July 25, 2014
The U.S. Congress has passed the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act, which will address some of the significant problems with the lack of transparency and accountability in U.S. contracting for aid and relief work in Haiti. After passing by unanimous consent in the House today, the bill will next head to President Obama to be signed into law. The Senate passed the bill earlier this month, and the House had passed an earlier version in December. In today’s vote the House passed the Senate’s modified version of the bill, which includes a new policy section.
As we noted in a press release today:
The bill requires that Congress receive annual progress reports “on the status of post-earthquake recovery and development efforts in Haiti, including efforts to prevent the spread of cholera and treat persons infected with the disease.” The bill mandates that agencies detail how the Haitian government and target constituencies, including internally displaced persons (IDPs) and farmers, are involved in the coordination of the aid process and how they are being impacted.
Importantly, the bill will also require more reporting regarding sub-grants. CEPR’s 2013 report, “Breaking Open the Black Box: Increasing Aid Transparency and Accountability in Haiti” by Jake Johnston and Alexander Main detailed how funds designated for Haiti end up going to sub-contractors who are often not identified, and who are not held accountable for what they do with the money. The Assessing Progress in Haiti Act will require the State Department to provide data on U.S. Haiti assistance funds disbursed at both the prime and subprime levels in line with one of the CEPR report’s main recommendations.
Much of the U.S. government aid earmarked for Haiti following the quake has gone to foreign contractors, providing little benefit to Haitian businesses, organizations or workers. The Haitian government has also largely been bypassed as aid funds have gone to foreign contractors, international agencies and the many groups that populate what is known as the “republic of NGOs.” Of the $6.43 billion disbursed by bilateral and multilateral donors to Haiti from 2010-2012, just 9 percent went through the Haitian government.
Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA), who introduced the legislation in the House, said in a press statement today that:
“Following the devastating January 2010 earthquake, the U.S. was quick to act in support of the Haitian people. However, our policies need greater strategic direction and oversight,” said Congresswoman Lee. “Nearly five years later, we need to provide more accountability of our efforts to rebuild Haiti as we work to produce sustainable local capacity and strengthen democratic institutions.”
Her statement also thanked Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), who introduced the Senate bill.
American Jewish World Service, which has itself made millions of dollars-worth of grants in Haiti, also applauded the bill:
“In the wake of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, our government laudably committed a significant amount of aid to help Haiti rebuild, but a lack of transparency made it difficult to understand how U.S. government funds were being used and if recovery efforts were making progress and were being measured,” said Ruth Messinger, president of AJWS.