion for the reconstruction effort in Haiti, its projects have exhibited varying levels of success and face serious sustainability challenges, according to a report [PDF] released yesterday by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). The GAO analyzed 23 USAID projects across all eight sectors of USAID’s portfolio. Each program was allocated at least $10 million. The GAO report found that because of delays, USAID has extended its Haiti strategy for three more years, through 2018.

According to USAID officials, the factors leading to cost overruns, delays and poor results were a “lack of staff with relevant expertise, unrealistic initial plans, challenges encountered with some implementing partners, and delayed or revised decisions from the Haitian government.”

The Miami Herald’s Jacqueline Charles reports:

The release of the report by the GAO, which works for Congress, came a day ahead of a visit to Haiti by U.S. congressional staffers from the House Foreign Affairs committee. Led by Eddy Acevedo, senior policy advisor to U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the delegation plans to visit some of the projects, including empty housing plots, where work stalled because the agencies that were supposed to build the homes on behalf of USAID pulled out.

The GAO report found that five of USAID’s six major infrastructure projects had to reduce planned outcomes and “encountered delays in 4 of these activities.” Non-infrastructure activities also faced delays and reduced outcomes, but to a lesser extent. The various delays have led USAID to extend its time frame for Haiti work by three years, through 2018.

Though results varied across sectors, the GAO report revealed that in the 17 non-infrastructure projects analyzed, not a single one met or exceeded all of its performance indicators. In the case of infrastructure projects, the results were even worse. The auditors report that during a site visit to the Caracol EKAM shelter program:

we observed unresolved concerns such as blocked drainage pipes and ditches that led to flooding in the settlement after heavy rains, and blocked and crushed sewage pipes. We also observed open water catchment tanks adjacent to some houses that had become breeding areas for mosquitoes.

The report notes that the original plan was to prepare 15,000 lots and build 4,000 homes, but that “The mission had reduced the planned number of plots to 2,013, or by 87 percent, with 906 of the houses to be built by USAID, a reduction of 77 percent.” Meanwhile, costs per house increased, for an original plan of $8,000, on average, to over $24,000 by September 2014. Unmentioned in the GAO report, however, is that the two contractors responsible for the program have been suspended from receiving further government contracts and are under a legal investigation for using shoddy materials and disregarding contractual obligations.

But above and beyond the missed timelines and reduced outcomes, perhaps the most damning part of the GAO report focuses on USAID policies around the sustainability of its projects.

It was not until December 2014 that USAID began to conduct “detailed sustainability analysis” of infrastructure activities, despite having already spent hundreds of millions of dollars. Further, USAID officials told the report’s authors that they did not intend to begin such analyses of non-infrastructure activities until 2018. The report continues:

As a result, USAID/Haiti will continue to obligate funding to new noninfrastructure activities despite a lack of detailed information about—and, consequently, with limited ability to address—risks to these activities’ sustainability. As an example of sustainability challenges to noninfrastructure activities in the health and disabilities sector, according to USAID officials, 90 percent of the Haitian health ministry’s budget goes to salaries, leaving the ministry with little funding to take over the provision of health services that USAID/Haiti currently supplies.

Further, the GAO notes that per agency guidelines, USAID missions are required to “complete what is known as a 611(e) certification, attesting to the host country’s capability to effectively maintain and utilize any capital assistance project whose estimated costs exceed $1 million.” The report continues:

However, partly as a result of the lack of agency-wide guidance, USAID/Haiti officials have not completed a 611(e) certification for every activity that might require it and have provided inconsistently detailed information in the completed certifications. Consequently, the agency may not be in full compliance with the 611(e) requirement, and agency officials may lack access to information about risks to the sustainability of large infrastructure activities.

The report provides some examples where this has directly impacted the sustainability of projects. For example, USAID built a power plant for the Caracol industrial park and surrounding communities, but “because of the low rates negotiated with tenants” of the park, the plant is not generating enough revenue to cover operating expenses. In another case, the Haitian government committed to funding operations costs of the State University Hospital in Port-au-Prince after it underwent renovations on the condition that operating costs did not increase. However, the report found that costs were “projected to be significantly more expensive,” and as a result it was unclear how the government would be able to finance it.

While U.S. officials pointed to the Haitian government’s lack of capacity as the main threat to sustainability, programs to help build that capacity also largely failed, according to the report. Another fact, not mentioned in the report, is that U.S. government aid, like aid from most other donors, almost completely bypasses the Haitian government and Haitian organizations, missing a key opportunity to help build that internal capacity. Instead, over 50 cents on each dollar that USAID spends goes right back to the Washington beltway, to contractors located in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

“GAO has found that inadequate staffing at USAID has slowed progress and that greater sustainability planning is needed. A sustainable, long-term strategy, with Haitians in the lead, is essential to put Haiti on a path to enhanced economic development,” said Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), one of the congressional requesters of the GAO report. 

Caracol Flood houses
Image of flooding at Caracol EKAM Shelter site from internal USAID document. Caption reads: “Site flooding due to improper drainage”

Despite USAID allocating some $1.7 billion for the reconstruction effort in Haiti, its projects have exhibited varying levels of success and face serious sustainability challenges, according to a report [PDF] released yesterday by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). The GAO analyzed 23 USAID projects across all eight sectors of USAID’s portfolio. Each program was allocated at least $10 million. The GAO report found that because of delays, USAID has extended its Haiti strategy for three more years, through 2018.

According to USAID officials, the factors leading to cost overruns, delays and poor results were a “lack of staff with relevant expertise, unrealistic initial plans, challenges encountered with some implementing partners, and delayed or revised decisions from the Haitian government.”

The Miami Herald’s Jacqueline Charles reports:

The release of the report by the GAO, which works for Congress, came a day ahead of a visit to Haiti by U.S. congressional staffers from the House Foreign Affairs committee. Led by Eddy Acevedo, senior policy advisor to U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the delegation plans to visit some of the projects, including empty housing plots, where work stalled because the agencies that were supposed to build the homes on behalf of USAID pulled out.

The GAO report found that five of USAID’s six major infrastructure projects had to reduce planned outcomes and “encountered delays in 4 of these activities.” Non-infrastructure activities also faced delays and reduced outcomes, but to a lesser extent. The various delays have led USAID to extend its time frame for Haiti work by three years, through 2018.

Though results varied across sectors, the GAO report revealed that in the 17 non-infrastructure projects analyzed, not a single one met or exceeded all of its performance indicators. In the case of infrastructure projects, the results were even worse. The auditors report that during a site visit to the Caracol EKAM shelter program:

we observed unresolved concerns such as blocked drainage pipes and ditches that led to flooding in the settlement after heavy rains, and blocked and crushed sewage pipes. We also observed open water catchment tanks adjacent to some houses that had become breeding areas for mosquitoes.

The report notes that the original plan was to prepare 15,000 lots and build 4,000 homes, but that “The mission had reduced the planned number of plots to 2,013, or by 87 percent, with 906 of the houses to be built by USAID, a reduction of 77 percent.” Meanwhile, costs per house increased, for an original plan of $8,000, on average, to over $24,000 by September 2014. Unmentioned in the GAO report, however, is that the two contractors responsible for the program have been suspended from receiving further government contracts and are under a legal investigation for using shoddy materials and disregarding contractual obligations.

But above and beyond the missed timelines and reduced outcomes, perhaps the most damning part of the GAO report focuses on USAID policies around the sustainability of its projects.

It was not until December 2014 that USAID began to conduct “detailed sustainability analysis” of infrastructure activities, despite having already spent hundreds of millions of dollars. Further, USAID officials told the report’s authors that they did not intend to begin such analyses of non-infrastructure activities until 2018. The report continues:

As a result, USAID/Haiti will continue to obligate funding to new noninfrastructure activities despite a lack of detailed information about—and, consequently, with limited ability to address—risks to these activities’ sustainability. As an example of sustainability challenges to noninfrastructure activities in the health and disabilities sector, according to USAID officials, 90 percent of the Haitian health ministry’s budget goes to salaries, leaving the ministry with little funding to take over the provision of health services that USAID/Haiti currently supplies.

Further, the GAO notes that per agency guidelines, USAID missions are required to “complete what is known as a 611(e) certification, attesting to the host country’s capability to effectively maintain and utilize any capital assistance project whose estimated costs exceed $1 million.” The report continues:

However, partly as a result of the lack of agency-wide guidance, USAID/Haiti officials have not completed a 611(e) certification for every activity that might require it and have provided inconsistently detailed information in the completed certifications. Consequently, the agency may not be in full compliance with the 611(e) requirement, and agency officials may lack access to information about risks to the sustainability of large infrastructure activities.

The report provides some examples where this has directly impacted the sustainability of projects. For example, USAID built a power plant for the Caracol industrial park and surrounding communities, but “because of the low rates negotiated with tenants” of the park, the plant is not generating enough revenue to cover operating expenses. In another case, the Haitian government committed to funding operations costs of the State University Hospital in Port-au-Prince after it underwent renovations on the condition that operating costs did not increase. However, the report found that costs were “projected to be significantly more expensive,” and as a result it was unclear how the government would be able to finance it.

While U.S. officials pointed to the Haitian government’s lack of capacity as the main threat to sustainability, programs to help build that capacity also largely failed, according to the report. Another fact, not mentioned in the report, is that U.S. government aid, like aid from most other donors, almost completely bypasses the Haitian government and Haitian organizations, missing a key opportunity to help build that internal capacity. Instead, over 50 cents on each dollar that USAID spends goes right back to the Washington beltway, to contractors located in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

“GAO has found that inadequate staffing at USAID has slowed progress and that greater sustainability planning is needed. A sustainable, long-term strategy, with Haitians in the lead, is essential to put Haiti on a path to enhanced economic development,” said Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), one of the congressional requesters of the GAO report. 

(Updated June 4, 2015, 11:34 a.m. to include references to NPR’s report.)

ProPublica’s Justin Elliott and NPR’s Laura Sullivan have published damning new exposés on the American Red Cross’ work in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake (ProPublica’s here; NPR’s here). The reporting not only validates much of the criticism previously leveled at the ARC for its questionable priorities, slow pace of spending and short list of accomplishments; it offers some stunning new revelations – some of them coming from internal ARC communications.

One of the clearest failures is embodied in the ProPublica article’s headline. While the ARC itself says that it spent 35 percent of its funds raised for Haiti on shelter, and that it “has helped 132,000 Haitians to live in safer conditions—ranging from providing temporary homes and rental subsidies to repaired and new homes,” it has, ProPublica and NPR report, delivered only six new, permanent houses.

The article begins:

In late 2011, the Red Cross launched a multimillion-dollar project to transform the desperately poor [neighborhood of Campeche], which was hit hard by the earthquake that struck Haiti the year before. The main focus of the program — called LAMIKA, an acronym in Creole for “A Better Life in My Neighborhood” — was building hundreds of permanent homes.

Today, not one home has been built. Many residents live in shacks made of rusty sheet metal, without access to drinkable water, electricity or basic sanitation. When it rains, their homes flood and residents bail out mud and water.

The Red Cross received an outpouring of donations after the quake, nearly half a billion dollars.

The group has publicly celebrated its work. But in fact, the Red Cross has repeatedly failed on the ground in Haiti. Confidential memos, emails from worried top officers, and accounts of a dozen frustrated and disappointed insiders show the charity has broken promises, squandered donations, and made dubious claims of success.

The Red Cross says it has provided homes to more than 130,000 people. But the actual number of permanent homes the group has built in all of Haiti: six.

After the earthquake, Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern unveiled ambitious plans to “develop brand-new communities.” None has ever been built.

Through interviews with former government officials, community leaders, and former ARC staff, the report examines a number of questionable practices, including the broad and vague numbers with which the ARC has trumpeted its accomplishments in Haiti as the years have gone by (see our past scrutiny of these numbers here and here):

… the Red Cross said it has helped “more than 4.5 million” individual Haitians “get back on their feet.”

It has not provided details to back up the claim. And Jean-Max Bellerive, Haiti’s prime minister at the time of the earthquake, doubts the figure, pointing out the country’s entire population is only about 10 million.

“No, no,” Bellerive said of the Red Cross’ claim, “it’s not possible.”

Later on the report states:

There is reason to doubt the Red Cross’ claims that it helped 4.5 million Haitians. An internal evaluation found that in some areas, the Red Cross reported helping more people than even lived in the communities. In other cases, the figures were low, and in others double-counting went uncorrected.

The 130,000 people the Red Cross mentioned? Sullivan reports:

“For the American Red Cross and the Red Cross in general, shelter has been a priority,” says [General Counsel and Chief International Officer David] Meltzer, adding that the Red Cross has “provided homes for more than 130,000 Haitians.

“If you go to [those] people and ask them where they are living today, they will tell you ‘I am living in my home,’ ” he says.

But if you go in search of those tens of thousands of new permanent homes in Haiti, you won’t find them.

After several emails, the Red Cross acknowledged that the “130,000 Haitians” figure is made up of people who went to a seminar on how to fix their own homes, people who received temporary rental assistance, and thousands of people who received temporary shelters — which start to disintegrate after three to five years.

Worse, as Sullivan reports, the Red Cross’ failure to deliver on housing came after ARC CEO Gail McGovern 

went to a luncheon at the National Press Club in Washington and said that a fifth of the money the charity raised would go to “provide tens of thousands of people with permanent homes … where we develop brand-new communities … including water and sanitation.”

Some of the structural problems with the ARC’s reconstruction work in Haiti have not only happened with the Red Cross; indeed, they may be the rule rather than the exception. “Lacking the expertise to mount its own projects, the Red Cross ended up giving much of the money to other groups to do the work,” the ProPublica report states. “Those groups took out a piece of every dollar to cover overhead and management.”

Such practices are routine for USAID contracting in Haiti and elsewhere, as we have described in detail. That the money trail becomes more difficult to follow as contracts are subcontracted, and sometimes subcontracted again, is not a phenomenon unique to the Red Cross. But, as we have asked previously, how can the ARC be sure there is only 9 percent overhead when it contracts out its work? In fact, there is good reason to believe it is far higher, as ProPublica and NPR report:

Beyond all that, the Red Cross also spends another piece of each dollar for what it describes as “program costs incurred by the American Red Cross in managing” the projects done by other groups.

The American Red Cross’ management and other costs consumed an additional 24 percent of the money on one project, according to the group’s statements and internal documents. The actual work, upgrading shelters, was done by the Swiss and Spanish Red Cross societies.

Like other groups, the ARC found its efforts to provide housing hampered by the lack of credible land titles (although ProPublica and NPR note that these groups “also ultimately built 9,000 homes compared to the Red Cross’ six”). Less forgivable, as ProPublica and NPR describe, the ARC (and other organizations and agencies) hampered their own progress by employing few Kreyol-speakers and even fewer Haitians, and generated negative feelings in targeted communities. Again, this is a problem that plagued relief efforts overall. In the aftermath of the earthquake, coordination meetings were generally held in English and most Haitians were unable to participate.

The ARC deserves the scrutiny that ProPublica, NPR, Film @ 11, NBC Nightly News, and others have focused on it because of its status as the largest NGO operating in Haiti and its position as the go-to charity for Americans after the quake, due in good part to the media and “Michelle Obama, the NFL and a long list of celebrities,” as ProPublica and NPR note. “Inside the Red Cross, the Haiti disaster was seen as ‘a spectacular fundraising opportunity,’ recalled one former official who helped organize the effort.”

ProPublica and NPR detail how the ARC was left with millions of dollars after a $30 million housing project with USAID “collapse[d],” supposedly due to trouble accessing land titles, “and other issues.” NPR reports that the Red Cross found itself

struggling with how to spend housing money. McGovern wrote an email to her senior staff in November 2013 saying that a particular housing project was “going bust.” “We still are holding $20 million of contingency,” she writes in an email. “Any ideas on how to spend the rest of this? (Besides the wonderful helicopter idea?) Can we fund Conrad’s hospital? Or more to [Partners in Health]? Any more shelter projects?”

Red Cross officials wouldn’t say what she meant by the helicopter idea, but it’s a common reference in economics to giving money away — as in, throwing it out of a helicopter.

That the ARC was unsure how to spend tens of millions of dollars in Haiti is perhaps the most shocking revelation in the ProPublica and NPR reporting. The ongoing urgent needs in Haiti were – and are – well known. From at least 2011, it was clear what strategies might be effectively employed to eliminate cholera from Haiti, yet at the beginning of 2013, the cholera epidemic remained a humanitarian emergency (as it does now), with the New York Times and other outlets urging spending for its eradication. Sanitation and access to clean drinking water were – and are – related, urgent project areas where the ARC could have channeled some of its newfound resources. By January 2013, however, the ARC had spent 4 percent of its Haiti-related funds on cholera, and 12 percent on water and sanitation, according to its own accounting. (Of these, some projects had been “very behind schedule” or “crippled by ‘“internal issues that go unaddressed,’” ProPublica and NPR explain.) The ARC itself seems to have been aware that its cholera fighting efforts were woefully inadequate. NPR notes that “[then-director of the Haiti program, Judith] St. Fort summed up [a] 2011 memo: ‘To maintain the status quo, will only yield the same failed results.'”

The ARC took upon itself an outsized role after the Haiti quake; it had a responsibility to use the funds it raised sustainably and efficiently, delivering the maximum good per dollar that it could, while prioritizing Haitian involvement at every level. Instead, the tragedy of the Haiti earthquake seems to have become a way for the ARC to make a $100 million budget deficit vanish while offering plenty of overhead expenses for an array of projects, many never completed. Sadly, while many of the problems identified by ProPublica and NPR are shown to be “of its own making,” the lack of results, exclusion of Haitian voices and reliance on foreign expertise are symptoms of the aid industry’s problems writ large.

(Updated June 4, 2015, 11:34 a.m. to include references to NPR’s report.)

ProPublica’s Justin Elliott and NPR’s Laura Sullivan have published damning new exposés on the American Red Cross’ work in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake (ProPublica’s here; NPR’s here). The reporting not only validates much of the criticism previously leveled at the ARC for its questionable priorities, slow pace of spending and short list of accomplishments; it offers some stunning new revelations – some of them coming from internal ARC communications.

One of the clearest failures is embodied in the ProPublica article’s headline. While the ARC itself says that it spent 35 percent of its funds raised for Haiti on shelter, and that it “has helped 132,000 Haitians to live in safer conditions—ranging from providing temporary homes and rental subsidies to repaired and new homes,” it has, ProPublica and NPR report, delivered only six new, permanent houses.

The article begins:

In late 2011, the Red Cross launched a multimillion-dollar project to transform the desperately poor [neighborhood of Campeche], which was hit hard by the earthquake that struck Haiti the year before. The main focus of the program — called LAMIKA, an acronym in Creole for “A Better Life in My Neighborhood” — was building hundreds of permanent homes.

Today, not one home has been built. Many residents live in shacks made of rusty sheet metal, without access to drinkable water, electricity or basic sanitation. When it rains, their homes flood and residents bail out mud and water.

The Red Cross received an outpouring of donations after the quake, nearly half a billion dollars.

The group has publicly celebrated its work. But in fact, the Red Cross has repeatedly failed on the ground in Haiti. Confidential memos, emails from worried top officers, and accounts of a dozen frustrated and disappointed insiders show the charity has broken promises, squandered donations, and made dubious claims of success.

The Red Cross says it has provided homes to more than 130,000 people. But the actual number of permanent homes the group has built in all of Haiti: six.

After the earthquake, Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern unveiled ambitious plans to “develop brand-new communities.” None has ever been built.

Through interviews with former government officials, community leaders, and former ARC staff, the report examines a number of questionable practices, including the broad and vague numbers with which the ARC has trumpeted its accomplishments in Haiti as the years have gone by (see our past scrutiny of these numbers here and here):

… the Red Cross said it has helped “more than 4.5 million” individual Haitians “get back on their feet.”

It has not provided details to back up the claim. And Jean-Max Bellerive, Haiti’s prime minister at the time of the earthquake, doubts the figure, pointing out the country’s entire population is only about 10 million.

“No, no,” Bellerive said of the Red Cross’ claim, “it’s not possible.”

Later on the report states:

There is reason to doubt the Red Cross’ claims that it helped 4.5 million Haitians. An internal evaluation found that in some areas, the Red Cross reported helping more people than even lived in the communities. In other cases, the figures were low, and in others double-counting went uncorrected.

The 130,000 people the Red Cross mentioned? Sullivan reports:

“For the American Red Cross and the Red Cross in general, shelter has been a priority,” says [General Counsel and Chief International Officer David] Meltzer, adding that the Red Cross has “provided homes for more than 130,000 Haitians.

“If you go to [those] people and ask them where they are living today, they will tell you ‘I am living in my home,’ ” he says.

But if you go in search of those tens of thousands of new permanent homes in Haiti, you won’t find them.

After several emails, the Red Cross acknowledged that the “130,000 Haitians” figure is made up of people who went to a seminar on how to fix their own homes, people who received temporary rental assistance, and thousands of people who received temporary shelters — which start to disintegrate after three to five years.

Worse, as Sullivan reports, the Red Cross’ failure to deliver on housing came after ARC CEO Gail McGovern 

went to a luncheon at the National Press Club in Washington and said that a fifth of the money the charity raised would go to “provide tens of thousands of people with permanent homes … where we develop brand-new communities … including water and sanitation.”

Some of the structural problems with the ARC’s reconstruction work in Haiti have not only happened with the Red Cross; indeed, they may be the rule rather than the exception. “Lacking the expertise to mount its own projects, the Red Cross ended up giving much of the money to other groups to do the work,” the ProPublica report states. “Those groups took out a piece of every dollar to cover overhead and management.”

Such practices are routine for USAID contracting in Haiti and elsewhere, as we have described in detail. That the money trail becomes more difficult to follow as contracts are subcontracted, and sometimes subcontracted again, is not a phenomenon unique to the Red Cross. But, as we have asked previously, how can the ARC be sure there is only 9 percent overhead when it contracts out its work? In fact, there is good reason to believe it is far higher, as ProPublica and NPR report:

Beyond all that, the Red Cross also spends another piece of each dollar for what it describes as “program costs incurred by the American Red Cross in managing” the projects done by other groups.

The American Red Cross’ management and other costs consumed an additional 24 percent of the money on one project, according to the group’s statements and internal documents. The actual work, upgrading shelters, was done by the Swiss and Spanish Red Cross societies.

Like other groups, the ARC found its efforts to provide housing hampered by the lack of credible land titles (although ProPublica and NPR note that these groups “also ultimately built 9,000 homes compared to the Red Cross’ six”). Less forgivable, as ProPublica and NPR describe, the ARC (and other organizations and agencies) hampered their own progress by employing few Kreyol-speakers and even fewer Haitians, and generated negative feelings in targeted communities. Again, this is a problem that plagued relief efforts overall. In the aftermath of the earthquake, coordination meetings were generally held in English and most Haitians were unable to participate.

The ARC deserves the scrutiny that ProPublica, NPR, Film @ 11, NBC Nightly News, and others have focused on it because of its status as the largest NGO operating in Haiti and its position as the go-to charity for Americans after the quake, due in good part to the media and “Michelle Obama, the NFL and a long list of celebrities,” as ProPublica and NPR note. “Inside the Red Cross, the Haiti disaster was seen as ‘a spectacular fundraising opportunity,’ recalled one former official who helped organize the effort.”

ProPublica and NPR detail how the ARC was left with millions of dollars after a $30 million housing project with USAID “collapse[d],” supposedly due to trouble accessing land titles, “and other issues.” NPR reports that the Red Cross found itself

struggling with how to spend housing money. McGovern wrote an email to her senior staff in November 2013 saying that a particular housing project was “going bust.” “We still are holding $20 million of contingency,” she writes in an email. “Any ideas on how to spend the rest of this? (Besides the wonderful helicopter idea?) Can we fund Conrad’s hospital? Or more to [Partners in Health]? Any more shelter projects?”

Red Cross officials wouldn’t say what she meant by the helicopter idea, but it’s a common reference in economics to giving money away — as in, throwing it out of a helicopter.

That the ARC was unsure how to spend tens of millions of dollars in Haiti is perhaps the most shocking revelation in the ProPublica and NPR reporting. The ongoing urgent needs in Haiti were – and are – well known. From at least 2011, it was clear what strategies might be effectively employed to eliminate cholera from Haiti, yet at the beginning of 2013, the cholera epidemic remained a humanitarian emergency (as it does now), with the New York Times and other outlets urging spending for its eradication. Sanitation and access to clean drinking water were – and are – related, urgent project areas where the ARC could have channeled some of its newfound resources. By January 2013, however, the ARC had spent 4 percent of its Haiti-related funds on cholera, and 12 percent on water and sanitation, according to its own accounting. (Of these, some projects had been “very behind schedule” or “crippled by ‘“internal issues that go unaddressed,’” ProPublica and NPR explain.) The ARC itself seems to have been aware that its cholera fighting efforts were woefully inadequate. NPR notes that “[then-director of the Haiti program, Judith] St. Fort summed up [a] 2011 memo: ‘To maintain the status quo, will only yield the same failed results.'”

The ARC took upon itself an outsized role after the Haiti quake; it had a responsibility to use the funds it raised sustainably and efficiently, delivering the maximum good per dollar that it could, while prioritizing Haitian involvement at every level. Instead, the tragedy of the Haiti earthquake seems to have become a way for the ARC to make a $100 million budget deficit vanish while offering plenty of overhead expenses for an array of projects, many never completed. Sadly, while many of the problems identified by ProPublica and NPR are shown to be “of its own making,” the lack of results, exclusion of Haitian voices and reliance on foreign expertise are symptoms of the aid industry’s problems writ large.

Last week, in a conversation with Haitian journalists in Washington, D.C., Thomas Adams, the Haiti special coordinator at the State Department, said the U.S. would be in favor of Haiti holding two elections this year instead of the planned three. The electoral timetable announced in March by the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) called for the first round of legislative elections to be held August 9, followed by a first-round presidential election and second round of legislative elections on October 25. Finally, the second round of the presidential election and local elections would be held in late December.

In an interview this past weekend with Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald, Adams explained:

there’s some discussion about going to two rounds of elections instead of three. The pros and cons of that, I think they’ll decide fairly soon whether they want to do that. That would give a little more time to the CEP and it would also save some money if they want to go that route. That is an option.

Moving the first round of the legislative election to the same day as the presidential election would save an estimated $30 million, according to Adams. But while the proposed changes have some support from political parties in Haiti, the CEP has remained steadfast that it is determined to follow the electoral calendar that was announced.

According to Alterpresse, Alix Richard, the vice president of the FUSION party commented that the party had “always sought the election in two stages,” and recommended a discussion between the executive, the CEP and political parties to reach a decision. Both the Patriotic Movement of the Democratic Opposition (MOPOD) – the party of former presidential candidate Mirlande Manigat – and the Organization of People in Struggle (OPL) refused to comment directly on the proposal, saying that they were ready for elections at any time. However Pierre Étienne Saveur, director of OPL, criticized the manner in which Adam’s comments were received. He said that his recommendations would have been better served going through diplomatic channels as opposed to a public statement to the press.

Moise Jean Charles, of the opposition platform Pitit Dessalines, came out in favor of the reduction to two elections. Charles also noted that the change would save the CEP millions of dollars – the electoral body is currently facing a funding shortfall to the tune of over $20 million. Donor countries, including the U.S., have stated that they are ready to provide additional financing, but are waiting for steps to be taken by the Haitian government and electoral council before any disbursements are made.

Jean Charles also noted that holding three rounds of elections would be particularly costly for political parties, putting those close to the government and with access to funding in a stronger position. This echoes comments from political leaders made after the electoral calendar was first announced. Fanmi Lavalas presidential candidate Maryse Narcisse, told LeNouvelliste in February that no political party can handle “the social and material costs of several elections in one year,” while Pierre-Etienne of OPL suggested that having three elections could be a strategy for “bankrupting” the opposition.   

In comments to Le Nouvelliste, CEP member Marie Carmelle Paul Austin was adamant that the original electoral timetable would be followed. “We do not have to change the electoral calendar. It was adopted on the basis of consensus with the political parties and the executive,” she told the paper. Paul Austin also discredited the idea that consolidating the elections would save $30 million, pointing to the rising electoral costs in previous years and to the fact that this year there are elections for president, the legislature and local leaders.

The Club of Madrid, a grouping of former presidents from around the world, visited the country from May 24-26 and at the end of their visit voiced support for sticking to the electoral timetable. While noting that it was up to Haitians to organize the elections, former Chilean president Sebastian Piñera told the press: “All politicians told us that elections would be held on the 9th of August,” adding, “I believe there is no reason not to have the elections in August.”

In the meantime, the list of candidates for legislative elections has been finalized, and following the contestation period a list of presidential candidates will be issued either Thursday or Friday, according to Le Nouvelliste

Last week, in a conversation with Haitian journalists in Washington, D.C., Thomas Adams, the Haiti special coordinator at the State Department, said the U.S. would be in favor of Haiti holding two elections this year instead of the planned three. The electoral timetable announced in March by the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) called for the first round of legislative elections to be held August 9, followed by a first-round presidential election and second round of legislative elections on October 25. Finally, the second round of the presidential election and local elections would be held in late December.

In an interview this past weekend with Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald, Adams explained:

there’s some discussion about going to two rounds of elections instead of three. The pros and cons of that, I think they’ll decide fairly soon whether they want to do that. That would give a little more time to the CEP and it would also save some money if they want to go that route. That is an option.

Moving the first round of the legislative election to the same day as the presidential election would save an estimated $30 million, according to Adams. But while the proposed changes have some support from political parties in Haiti, the CEP has remained steadfast that it is determined to follow the electoral calendar that was announced.

According to Alterpresse, Alix Richard, the vice president of the FUSION party commented that the party had “always sought the election in two stages,” and recommended a discussion between the executive, the CEP and political parties to reach a decision. Both the Patriotic Movement of the Democratic Opposition (MOPOD) – the party of former presidential candidate Mirlande Manigat – and the Organization of People in Struggle (OPL) refused to comment directly on the proposal, saying that they were ready for elections at any time. However Pierre Étienne Saveur, director of OPL, criticized the manner in which Adam’s comments were received. He said that his recommendations would have been better served going through diplomatic channels as opposed to a public statement to the press.

Moise Jean Charles, of the opposition platform Pitit Dessalines, came out in favor of the reduction to two elections. Charles also noted that the change would save the CEP millions of dollars – the electoral body is currently facing a funding shortfall to the tune of over $20 million. Donor countries, including the U.S., have stated that they are ready to provide additional financing, but are waiting for steps to be taken by the Haitian government and electoral council before any disbursements are made.

Jean Charles also noted that holding three rounds of elections would be particularly costly for political parties, putting those close to the government and with access to funding in a stronger position. This echoes comments from political leaders made after the electoral calendar was first announced. Fanmi Lavalas presidential candidate Maryse Narcisse, told LeNouvelliste in February that no political party can handle “the social and material costs of several elections in one year,” while Pierre-Etienne of OPL suggested that having three elections could be a strategy for “bankrupting” the opposition.   

In comments to Le Nouvelliste, CEP member Marie Carmelle Paul Austin was adamant that the original electoral timetable would be followed. “We do not have to change the electoral calendar. It was adopted on the basis of consensus with the political parties and the executive,” she told the paper. Paul Austin also discredited the idea that consolidating the elections would save $30 million, pointing to the rising electoral costs in previous years and to the fact that this year there are elections for president, the legislature and local leaders.

The Club of Madrid, a grouping of former presidents from around the world, visited the country from May 24-26 and at the end of their visit voiced support for sticking to the electoral timetable. While noting that it was up to Haitians to organize the elections, former Chilean president Sebastian Piñera told the press: “All politicians told us that elections would be held on the 9th of August,” adding, “I believe there is no reason not to have the elections in August.”

In the meantime, the list of candidates for legislative elections has been finalized, and following the contestation period a list of presidential candidates will be issued either Thursday or Friday, according to Le Nouvelliste

The New York Times reported Monday on the lack of accountability for sexual abuse on the part of U.N. peacekeepers around the world, focusing on recent allegations that French soldiers “forced boys to perform oral sex on them” in the Central African Republic. The article notes that the U.N. “does not have the legal authority to prosecute or punish a country’s soldiers,” and cites a recent internal audit that found that despite the organization’s “zero-tolerance” policy for sexual abuse, its enforcement “is hindered by a complex architecture, prolonged delays, unknown and varying outcomes and severely deficient assistance.”

The Times reports that U.N. officials responded by pointing to the U.N.’s response to a case in Haiti, in which Pakistani troops were accused of abusing an underage boy, as a “model of accountability.” HRRW reported on the case in 2012, pointing out a likely cover-up, and in January journalist Kathie Klarreich expanded:

Take the case of the Pakistani contingent of MINUSTAH. In January 2012, several Pakistani soldiers reported to their commanding officer that contingent members were sexually abusing a mentally handicapped 13-year old boy in the town of Gonaives, some 50 miles north of the Port-au-Prince, since he was eight years old, passing his name from contingent to contingent for five years. Following the chain of command, the Pakistani commander should have reported the abuse to MINUSTAH, but he decided to handle it himself, hoping it seems, that it would disappear, since he was also abusing the boy.

UN police quickly ascertained that the Pakistani military had hired two local boys to take the victim away from the town without his mother’s knowledge or permission. They found the boy unharmed: one of the kidnappers escaped but the second, Alexandre Vladimir, was arrested and jailed. Vladimir admitted that the MINUSTAH commander from Pakistan had asked him to remove the boy from the area, and that the Pakistanis had come to his home bearing gifts for his mother: $12 and a sack of rice.

Collecting evidence can be tricky because of bribes, the reluctance or fear on the part of the victim to talk, evidence tampering or lack of evidence. Had the Pakistanis cooperated, the investigation might have concluded in even less time than the unprecedented 36 days. [The U.N.’s Office of Internal Oversight Services] is often criticized for the length of time it takes to complete an investigation – back then, the average was 19 months. Today it’s 18 months.

Even the Haitian Senate became involved as news of [the victim’s] ordeal spread, passing a resolution requesting the trial be held in Haiti.

A UN internal document obtained by 100Reporters confirmed that the UN had agreed with the Pakistani authorities’ request for the nine Pakistanis charged with the rape and abduction of a Haitian minor to be rotated out of the country, but not before three of the officers were subjected to a court-martial in Haiti. While Vladimir served time in a filthy prison in Gonaives, the Haitians offered to build a separate jail to hold the Pakistanis before their trial. But according to a source with knowledge of the meeting, a dinner between the Pakistanis and the Secretary General for Peacekeeping, Hervé Ladsous, resulted instead in the accused being sent home.

The Pakistanis refused the UN’s request that it dispatch a senior government official to Haiti, and insisted that the court-martial, conducted by members of the national contingent who themselves were implicated in the allegations, be closed to outsiders. It was, the UN said, “[A] military justice procedure…undertaken in accordance with the national laws of Pakistan.”

The UN “also received verbal assurances from the Permanent Representative of Pakistan that he would see that the Government of Pakistan provide compensation to Haitian victims, if any,” according to a confidential UN cable to the Haiti peacekeeping contingent.

Instead of showcasing this investigation, the UN let it fizzle out, away from public view. No public court martial, no compensation for the victim. Pakistani troops continued then, as they do now, to rotate through peacekeeping missions, unperturbed.

Anthony Banbury, the U.N. assistant secretary general for field support, told the Times, “People can always say punishment was too light or whatever, but the system worked as it should.”

If that’s how the system “should” work, then the U.N. has a long way yet to go.  

It is also interesting that U.N. officials would point to anything related to MINUSTAH as a means of showing greater accountability. To begin with, MINUSTAH is at the heart of multiple legal battles over responsibility for introducing the deadly cholera virus into Haiti in 2010, killing nearly 9,000. Further, MINUSTAH has been one of the largest sources of sexual abuse allegations for U.N. troop missions worldwide, accounting for about 25 percent of such allegations in 2013 and 2014. As we have noted in detail, these are not just allegations; some assaults have been documented on video, and the phenomenon of “MINUSTAH babies” has become another, related scandal. Through the first three months of 2015, MINUSTAH accounted for 45 percent of all sexual abuse allegations against U.N. troops worldwide, despite accounting for less than 7 percent of all “peacekeeping” staff as of March 2015 (PDF). 

 

The New York Times reported Monday on the lack of accountability for sexual abuse on the part of U.N. peacekeepers around the world, focusing on recent allegations that French soldiers “forced boys to perform oral sex on them” in the Central African Republic. The article notes that the U.N. “does not have the legal authority to prosecute or punish a country’s soldiers,” and cites a recent internal audit that found that despite the organization’s “zero-tolerance” policy for sexual abuse, its enforcement “is hindered by a complex architecture, prolonged delays, unknown and varying outcomes and severely deficient assistance.”

The Times reports that U.N. officials responded by pointing to the U.N.’s response to a case in Haiti, in which Pakistani troops were accused of abusing an underage boy, as a “model of accountability.” HRRW reported on the case in 2012, pointing out a likely cover-up, and in January journalist Kathie Klarreich expanded:

Take the case of the Pakistani contingent of MINUSTAH. In January 2012, several Pakistani soldiers reported to their commanding officer that contingent members were sexually abusing a mentally handicapped 13-year old boy in the town of Gonaives, some 50 miles north of the Port-au-Prince, since he was eight years old, passing his name from contingent to contingent for five years. Following the chain of command, the Pakistani commander should have reported the abuse to MINUSTAH, but he decided to handle it himself, hoping it seems, that it would disappear, since he was also abusing the boy.

UN police quickly ascertained that the Pakistani military had hired two local boys to take the victim away from the town without his mother’s knowledge or permission. They found the boy unharmed: one of the kidnappers escaped but the second, Alexandre Vladimir, was arrested and jailed. Vladimir admitted that the MINUSTAH commander from Pakistan had asked him to remove the boy from the area, and that the Pakistanis had come to his home bearing gifts for his mother: $12 and a sack of rice.

Collecting evidence can be tricky because of bribes, the reluctance or fear on the part of the victim to talk, evidence tampering or lack of evidence. Had the Pakistanis cooperated, the investigation might have concluded in even less time than the unprecedented 36 days. [The U.N.’s Office of Internal Oversight Services] is often criticized for the length of time it takes to complete an investigation – back then, the average was 19 months. Today it’s 18 months.

Even the Haitian Senate became involved as news of [the victim’s] ordeal spread, passing a resolution requesting the trial be held in Haiti.

A UN internal document obtained by 100Reporters confirmed that the UN had agreed with the Pakistani authorities’ request for the nine Pakistanis charged with the rape and abduction of a Haitian minor to be rotated out of the country, but not before three of the officers were subjected to a court-martial in Haiti. While Vladimir served time in a filthy prison in Gonaives, the Haitians offered to build a separate jail to hold the Pakistanis before their trial. But according to a source with knowledge of the meeting, a dinner between the Pakistanis and the Secretary General for Peacekeeping, Hervé Ladsous, resulted instead in the accused being sent home.

The Pakistanis refused the UN’s request that it dispatch a senior government official to Haiti, and insisted that the court-martial, conducted by members of the national contingent who themselves were implicated in the allegations, be closed to outsiders. It was, the UN said, “[A] military justice procedure…undertaken in accordance with the national laws of Pakistan.”

The UN “also received verbal assurances from the Permanent Representative of Pakistan that he would see that the Government of Pakistan provide compensation to Haitian victims, if any,” according to a confidential UN cable to the Haiti peacekeeping contingent.

Instead of showcasing this investigation, the UN let it fizzle out, away from public view. No public court martial, no compensation for the victim. Pakistani troops continued then, as they do now, to rotate through peacekeeping missions, unperturbed.

Anthony Banbury, the U.N. assistant secretary general for field support, told the Times, “People can always say punishment was too light or whatever, but the system worked as it should.”

If that’s how the system “should” work, then the U.N. has a long way yet to go.  

It is also interesting that U.N. officials would point to anything related to MINUSTAH as a means of showing greater accountability. To begin with, MINUSTAH is at the heart of multiple legal battles over responsibility for introducing the deadly cholera virus into Haiti in 2010, killing nearly 9,000. Further, MINUSTAH has been one of the largest sources of sexual abuse allegations for U.N. troop missions worldwide, accounting for about 25 percent of such allegations in 2013 and 2014. As we have noted in detail, these are not just allegations; some assaults have been documented on video, and the phenomenon of “MINUSTAH babies” has become another, related scandal. Through the first three months of 2015, MINUSTAH accounted for 45 percent of all sexual abuse allegations against U.N. troops worldwide, despite accounting for less than 7 percent of all “peacekeeping” staff as of March 2015 (PDF). 

 

Early Friday morning, Haiti’s electoral authority posted online the final list (PDF) of approved candidates for legislative elections scheduled to be held in August. Over 2,000 candidates registered, representing some 98 different political parties. The Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) rejected 522 candidates – 76 for the Senate and 446 for the lower house – leaving 1,515 candidates to compete for 138 open seats.

Candidate senate deputy

The CEP, in announcing the rejection of over one-quarter of registered candidates, provided no rationale for individual cases. CEP member Lucie Marie Carmelle Paul Austin told Le Nouvelliste that the list is final: “The CEP did its work in a completely equitable manner and in compliance with the law.” She added that in many cases candidates were rejected because they did not have proper paper work proving their Haitian nationality.

All the leading parties saw a significant number of candidates rejected, with Martelly’s Pati Hatien Tet Kale (PHTK) having the most rejected: 31. Still, PHTK had registered the most candidates, and other parties had a higher percentage of their candidates rejected, such as Platfòm Pitit Dessalines and Renmen Ayiti. After the CEP’s rejections, VERITE, the new party created by former president René Préval and former prime minister Jean-Max Bellerive, has the most candidates in the upcoming election, with 97 followed by PHTK with 94.

candidates byparty

Although the CEP has said the decisions are final, political parties have expressed their frustration with the lack of transparency in the process. The coordinator of Fanmi Lavalas, Dr. Maryse Narcisse, told the press that the party had requested an explanation from the CEP, adding, “I think the right of all has to be respected and if there are people who have been unfairly rejected, we will present ourselves to the CEP, we will begin a legal process so that they do justice to those they unjustly rejected,” according to Haiti Libre.

After the publication of the list by the CEP on Friday, the Haiti Press Network reported that some candidates led protests against the decisions. Supporters of German Fils Alexandre, a candidate for deputy in Petit Goâve under the VERITE ticket, blocked National Highway #2, while in the Central department PHTK Senate candidate Willot Joseph threatened to block elections from happening unless the CEP decision was reversed.

The rejection of First Lady and PHTK Senate candidate Sophia Martelly had already been announced, but with seven other candidates for Senate rejected, PHTK can no longer field a candidate in every department. The only political party that is fielding senate candidates in all 10 departments is Fanmi Lavalas, which has been excluded from participating in past elections. In response to the CEP’s decision, the PHTK party released a statement “strongly challenging” the rejection of their candidates and calling on supporters to remain calm.

Nevertheless, some of the rejections could hardly come as a surprise. These included former Senator Rudolph Boulos, of the PHTK party. He had previously been forced from his post after it was determined that he held a U.S. passport, making him ineligible to hold office in Haiti.

While rejections made the headlines, some interesting names did make the cut. Jacqueline Charles reports for the Miami Herald:

Among those who will be vying for one of those empty Senate seats is Guy Philippe, a former Haitian police officer who led the 2004 coup that toppled former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Over the years, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents have tried — and failed — on at least three occasions to arrest Philippe, who has been wanted in the United States since 2005. This will be Philippe’s third try at elected office in Haiti.

The registration period for presidential elections is ongoing.

UPDATE 5/26: On Sunday, May 24, the CEP released a list of candidates who had originally been rejected but have been reinstated. No rationale was provided. Overall, the CEP allowed an additional 47 candidates for the Senate to participate and 294 candidates for Deputy. There are now a total of 233 candidates for the Senate and 1,624 for Deputy. After the CEP’s decision, VERITE still has more candidates than any other party, with 115. PHTK has 110. With the reinstatements, PHTK and Fanmi Lavalas had the highest percentage of their candidates rejected with 12% and 10.8%, respectively. This compares to an overall rejection percent of 8.9. 

Early Friday morning, Haiti’s electoral authority posted online the final list (PDF) of approved candidates for legislative elections scheduled to be held in August. Over 2,000 candidates registered, representing some 98 different political parties. The Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) rejected 522 candidates – 76 for the Senate and 446 for the lower house – leaving 1,515 candidates to compete for 138 open seats.

Candidate senate deputy

The CEP, in announcing the rejection of over one-quarter of registered candidates, provided no rationale for individual cases. CEP member Lucie Marie Carmelle Paul Austin told Le Nouvelliste that the list is final: “The CEP did its work in a completely equitable manner and in compliance with the law.” She added that in many cases candidates were rejected because they did not have proper paper work proving their Haitian nationality.

All the leading parties saw a significant number of candidates rejected, with Martelly’s Pati Hatien Tet Kale (PHTK) having the most rejected: 31. Still, PHTK had registered the most candidates, and other parties had a higher percentage of their candidates rejected, such as Platfòm Pitit Dessalines and Renmen Ayiti. After the CEP’s rejections, VERITE, the new party created by former president René Préval and former prime minister Jean-Max Bellerive, has the most candidates in the upcoming election, with 97 followed by PHTK with 94.

candidates byparty

Although the CEP has said the decisions are final, political parties have expressed their frustration with the lack of transparency in the process. The coordinator of Fanmi Lavalas, Dr. Maryse Narcisse, told the press that the party had requested an explanation from the CEP, adding, “I think the right of all has to be respected and if there are people who have been unfairly rejected, we will present ourselves to the CEP, we will begin a legal process so that they do justice to those they unjustly rejected,” according to Haiti Libre.

After the publication of the list by the CEP on Friday, the Haiti Press Network reported that some candidates led protests against the decisions. Supporters of German Fils Alexandre, a candidate for deputy in Petit Goâve under the VERITE ticket, blocked National Highway #2, while in the Central department PHTK Senate candidate Willot Joseph threatened to block elections from happening unless the CEP decision was reversed.

The rejection of First Lady and PHTK Senate candidate Sophia Martelly had already been announced, but with seven other candidates for Senate rejected, PHTK can no longer field a candidate in every department. The only political party that is fielding senate candidates in all 10 departments is Fanmi Lavalas, which has been excluded from participating in past elections. In response to the CEP’s decision, the PHTK party released a statement “strongly challenging” the rejection of their candidates and calling on supporters to remain calm.

Nevertheless, some of the rejections could hardly come as a surprise. These included former Senator Rudolph Boulos, of the PHTK party. He had previously been forced from his post after it was determined that he held a U.S. passport, making him ineligible to hold office in Haiti.

While rejections made the headlines, some interesting names did make the cut. Jacqueline Charles reports for the Miami Herald:

Among those who will be vying for one of those empty Senate seats is Guy Philippe, a former Haitian police officer who led the 2004 coup that toppled former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Over the years, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents have tried — and failed — on at least three occasions to arrest Philippe, who has been wanted in the United States since 2005. This will be Philippe’s third try at elected office in Haiti.

The registration period for presidential elections is ongoing.

UPDATE 5/26: On Sunday, May 24, the CEP released a list of candidates who had originally been rejected but have been reinstated. No rationale was provided. Overall, the CEP allowed an additional 47 candidates for the Senate to participate and 294 candidates for Deputy. There are now a total of 233 candidates for the Senate and 1,624 for Deputy. After the CEP’s decision, VERITE still has more candidates than any other party, with 115. PHTK has 110. With the reinstatements, PHTK and Fanmi Lavalas had the highest percentage of their candidates rejected with 12% and 10.8%, respectively. This compares to an overall rejection percent of 8.9. 

On Friday, April 24, VICE on HBO aired a segment entitled “The Haitian Money Pit,” which focuses on the impact of aid to Haiti, now over five years after the earthquake. The episode takes a critical look at the billions in relief and reconstruction pledged to Haiti, finding that much of it went to U.S.-based contractors with little reaching those most in need.

In the episode, VICE on HBO correspondent Vikram Gandhi travels to Caracol, in the north of Haiti, home to the international community’s flagship reconstruction project, the Caracol Industrial Park. Gandhi visits a police station, which cost over $2 million as well as soccer field and cultural center. As Gandhi states, “when we looked at the costs of many other projects, we noticed the same contractor kept coming up.” Chemonics.

In an interview aired during the episode, I explain that Chemonics was the largest recipient of post-quake U.S. disaster relief and in fact, is one of the largest aid contractors in the world. A topic that we have covered on this blog for years.  In a response to the episode, Chemonics claims the “segment does not provide a complete or accurate picture of Chemonics’ work in Haiti over the past five years.”

Chemonics continues:

As part of our USAID-funded Haiti Recovery Initiative, which ended in 2013, both the soccer field and the cultural center were designed to build a greater sense of community in the north of Haiti. Taken separately, these community projects may seem random. However, they were part of a larger strategy to stimulate growth in the region.

While this may be true, it does not address the main issue which VICE raises: that so much post-quake aid went to a community that wasn’t impacted by the quake. Further, the priority for Chemonics in implementing a USAID program was to provide support to the industrial park. Chemonics also funded the public relations firm for the inauguration of the park, paid for billboards that dot the area declaring it “open for business,” as well as other efforts aimed at promoting the park. This very well may be what Chemonics was asked to do by USAID, but it doesn’t mean it was a good use of aid dollars.

Next, Chemonics addresses the allegation that communities were left out of the decision-making process, writing:

Both the soccer field and community center were identified as local priorities at community meetings, and Haitian leaders such as Mayor Lamour, who was interviewed for the piece, participated in kick-off meetings and signed grant agreements that included details on the projects, as well as roles and responsibilities for both Chemonics and community leaders.

Adding:

Throughout the piece, the development industry in Haiti is criticized for lack of consultation with Haitians. For Chemonics, this is incorrect on a number of levels. At every point during implementation, we prioritized using Haitian expertise, Haitian goods, and Haitian companies … Our team of passionate Haitian staff engaged directly with a diverse array of community leaders prior to and during every activity.

But in the VICE episode, Mayor Lamour explains that what happens is that companies like Chemonics “just come and tell us they are investing in something.” Gandhi asks if the mayor would rather have had support for plumbing and running water, to which Lamour responds, “it’s true that they built a lot of things in the area, but we didn’t really need them.” Of course, Lamour and VICE are not the only ones who have denounced the lack of community involvement. In fact, USAID’s own inspector general (OIG) has specifically called out Chemonics for just this problem.

The OIG found “not all activities implemented have involved community participation in a way that guarantees sustainability.” In one especially egregious example, Chemonics:

…used contractors from Port-au-Prince to implement a number of activities in Cap-Haitien and Saint-Marc; these contractors brought their own people to do the jobs instead of hiring locals. As a result, residents saw jobs in their neighborhoods being done by outsiders, and without an understanding of the activities, they did not see how anyone local benefitted.

The OIG also found that “urban beautification” projects failed for similar reasons. The OIG writes, “The purpose of these projects was to improve public areas by installing plants and benches, as well as doing minor masonry work, and to project ‘a positive image of what role the nearby Caracol industrial park and other upcoming economic investments will play in citizens’ lives.’” Although Chemonics did do some plantings, “they died from lack of care.” Meanwhile:

According to the project’s final evaluation report, residents did not understand how the activity led to the beautification of the area nor did they associate it with the industrial park. Limonade’s mayor said the municipality could have been involved more in planning the activity to ensure its success.

Chemonics also contends that far more money makes it to Haitian organizations than what was reported in the VICE episode (one penny out of every dollar), writing:

This is not true. Since the earthquake, Chemonics alone has awarded nearly $100 million dollars directly to Haitian organizations, in the form of grants and subcontracts, providing much-needed monetary resources, as well as institutional strengthening and capacity building services in tandem.

It is true that far more than one penny out of every dollar goes to Haitian organizations through sub contracts and grants. In the interview, I specifically note that just one penny of every dollar goes directly to Haitian organizations. It is an important distinction because while USAID reports on the first layer, it is extremely difficult to obtain information at the subcontract level. As we wrote in our 2013 report, “Breaking Open the Black Box”:

To truly assess where USAID funds go, and what percent is spent locally, it is vital to have information on sub-awards as well as on prime awards. Prime awardees are the contractors and grantees discussed previously that receive funds directly from USAID. They often turn around and give a contract or grant to another entity to carry out some or all of the work; this is known as a subaward. In response to growing criticism of the amount of USAID funding going to U.S.-based organizations, the agency has indicated that a much larger share goes to local organizations through subcontracts. But it isn’t possible to confirm to what extent this is true given that USAID has failed to report on what organizations receive funding at the sub-award level.

It is certainly welcome that after years of stonewalling inquiries and Freedom of Information Act requests that Chemonics is now eager to discuss their funding of local organizations.

Finally, Chemonics writes:

The piece also claims that while USAID tracks how much money goes to a given contractor, it has no way to track the money beyond that point. This is false. Contractors are accountable for every penny spent on their respective projects, and USAID is closely involved in all stages of the projects, including monitoring expenditures.

Again, taking a look at previous OIG reports proves useful. A 2010 report found that USAID had not performed internal financial reviews of Chemonics despite “expending millions of dollars rapidly.” Also in 2010, I asked a USAID contracting official if he could provide information on amounts going to subcontracts, he responded: “you need hard data … and I need that hard data too.”

And yet efforts to obtain greater transparency have been met with resistance, as we noted in our report:

In response to inquiries, USAID has generally blocked any further disclosure. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for financial information have resulted in the release of heavily redacted documents, which exempt disclosure of any financial information as “proprietary.” An Associated Press investigation into USAID spending encountered many of the same problems, reporting that “U.S. contractors, from pollsters to private development firms, told the AP that USAID had asked them not to provide any information, and referred to publicly released descriptions of their projects.

Indeed, it was Chemonics’ contract with USAID that is shown in the episode, with all cost information redacted and the entire statement of work—25 pages—redacted with bright pink pages.

There is clearly more to the story of Haiti’s reconstruction than what was covered in the roughly 15-minute VICE on HBO episode, but Chemonics’ response is not just incomplete; it’s inaccurate and misleading too.

On Friday, April 24, VICE on HBO aired a segment entitled “The Haitian Money Pit,” which focuses on the impact of aid to Haiti, now over five years after the earthquake. The episode takes a critical look at the billions in relief and reconstruction pledged to Haiti, finding that much of it went to U.S.-based contractors with little reaching those most in need.

In the episode, VICE on HBO correspondent Vikram Gandhi travels to Caracol, in the north of Haiti, home to the international community’s flagship reconstruction project, the Caracol Industrial Park. Gandhi visits a police station, which cost over $2 million as well as soccer field and cultural center. As Gandhi states, “when we looked at the costs of many other projects, we noticed the same contractor kept coming up.” Chemonics.

In an interview aired during the episode, I explain that Chemonics was the largest recipient of post-quake U.S. disaster relief and in fact, is one of the largest aid contractors in the world. A topic that we have covered on this blog for years.  In a response to the episode, Chemonics claims the “segment does not provide a complete or accurate picture of Chemonics’ work in Haiti over the past five years.”

Chemonics continues:

As part of our USAID-funded Haiti Recovery Initiative, which ended in 2013, both the soccer field and the cultural center were designed to build a greater sense of community in the north of Haiti. Taken separately, these community projects may seem random. However, they were part of a larger strategy to stimulate growth in the region.

While this may be true, it does not address the main issue which VICE raises: that so much post-quake aid went to a community that wasn’t impacted by the quake. Further, the priority for Chemonics in implementing a USAID program was to provide support to the industrial park. Chemonics also funded the public relations firm for the inauguration of the park, paid for billboards that dot the area declaring it “open for business,” as well as other efforts aimed at promoting the park. This very well may be what Chemonics was asked to do by USAID, but it doesn’t mean it was a good use of aid dollars.

Next, Chemonics addresses the allegation that communities were left out of the decision-making process, writing:

Both the soccer field and community center were identified as local priorities at community meetings, and Haitian leaders such as Mayor Lamour, who was interviewed for the piece, participated in kick-off meetings and signed grant agreements that included details on the projects, as well as roles and responsibilities for both Chemonics and community leaders.

Adding:

Throughout the piece, the development industry in Haiti is criticized for lack of consultation with Haitians. For Chemonics, this is incorrect on a number of levels. At every point during implementation, we prioritized using Haitian expertise, Haitian goods, and Haitian companies … Our team of passionate Haitian staff engaged directly with a diverse array of community leaders prior to and during every activity.

But in the VICE episode, Mayor Lamour explains that what happens is that companies like Chemonics “just come and tell us they are investing in something.” Gandhi asks if the mayor would rather have had support for plumbing and running water, to which Lamour responds, “it’s true that they built a lot of things in the area, but we didn’t really need them.” Of course, Lamour and VICE are not the only ones who have denounced the lack of community involvement. In fact, USAID’s own inspector general (OIG) has specifically called out Chemonics for just this problem.

The OIG found “not all activities implemented have involved community participation in a way that guarantees sustainability.” In one especially egregious example, Chemonics:

…used contractors from Port-au-Prince to implement a number of activities in Cap-Haitien and Saint-Marc; these contractors brought their own people to do the jobs instead of hiring locals. As a result, residents saw jobs in their neighborhoods being done by outsiders, and without an understanding of the activities, they did not see how anyone local benefitted.

The OIG also found that “urban beautification” projects failed for similar reasons. The OIG writes, “The purpose of these projects was to improve public areas by installing plants and benches, as well as doing minor masonry work, and to project ‘a positive image of what role the nearby Caracol industrial park and other upcoming economic investments will play in citizens’ lives.’” Although Chemonics did do some plantings, “they died from lack of care.” Meanwhile:

According to the project’s final evaluation report, residents did not understand how the activity led to the beautification of the area nor did they associate it with the industrial park. Limonade’s mayor said the municipality could have been involved more in planning the activity to ensure its success.

Chemonics also contends that far more money makes it to Haitian organizations than what was reported in the VICE episode (one penny out of every dollar), writing:

This is not true. Since the earthquake, Chemonics alone has awarded nearly $100 million dollars directly to Haitian organizations, in the form of grants and subcontracts, providing much-needed monetary resources, as well as institutional strengthening and capacity building services in tandem.

It is true that far more than one penny out of every dollar goes to Haitian organizations through sub contracts and grants. In the interview, I specifically note that just one penny of every dollar goes directly to Haitian organizations. It is an important distinction because while USAID reports on the first layer, it is extremely difficult to obtain information at the subcontract level. As we wrote in our 2013 report, “Breaking Open the Black Box”:

To truly assess where USAID funds go, and what percent is spent locally, it is vital to have information on sub-awards as well as on prime awards. Prime awardees are the contractors and grantees discussed previously that receive funds directly from USAID. They often turn around and give a contract or grant to another entity to carry out some or all of the work; this is known as a subaward. In response to growing criticism of the amount of USAID funding going to U.S.-based organizations, the agency has indicated that a much larger share goes to local organizations through subcontracts. But it isn’t possible to confirm to what extent this is true given that USAID has failed to report on what organizations receive funding at the sub-award level.

It is certainly welcome that after years of stonewalling inquiries and Freedom of Information Act requests that Chemonics is now eager to discuss their funding of local organizations.

Finally, Chemonics writes:

The piece also claims that while USAID tracks how much money goes to a given contractor, it has no way to track the money beyond that point. This is false. Contractors are accountable for every penny spent on their respective projects, and USAID is closely involved in all stages of the projects, including monitoring expenditures.

Again, taking a look at previous OIG reports proves useful. A 2010 report found that USAID had not performed internal financial reviews of Chemonics despite “expending millions of dollars rapidly.” Also in 2010, I asked a USAID contracting official if he could provide information on amounts going to subcontracts, he responded: “you need hard data … and I need that hard data too.”

And yet efforts to obtain greater transparency have been met with resistance, as we noted in our report:

In response to inquiries, USAID has generally blocked any further disclosure. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for financial information have resulted in the release of heavily redacted documents, which exempt disclosure of any financial information as “proprietary.” An Associated Press investigation into USAID spending encountered many of the same problems, reporting that “U.S. contractors, from pollsters to private development firms, told the AP that USAID had asked them not to provide any information, and referred to publicly released descriptions of their projects.

Indeed, it was Chemonics’ contract with USAID that is shown in the episode, with all cost information redacted and the entire statement of work—25 pages—redacted with bright pink pages.

There is clearly more to the story of Haiti’s reconstruction than what was covered in the roughly 15-minute VICE on HBO episode, but Chemonics’ response is not just incomplete; it’s inaccurate and misleading too.

Vikram Gandhi, VICE on HBO correspondent travelled to Haiti to see just what happened with the $10 billion in aid pledged after the earthquake that occurred more than five years ago. The episode aired at 11 PM EST 4/24/15.

In a sneak peek, Gandhi goes to the site of a housing expo held in 2011. Organized by the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission led by Bill Clinton, the expo was meant to showcase model homes that could be built across the country. With more than a million made homeless, and hundreds of thousands of homes damaged or destroyed, providing new housing was seen as key to “building back better.”

 

“If we do this housing properly, it will lead to whole new industries being started in Haiti, creating thousands and thousands of new jobs and permanent housing,” Clinton stated after the earthquake.

But, as Ganghi shows, the expo never had the intended impact. Instead, the homes were abandoned and left to decay. Now, years later, the model houses have been occupied by residents, creating a new community in the rubble of the international community’s broken promises.

Gandhi speaks with CEPR Research Associate Jake Johnston, who explains how the U.S.’ premier aid agency, USAID, had an ambitious plan to build some 15,000 houses. But while costs nearly doubled to over $90 million, currently only 2,600 are planned and only 900 have been built thus far. USAID is no longer involved in new housing construction.

750 of the 900 houses were built far from the earthquake, in Caracol, the site of the international community’s flagship reconstruction project, the Caracol Industrial Park. Since the filming of the VICE investigation, more information has to come to light about the houses in Caracol. While residents are being asked to pay rent and eventually take ownership of the houses, internal assessments conducted by the Army Corp of Engineers and USAID revealed that the houses were poorly constructed, with substandard concrete, roofs that are not properly attached and broken sanitation system that causes sewage to flood the area during rains. Both USAID contractors involved have been suspended from receiving further contracts while a legal investigation is being conducted.

With only around 9,000 new homes built by international donors and NGOs since the earthquake, hundreds of thousands of residents have taken to the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, to an area known as Canaan, without government services or infrastructure of any kind. While little has been done to address the burgeoning crisis, from the hills of Canaan, one can see a new $18 million sports complex built by the Olympic Committee.

Johnston tells Gandhi that while billions were spent, much of the funds went to the short-term emergency response, which left little lasting impact. Meanwhile, Haitian organizations were largely bypassed in favor of beltway firms. “The big question that’s been on everyone’s mind is where did the money go? And I think that’s when we enter this sort of ‘black box’,” Johnston says in the episode. “For every dollar that USAID spends, less than a penny actually goes directly to any Haitian organizations,” he added.

Yesterday, the Chronicle of Philanthropy published an interview with Gandhi:

“Do we understand what aid is, for real? And is there really a system of accountability that is out there?” Mr. Gandhi told The Chronicle. “I think the answer is no, after being in Haiti and seeing how money was spent there.”

Vikram Gandhi, VICE on HBO correspondent travelled to Haiti to see just what happened with the $10 billion in aid pledged after the earthquake that occurred more than five years ago. The episode aired at 11 PM EST 4/24/15.

In a sneak peek, Gandhi goes to the site of a housing expo held in 2011. Organized by the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission led by Bill Clinton, the expo was meant to showcase model homes that could be built across the country. With more than a million made homeless, and hundreds of thousands of homes damaged or destroyed, providing new housing was seen as key to “building back better.”

 

“If we do this housing properly, it will lead to whole new industries being started in Haiti, creating thousands and thousands of new jobs and permanent housing,” Clinton stated after the earthquake.

But, as Ganghi shows, the expo never had the intended impact. Instead, the homes were abandoned and left to decay. Now, years later, the model houses have been occupied by residents, creating a new community in the rubble of the international community’s broken promises.

Gandhi speaks with CEPR Research Associate Jake Johnston, who explains how the U.S.’ premier aid agency, USAID, had an ambitious plan to build some 15,000 houses. But while costs nearly doubled to over $90 million, currently only 2,600 are planned and only 900 have been built thus far. USAID is no longer involved in new housing construction.

750 of the 900 houses were built far from the earthquake, in Caracol, the site of the international community’s flagship reconstruction project, the Caracol Industrial Park. Since the filming of the VICE investigation, more information has to come to light about the houses in Caracol. While residents are being asked to pay rent and eventually take ownership of the houses, internal assessments conducted by the Army Corp of Engineers and USAID revealed that the houses were poorly constructed, with substandard concrete, roofs that are not properly attached and broken sanitation system that causes sewage to flood the area during rains. Both USAID contractors involved have been suspended from receiving further contracts while a legal investigation is being conducted.

With only around 9,000 new homes built by international donors and NGOs since the earthquake, hundreds of thousands of residents have taken to the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, to an area known as Canaan, without government services or infrastructure of any kind. While little has been done to address the burgeoning crisis, from the hills of Canaan, one can see a new $18 million sports complex built by the Olympic Committee.

Johnston tells Gandhi that while billions were spent, much of the funds went to the short-term emergency response, which left little lasting impact. Meanwhile, Haitian organizations were largely bypassed in favor of beltway firms. “The big question that’s been on everyone’s mind is where did the money go? And I think that’s when we enter this sort of ‘black box’,” Johnston says in the episode. “For every dollar that USAID spends, less than a penny actually goes directly to any Haitian organizations,” he added.

Yesterday, the Chronicle of Philanthropy published an interview with Gandhi:

“Do we understand what aid is, for real? And is there really a system of accountability that is out there?” Mr. Gandhi told The Chronicle. “I think the answer is no, after being in Haiti and seeing how money was spent there.”

A new opinion poll, reported on Wednesday by Jacqueline Charles of The Miami Herald, reveals that while Haitian President Michel Martelly’s personal approval rating remains high, more than 50 percent of respondents thought the country was “headed in the wrong direction.” The Herald reports:

Martelly, who will begin the final year of his five-year term in May, got a 57 percent job approval rating. But it’s an open question whether his popularity will give his choice of presidential candidate the win. Martelly is barred from running again, and Haitians are waiting to see which candidate gets his support.

More than half of Haitians believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, while nearly 70 percent do not believe things are going well today.

Eduardo Gamarra, a professor at Florida International University who conducted the poll (PDF), told the Herald that “members of the private sector” funded the poll and had contracted him to do a number of polls over the past few years. Gamarra was also an advisor to the Government of Haiti, contracted by the Ministry of Planning, until August 2014.

Given Gamarra’s previous relationship with the government, and the contradictions in the poll (such as Martelly having high approval, despite a majority believing the country is moving in the wrong direction and that their personal situations are worse than a year ago), questions have arisen about the methodology of the survey. Further, some 60 percent of respondents reported having voted in the last presidential election, though the official turnout was only about 20 percent. Either the sample was not representative, or a significant portion of the respondents were not completely honest.

In a conversation with HRRW however, Gamarra defended the survey and noted that the only reason it had been published was because the most pro-government findings had previously been leaked.

While Gamarra acknowledged that using cell phone numbers to obtain the survey sample could introduce a bias to the results, he noted that largely as a result of Digicel’s presence, market penetration of cell phones has reached unprecedented levels and that the results are consistent with prior face-to-face polling he had done in Haiti.

“A lot of people are surprised by the contradictions,” Gamarra said, but “this is typical in Haiti.” Haitians, he said, are not generally critical of the government, despite that the majority feel their situation is getting worse.

Earlier this week, Haiti’s electoral authority published the final list of 166 political parties that have successfully registered for planned elections later this year. With elections delayed for over three years and such a large number of parties participating, the election is seen as wide open.

While the headline number looks good for Martelly, Gamarra urged caution, pointing to the results in the important west department, home to nearly 30 percent of Haiti’s population and a key base of support for Martelly earlier in his term. “The government faces its greatest opposition in the west….as a result, I believe that the elections are wide-open,” he added. Indeed, the poll shows Martelly faring worse on almost every indicator in the department. Whereas his national approval rating is 57 percent, in the west department, it is just 38 percent, some 15 percentage points lower than in any other department.

Though the survey’s funders remain unknown, the nature of the questions clearly point to the their interest in determining the popularity of former Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe. Poll participants were asked whether removing Lamothe from the prime minister’s office had been a good or bad thing (39.6 percent said “it’s a bad thing”), if things had improved or not since Lamothe’s departure (36 percent say it got worse) and also evaluated his potential support in the upcoming presidential election. Although more than 65 percent said they didn’t know who they would like to see as president, when given a list of choices, Lamothe was first with just over 20 percent saying they would vote for him if the election were held today.

The poll does appear to show the success, at least politically, of the government’s social programs, which are largely funded by Venezuelan’s Petrocaribe program. For example, respondents cited the Lekol Gratis program, the successes of which are loudly displayed on thousands of banners throughout Haiti, as the number Martelly accomplishment. Previous polling conducted in October, which found that 99 percent of respondents had heard of the free schooling program, backs this up, according to Gamarra. But while the program is “where Martelly gets his support,” Gamarra points out that “it’s a very poorly administered program.” It has also been plagued by allegations of corruption; at least 29 principals and school officials have been arrested for fraudulently receiving benefits through the program.

This also leads back to any possible presidential campaign by Lamothe. Since his resignation, the social programs the government had implemented have largely stopped. During a conversation with HRRW in January in Haiti, a political insider noted that by resigning when he did, Lamothe had actually put himself in a stronger position for a future presidential run. “He’s almost in a better position, since he’s not there for the mess he created,” said the source, adding, “after things go bad, Lamothe can come back and say ‘when I was there…’… Honestly, it’s not a bad plan.”

Gamarra, who has previously advised Lamothe, said that “as far as I know and given his own public statements” Lamothe “is unlikely to run”, but added, “He is the clear frontrunner and the only individual who stands out from the pack.”

But regardless of who ends up running, the polls most significant finding may be this: 61.2 percent don’t think there will be elections this year anyway. 

A new opinion poll, reported on Wednesday by Jacqueline Charles of The Miami Herald, reveals that while Haitian President Michel Martelly’s personal approval rating remains high, more than 50 percent of respondents thought the country was “headed in the wrong direction.” The Herald reports:

Martelly, who will begin the final year of his five-year term in May, got a 57 percent job approval rating. But it’s an open question whether his popularity will give his choice of presidential candidate the win. Martelly is barred from running again, and Haitians are waiting to see which candidate gets his support.

More than half of Haitians believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, while nearly 70 percent do not believe things are going well today.

Eduardo Gamarra, a professor at Florida International University who conducted the poll (PDF), told the Herald that “members of the private sector” funded the poll and had contracted him to do a number of polls over the past few years. Gamarra was also an advisor to the Government of Haiti, contracted by the Ministry of Planning, until August 2014.

Given Gamarra’s previous relationship with the government, and the contradictions in the poll (such as Martelly having high approval, despite a majority believing the country is moving in the wrong direction and that their personal situations are worse than a year ago), questions have arisen about the methodology of the survey. Further, some 60 percent of respondents reported having voted in the last presidential election, though the official turnout was only about 20 percent. Either the sample was not representative, or a significant portion of the respondents were not completely honest.

In a conversation with HRRW however, Gamarra defended the survey and noted that the only reason it had been published was because the most pro-government findings had previously been leaked.

While Gamarra acknowledged that using cell phone numbers to obtain the survey sample could introduce a bias to the results, he noted that largely as a result of Digicel’s presence, market penetration of cell phones has reached unprecedented levels and that the results are consistent with prior face-to-face polling he had done in Haiti.

“A lot of people are surprised by the contradictions,” Gamarra said, but “this is typical in Haiti.” Haitians, he said, are not generally critical of the government, despite that the majority feel their situation is getting worse.

Earlier this week, Haiti’s electoral authority published the final list of 166 political parties that have successfully registered for planned elections later this year. With elections delayed for over three years and such a large number of parties participating, the election is seen as wide open.

While the headline number looks good for Martelly, Gamarra urged caution, pointing to the results in the important west department, home to nearly 30 percent of Haiti’s population and a key base of support for Martelly earlier in his term. “The government faces its greatest opposition in the west….as a result, I believe that the elections are wide-open,” he added. Indeed, the poll shows Martelly faring worse on almost every indicator in the department. Whereas his national approval rating is 57 percent, in the west department, it is just 38 percent, some 15 percentage points lower than in any other department.

Though the survey’s funders remain unknown, the nature of the questions clearly point to the their interest in determining the popularity of former Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe. Poll participants were asked whether removing Lamothe from the prime minister’s office had been a good or bad thing (39.6 percent said “it’s a bad thing”), if things had improved or not since Lamothe’s departure (36 percent say it got worse) and also evaluated his potential support in the upcoming presidential election. Although more than 65 percent said they didn’t know who they would like to see as president, when given a list of choices, Lamothe was first with just over 20 percent saying they would vote for him if the election were held today.

The poll does appear to show the success, at least politically, of the government’s social programs, which are largely funded by Venezuelan’s Petrocaribe program. For example, respondents cited the Lekol Gratis program, the successes of which are loudly displayed on thousands of banners throughout Haiti, as the number Martelly accomplishment. Previous polling conducted in October, which found that 99 percent of respondents had heard of the free schooling program, backs this up, according to Gamarra. But while the program is “where Martelly gets his support,” Gamarra points out that “it’s a very poorly administered program.” It has also been plagued by allegations of corruption; at least 29 principals and school officials have been arrested for fraudulently receiving benefits through the program.

This also leads back to any possible presidential campaign by Lamothe. Since his resignation, the social programs the government had implemented have largely stopped. During a conversation with HRRW in January in Haiti, a political insider noted that by resigning when he did, Lamothe had actually put himself in a stronger position for a future presidential run. “He’s almost in a better position, since he’s not there for the mess he created,” said the source, adding, “after things go bad, Lamothe can come back and say ‘when I was there…’… Honestly, it’s not a bad plan.”

Gamarra, who has previously advised Lamothe, said that “as far as I know and given his own public statements” Lamothe “is unlikely to run”, but added, “He is the clear frontrunner and the only individual who stands out from the pack.”

But regardless of who ends up running, the polls most significant finding may be this: 61.2 percent don’t think there will be elections this year anyway. 

Caracol flood
Image from internal USAID document, caption reads: “Site flooding due to improper drainage”

On March 25, 2015, USAID suspended CEEPCO Contracting – which had been working on shelter programs in Haiti –from receiving further government contracts, pending the outcome of an ongoing investigation. CEEPCO joins Thor Construction, which was suspended in early February. The investigation concerns faulty construction practices related to 750 houses built in Caracol, Haiti by USAID. CEPR Research Associate Jake Johnston reported in February for VICE News:

CEEPCO’s CEO is Harold Charles, a Haitian-American who was formerly one of the Haitian government’s representatives to the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission (IHRC), run by Bill Clinton and meant to be in charge of the $10 billion in earthquake relief. The IHRC had initially approved the USAID shelter program back in December 2010.

Charles also enjoys a close, personal relationship with Haitian President Michel Martelly. In an interview in 2013, Charles said, “I do know and have very close friends up through the highest ranks of government,” adding, “Martelly is a childhood friend of mine.” One former government official in Haiti said in an interview, “this was seen as a deal that would please Martelly.”

Despite the initial assessment in August, 2014 that revealed the construction problems, USAID extended CEEPCO’s contract for work at other shelter sites in Haiti this past January. CEEPCO’s contract for the Caracol site was awarded without competition. A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the justification document is ongoing. A FOIA request for the initial assessment documenting the problems with the houses was recently responded to, but USAID withheld the entire document that was sought, citing the ongoing legal investigation.

Though the investigation continues, many thousands of Haitians continue to live in the poorly constructed houses. A contracting document from November, 2014, stated that repairs must be “carried out immediately in order to prevent possible harm to residents.” But it is unclear if meaningful remediation efforts have taken place.  An internal document reveals that many of the identified problems would require serious structural work to the houses.

In November, Tetra Tech, another U.S.-based firm, received a $5 million contract to oversee the repair efforts. The firm has been performing structural evaluations of the houses in anticipation of a future legal suit. One draft document, prepared by Tetra Tech and obtained by HRRW, details 29 instances “of material substitutions, field design changes, lack of quality assurance/quality control (QA/QC) and lack of quality workmanship.”

Among the myriad problems: concrete blocks far below required strength; drainage pipes not installed as designed; water and sewage pipes not separated; lack of ventilation blocks; wrong materials used for roofing; wrong materials used for framing; as well as more cosmetic deficiencies.

Caracol concrete
Image from internal USAID document, showing sub-standard concrete used.

This is also revealing as it shows CEEPCO was aware of the substandard materials used by the construction contractor, Thor. CEEPCO was responsible for construction management as well as some site work, such as water and sanitation. Although CEEPCO managed to hold off USAID for a few months longer than Thor, both contractors responsible for USAID’s model housing program have now been suspended.

Caracol flood
Image from internal USAID document, caption reads: “Site flooding due to improper drainage”

On March 25, 2015, USAID suspended CEEPCO Contracting – which had been working on shelter programs in Haiti –from receiving further government contracts, pending the outcome of an ongoing investigation. CEEPCO joins Thor Construction, which was suspended in early February. The investigation concerns faulty construction practices related to 750 houses built in Caracol, Haiti by USAID. CEPR Research Associate Jake Johnston reported in February for VICE News:

CEEPCO’s CEO is Harold Charles, a Haitian-American who was formerly one of the Haitian government’s representatives to the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission (IHRC), run by Bill Clinton and meant to be in charge of the $10 billion in earthquake relief. The IHRC had initially approved the USAID shelter program back in December 2010.

Charles also enjoys a close, personal relationship with Haitian President Michel Martelly. In an interview in 2013, Charles said, “I do know and have very close friends up through the highest ranks of government,” adding, “Martelly is a childhood friend of mine.” One former government official in Haiti said in an interview, “this was seen as a deal that would please Martelly.”

Despite the initial assessment in August, 2014 that revealed the construction problems, USAID extended CEEPCO’s contract for work at other shelter sites in Haiti this past January. CEEPCO’s contract for the Caracol site was awarded without competition. A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the justification document is ongoing. A FOIA request for the initial assessment documenting the problems with the houses was recently responded to, but USAID withheld the entire document that was sought, citing the ongoing legal investigation.

Though the investigation continues, many thousands of Haitians continue to live in the poorly constructed houses. A contracting document from November, 2014, stated that repairs must be “carried out immediately in order to prevent possible harm to residents.” But it is unclear if meaningful remediation efforts have taken place.  An internal document reveals that many of the identified problems would require serious structural work to the houses.

In November, Tetra Tech, another U.S.-based firm, received a $5 million contract to oversee the repair efforts. The firm has been performing structural evaluations of the houses in anticipation of a future legal suit. One draft document, prepared by Tetra Tech and obtained by HRRW, details 29 instances “of material substitutions, field design changes, lack of quality assurance/quality control (QA/QC) and lack of quality workmanship.”

Among the myriad problems: concrete blocks far below required strength; drainage pipes not installed as designed; water and sewage pipes not separated; lack of ventilation blocks; wrong materials used for roofing; wrong materials used for framing; as well as more cosmetic deficiencies.

Caracol concrete
Image from internal USAID document, showing sub-standard concrete used.

This is also revealing as it shows CEEPCO was aware of the substandard materials used by the construction contractor, Thor. CEEPCO was responsible for construction management as well as some site work, such as water and sanitation. Although CEEPCO managed to hold off USAID for a few months longer than Thor, both contractors responsible for USAID’s model housing program have now been suspended.

During a meeting yesterday at the Hotel Karibe Convention Center, the CEP presented a draft electoral calendar to political parties present. The proposal would have the first round of legislative elections on August 9, the second round of legislative elections and first round of presidential elections on October 25 and finally the second round of presidential elections and local elections on December 27. The electoral decree, which provides the legal basis for the election, was approved by the president on March 2.

A key date in the electoral process will be March 23, when the CEP will publish the list of registered political parties. Registration will open on March 16 and parties will have 5 days to register. This will be looked at as a key indicator of the inclusiveness of elections, as in past elections key political parties have been excluded from participation.  Some opposition political movements were not present at yesterday’s meeting, including MOPOD, RDNP and Petit Dessalines, according to Alterpresse. For his part former Senator Moise Jean Charles of Petit Dessaline explained they would not attend, “…because conditions have not been met. The electoral environment is part of the context of the crisis.”

INITE, which joined the Martelly government as part of a political deal in January, was supportive of the proposed calendar. Paul Denis expressed his party’s support for the holding of three elections, while adding that some continue to not want elections at all. “No one should come with pretexts for not organizing elections so as to generate trouble in the country,” he said. In an interview with Le Nouvelliste, former INITE Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive indicated his intention to run, at some level, in the elections.

Fanmi Lavalas and Fusion both expressed concern with the calendar, preferring to have the election in two-rounds as opposed to three. Le Nouvelliste reported that according to Dr. Louis Gérald Gilles of Lavalas, “neither political parties nor the country will have the necessary economic resources to participate in an electoral process that stretches from March 16 to December 27 2015.” Lavalas was excluded from participating in the 2010 elections. In an interview earlier this week with the Haiti Press Network, Prime Minister Evans Paul stated that, “an important sum will be made available to the various political organizations to run in the presidential elections.”

While there are concerns over the proposed timetable, the bigger issue appears to be in the formation of the Bureaux electoraux départementaux (BED) and Bureaux electoraux communaux (BEC). These institutions play a key oversight role as their members are responsible for communal and departmental dispute resolution. According to Le Nouvelliste, “Most political parties considered that the CEP should have first resolved the issue of the members of the BEC and BED before focusing on the electoral calendar.”  Gilles of Lavalas added that, “the BED and BEC constitute the basis for credible elections in the country.”

In response to the questions raised about the BED and BEC, Nehemy Joseph, a member of the CEP, stated they lacked control over financial resources and were unable to travel the country and ensure that the local institutions are being formed properly. In an interview with Le Nouvelliste, the head of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Sophie de Caen, announced that the electoral fund had over $38 million at its disposal. But, while the Haitian government is the largest single contributor, control of those funds rest with the international community and the UNDP in particular. Le Nouvelliste reported that, “certain political party leaders have roundly denounced the fact that the UNDP controls more than $38 million for the country’s elections, while the relevant body for the organization of elections, the CEP, functions with very limited economic resources.”

A final decision on the electoral calendar will be made in the coming days. 

During a meeting yesterday at the Hotel Karibe Convention Center, the CEP presented a draft electoral calendar to political parties present. The proposal would have the first round of legislative elections on August 9, the second round of legislative elections and first round of presidential elections on October 25 and finally the second round of presidential elections and local elections on December 27. The electoral decree, which provides the legal basis for the election, was approved by the president on March 2.

A key date in the electoral process will be March 23, when the CEP will publish the list of registered political parties. Registration will open on March 16 and parties will have 5 days to register. This will be looked at as a key indicator of the inclusiveness of elections, as in past elections key political parties have been excluded from participation.  Some opposition political movements were not present at yesterday’s meeting, including MOPOD, RDNP and Petit Dessalines, according to Alterpresse. For his part former Senator Moise Jean Charles of Petit Dessaline explained they would not attend, “…because conditions have not been met. The electoral environment is part of the context of the crisis.”

INITE, which joined the Martelly government as part of a political deal in January, was supportive of the proposed calendar. Paul Denis expressed his party’s support for the holding of three elections, while adding that some continue to not want elections at all. “No one should come with pretexts for not organizing elections so as to generate trouble in the country,” he said. In an interview with Le Nouvelliste, former INITE Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive indicated his intention to run, at some level, in the elections.

Fanmi Lavalas and Fusion both expressed concern with the calendar, preferring to have the election in two-rounds as opposed to three. Le Nouvelliste reported that according to Dr. Louis Gérald Gilles of Lavalas, “neither political parties nor the country will have the necessary economic resources to participate in an electoral process that stretches from March 16 to December 27 2015.” Lavalas was excluded from participating in the 2010 elections. In an interview earlier this week with the Haiti Press Network, Prime Minister Evans Paul stated that, “an important sum will be made available to the various political organizations to run in the presidential elections.”

While there are concerns over the proposed timetable, the bigger issue appears to be in the formation of the Bureaux electoraux départementaux (BED) and Bureaux electoraux communaux (BEC). These institutions play a key oversight role as their members are responsible for communal and departmental dispute resolution. According to Le Nouvelliste, “Most political parties considered that the CEP should have first resolved the issue of the members of the BEC and BED before focusing on the electoral calendar.”  Gilles of Lavalas added that, “the BED and BEC constitute the basis for credible elections in the country.”

In response to the questions raised about the BED and BEC, Nehemy Joseph, a member of the CEP, stated they lacked control over financial resources and were unable to travel the country and ensure that the local institutions are being formed properly. In an interview with Le Nouvelliste, the head of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Sophie de Caen, announced that the electoral fund had over $38 million at its disposal. But, while the Haitian government is the largest single contributor, control of those funds rest with the international community and the UNDP in particular. Le Nouvelliste reported that, “certain political party leaders have roundly denounced the fact that the UNDP controls more than $38 million for the country’s elections, while the relevant body for the organization of elections, the CEP, functions with very limited economic resources.”

A final decision on the electoral calendar will be made in the coming days. 

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