Legislative movement in Congress has been a lot like a one-horse town: if you blink, you’ll miss it. While there haven’t been too many bills making their way into law, there was a recent bill on Haiti’s reconstruction progress that is drawing a lot of attention.
With bipartisan support, U.S. Congress passed a bill that will require more reporting for better oversight and transparency in the post-earthquake reconstruction efforts. It is now on the President’s desk, waiting to be signed into law.
What is this bill about?
- The “Assessing Progress in Haiti Act” calls for more reporting from the State Department, listing several examples of funds that were promised by USAID and the minimal disbursement of those funds in almost 5 years of recovery & rebuilding.
- The language of the bill cites the need for “sustainable rebuilding and development” led by Haitians, building long term capacity of Haitian government and civil society, and more transparency and accountability in reporting.
(If you really get excited about legislation, read the full text of the bill here)
Why is this bill so significant?
- The U.S. government is the largest foreign aid donor in Haiti, giving $1.3 billion towards relief efforts and $2.3 billion for recovery, reconstruction and development. Many of the projects are over budget and behind schedule, making many wonder where these billions of dollars have gone. This bill will require reporting every 6 months and give Congress more oversight on where and how this aid is being spent.
- USAID uses contractors who then hire subcontractors (as in many parts of the world), making it difficult to track exactly how the money is being spent. This bill calls for using more local contractors and more consultation with civil society and the Haitian government.
- It is a culmination of more than 3 years of advocacy efforts from a broad spectrum of organizations. Many working with Haitian partners that have seen the effects of poorly managed recovery & reconstruction efforts on the ground. Almost 5 years after the earthquake, people are still living in displacement camps & overall infrastructure has not improved.
This is a momentous occasion, not only for reconstruction in Haiti, but for post-disaster projects & international development efforts around the world. The U.S. government is responsible for many projects like this worldwide. Being the keeper of the funds, they hold most of the decision making power. Measures like the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act need to be put in place to ensure the money is used well, and benefits the Haitians who really need it.