MIAMI – $ 8 million spent for a post-earthquake industrial park that was never built. Road projects approved without cost or discretionary justification – including one for a banana-growing company that has no construction experience or expertise and is owned by the man who is now the country’s president. Hundreds of millions of dollars were squandered and embezzled without a trace.
The latest installment of a damning investigation by the Supreme Court of Auditors and Administrative Disputes in Haiti – the equivalent of the US Government Accountability Office in the country – shows how more than two billion dollars of petrodollars have been stolen from an oil import financing project in Venezuela over an eight-year period by several governments. Haiti.
Most of the money, spent in the decade following the devastating earthquake that hit the country of 12 January 2010, was squandered and mismanaged as it was poured into hundreds of projects that did little to improve the lives of Haitians after the worst natural conditions in the hemisphere disaster.
The court concluded that “the main steps related to the sound management of investment projects have not been followed” after it found that many of the 409 projects it studied were implemented without “concern for efficiency, effectiveness and economy.”
The court said, “For many of the projects examined, there was poor definition of needs, the use of incomplete estimates, and an inadequate risk analysis.” The auditors added that non-core additions to the projects were also responsible for the cost overruns they observed.
To reach the same conclusion as two previous reports, one of which is still in the drawers of the Haitian Senate Office, the most recent findings of the Court of Auditors in Haiti are set at 1,067 pages. The report, published on Monday, covers the period between September 2008 and September 2016. It includes the six governments under the leadership of René Préval, Michel Martelli, and interim President Joslerm Brevert. The value of all projects amounted to 2.2 billion dollars, of which 1.7 billion dollars were disbursed and the bulk of them analyzed.
The report does not include any PetroCaribe funding that might have been approved under the administration of current President Jovenel Moise. Moyes, under pressure from the Trump administration, ended Haiti’s support for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in January 2019.
But even then, Haiti was among the many Caribbean and Central American states that benefited from Venezuela’s Petrocarribe oil program. Under the program, the two countries received petroleum products with a 25-year deferment at an interest rate as low as 1 percent. Savings were considered development loans from Venezuela for countries to invest in social programs to help their poor.
Former Senator Yuri Latortue said Haiti was still receiving fuel shipments from Venezuela until November 2018. Latortue, the first to lead a Senate investigation into the graft allegations, said the value of the last few fuel shipments to Haiti ranged between $ 30 million And $ 35 million, and he has no idea how to spend the money.
The reviewers’ report undoubtedly adds to the already volatile situation in Haiti and reinforces the decision of the United States and other foreign governments not to provide funding directly to the Haitian government for fear that these funds will be mismanaged or stolen.
In the report, auditors described their inability to track funds disbursed because contracts and other documents were either not found or submitted by the government institutions responsible for managing and implementing projects. Similar obstacles occurred during previous investigations.
Economist Itzer Emil in Port-au-Prince said that the report illustrates “missed opportunities” in a country today teetering in more despair, led by ongoing political instability, worsening violence and the global Corona virus epidemic.
“The report confirms once again that most of the projects funded by Petrocaribe did not meet any economic or social needs,” Emil said. “It was clear that it was a massive corruption operation with no intention of solving the problems.”
Haiti today faces an annual rate of 23% inflation, while food prices have increased 27% in recent months. Meanwhile, the local currency, the Gourde, has fallen 210% since 2010.
Emile said that while the billions spent on projects since 2008, including $ 395 million ceded by Venezuela in March 2010 as part of the international community’s support for Haiti’s reconstruction, they would not have solved Haiti’s countless problems, It would have affected.
“If it were managed intelligently and fairly, it would definitely make a big difference in people’s lives today,” he said, adding that “corruption and impunity accelerate poverty.”
Among the recommendations of the court: That the Haitian parliament devise a mechanism to recover the funds. It also recommends that the Haitian authorities embark on in-depth structural reforms to improve the administration and award of public contracts.
“The state has an urgent duty to take measures that will enhance citizens’ confidence in republican institutions,” the report stated.
For two years, questions about what happened to the PetroCaribe money have fueled unrest and protests in Haiti, and a campaign on social media. Despite the mobilization and legal case that attorney and opposition leader André Michel has brought on behalf of many citizens, there is little evidence that the report will lead to any high-ranking officials being held accountable for corruption or even parliament’s prosecution of the millions missing.
After the last two reports were published in January and May of last year, the institutions that should have followed up never did. The Haitian Parliament today has just 10 members after two-thirds of the 30-member Senate and the entire House of Representatives were sacked in January, disrupting the institution.
“Our hopes are not high given the extent of the corruption of the current government,” said Velina Charlier, anti-corruption activist for the popular organization Nou Pap Domi. “But we will never stop fighting for justice. The fighting has just started in reality.”
In the report’s statement, Noo described Bab Dumi as an important step and said he plans to continue calling for the arrests, a judicial investigation and a trial.
The group said, “The state has become a beehive in which blood sucks all predators without regard for the collective interest, without regard to our history, without regard for tomorrow.”
The report put the government on the defensive. During a radio interview on Monday, Presidential Counselor Patrick Crispin tried to take credit for Moyes for the report, saying the investigation took place because he had heard people’s screams for justice.
But Crispin also criticized the report and accused it of bias because it mentioned Agritrans, the banana growing company that Moise headed during his presidential campaign and used it as a major selling point. The auditors accused the company of receiving millions of dollars for dubious road rehabilitation projects and being part of an embezzlement scheme to defraud Haitians using Venezuelan aid.
During a press conference on Wednesday defending the construction of several controversial soccer stadiums after the earthquake funded by Petrocarribe dollars, Prime Minister Joseph Guth said he had yet to read the “massive” report. He added that he had instructed members of his government to get acquainted with its results.
“I hope this report clearly points to the real spoilers, I have to say real thieves, real thieves … to Petrocaribe funds because the country really needs them to boost agriculture, increase local production, work in health and education,” Guth said. .
Among the projects that illustrate the difficulties encountered by auditors, and their limitations in their inability to enforce cooperation, was an industrial complex planned to house factories near Morne-a-Cabret in the suburbs of Port-au-Prince, the development of nearby housing that served as housing for earthquake victims and a rehabilitation project Desolate region.
The three projects, totaling $ 56.7 million, were awarded to Constructura ROFI SA, a Dominican company owned by Dominican Senator Felix Ramon Bautista. Accused of exercising his influence to win several controversial contracts without bidding in Haiti, the United States froze his assets in 2018 after the Trump administration accused him of reaping millions of dollars in post-earthquake reconstruction projects in Haiti that he never completed.
While in Haiti the auditors saw that $ 8 million out of $ 10 million had been transferred through disbursement orders from the Liquidity of Programs and Development Assistance Office, or BMPAD, to the industrial park, the auditors said they “were unable to find any documents that would justify the relevant payment of the company in question. Therefore, it is not in a position to comment on the use of this amount. “
Auditors also attempted to investigate the $ 22 million that was spent on building 1,500 apartments adjacent to the planned development, and $ 26.7 million for urban renewal and development of the Morne Cabaret residential area.
While the audit shows the money being spent on housing, it did not address the concerns raised by the Haitian authorities about the poor manufacturing of the 344 square feet homes roughly the size of a regular hotel room, and their unsuccessful attempts to get the Bautista companies to fix the problem, complete the units, and pay off the state. .
The court also noted that, with regard to the $ 26.7 million in urban renewal, the auditors “did not track the contract, invoices, invoices, and proof of transfers, and there are no other documents likely to justify the disbursement in question to the company in question.” So it is clear that the court cannot. To control the use of this amount, which constitutes a violation that may cause harm to the project and society.
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