House Foreign Affairs Committee Discusses Haiti Aid Funding

On Wednesday, October 9th, the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing on the “Administration of Haiti Reconstruction Funding.” The discussion was based on a report issued June 2013 by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that investigated and reported on the USAID funded Caracol industrial park in northern Haiti. The hearing took place in two parts: the first with a panel from the GAO, represented by Dr. David Gootnick, the primary author of the report and the second with a panel comprised of Haiti Special Coordinator Tom Adams from the State Department and Beth Hogan, Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator of USAID.

Dr. Gootnick answered numerous questions from members of Congress about how USAID was utilizing the $651 million appropriated for post-earthquake relief efforts. The primary focus of the hearing was on the Caracol Industrial Park in northern Haiti, which is one of the largest projects that USAID has helped fund with the aid money. U.S. funded portions of the part includes:

  • A sea port for exporting goods from the industrial park,
  • a power plant for electricity generation for the park,
  • And housing for park employees

The GAO report found that USAID had underestimated the costs and timeline of construction. The committee members were most shocked by the “scandalous” lack of oversight regarding housing construction. The initial estimate was for USAID to construct 15,000 homes, however 3 years after the earthquake only 2,649 homes were actually built. Several factors that influenced the increased cost were discussed during the hearing, such as:

  • A complicated land tenure system
  • Lack of adequate infrastructure like indoor plumbing
  • Difficulties with importing materials
  • Problems with post-earthquake rubble removal

The hearing made clear that there was a serious, overarching problem with U.S. aid to Haiti: a lack of oversight and accountability. The GAO report made several recommendations to help address the issues of USAID’s reconstruction in Haiti. The most important, and the one that congressional members present at the hearing seemed to agree on, was requiring additional and more accurate reports from USAID, so that their projects could continue with more congressional oversight

Read the GOA Report here and watch the recording of the Hearing here.

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