Thursday, September 30, 2010

Haiti ... Is this progress or more of the same old same old?

Dear Colleagues

According to the AP, in reporting by Jonathan Katz, the US has named Thomas C. Adams to be special coordinator to oversee in Washington the reconstruction plans for Haiti.
The U.S. State Department has named a special coordinator to oversee Washington's reconstruction plans in earthquake-ravaged Haiti amid complaints about the lagging of promised aid money. Two officials at the department told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Thomas C. Adams has already started on the job. The officials agreed to discuss the move only if not quoted by name because the appointment had not been made public.
In other AP reporting is is noted that of the $1.15 billion in reconstruction aid pledged by the US at the Donor Conference on March 31st has "arrived" ... whatever that means!
The disclosure came a day after the AP reported that none of the $1.15 billion in reconstruction aid pledged by the U.S. at a donors' conference in March has arrived.
It is now more than 8 months after the disastrous earthquake in Haiti. As far as I can see, the "performance" of the people and institutions in charge of the relief and rebuilding is incredibly poor ... in almost every way. It is good to have AP talking about the slow fund flows associated with the Haiti program.
Complaints about the slow delivery of promised reconstruction money on the part of nearly all countries who participated in the conference has been going on for months. Just 15 percent of the money promised for 2010-11 has been delivered, according to the office of U.N. Special Envoy to Haiti Bill Clinton — and none from the United States.
There are serious management problems with the whole Haiti situation, not the least is the multiple roles of many of the key actors ... the UN, the World Bank, the IDB, USAID and the US State Department for starters in the organization sector ... and individuals like President Clinton and Dr. Paul Farmer as individuals.

As a system, the Haiti program is dysfunctional ... yet the people with responsibility seem to be accepting this unacceptable situation as acceptable. IT IS NOT! As AP puts it:
Washington has provided $1.1 billion in humanitarian aid since the quake, but rebuilding cannot begin without the promised longterm reconstruction funds from the U.S. and others.
To put it politely ... this is baloney! The best development for Haiti does not require the commitment of billions, it requires a lot of modest commitment to good things that in aggregate will be amazing.

This is not the development model favored by experts from the World Bank, the IDB, the US NGO and Corporate community, the UN, etc. What is going forward ... or seems to be going forward is an agenda that has little or no support of some of the key stakeholders ... specifically Haitians in Haiti and Haitians in the diaspora! It is unclear at the present what benefits, if any, are going to accrue to ordinary people in Haiti ... more than 1 million who are displaced physically and economically. This is a scandalous situation. In AP reporting:
In the meantime, 1.3 million Haitians remain on the streets nearly nine months after the magnitude-7 earthquake, living in miserable conditions and dying in storms.
In my experience it is really nice to live "under canvas for a weekend with the family" as long as the weather good ... but nine months, in all sorts of weather ... with less than acceptable water and sanitation ... with rotten security. I am incensed by the cavalier attitude of all the relief and development staff ... and especially those in high positions.
The funds were approved by Congress over the summer but cannot be released until a plan for spending the money is formalized. The State Department sent lawmakers one such plan Sept. 20 and gave legislators 15 days to review it. Whether they act or not, the money can be released as soon as the review period expires.
God help us ... will there ever be something that the Washington bureaucracy can do efficiently. My guess is that the average bureaucrat was called upon to live like the displaced in Haiti, there would be red tape cutting that would impress even me. From AP's reporting:
The Obama administration is "in the final phase of working with them (Congress) on the release of supplemental funding to implement our long-term strategy," said State Department adviser Caitlin Klevorick, who works on Haiti ... Officials said the money could be made available within the coming weeks.
This is highly efficient by the standards of Washington bureaucracy ... a very low standard. While this paperwork is being processed, hundreds, if not thousands of women and girls are likely to have been raped because security in the IDP camps is essentially non-existent. Or am I perhaps misinformed?

AP has done a good job of highlighting many important issues:
Meanwhile, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee drafted a more detailed authorization bill that could also release the money. That is being held up by Sen. Tom Coburn, a Republican from Oklahoma, who placed a "hold" on the bill because he objected to the creation of such an office, which he says would duplicate the role of the U.S. ambassador to Haiti. Coburn's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Adams' appointment.
But the reporting of AP should be the start of the story and not the end. There is a huge and systemic problem about accounting and accountability for money and resources consumed in relief and development generally and in this specific situation in Haiti specifically. Why is it that credible information is never available? Again from AP:
Klevorick also disputed the heightened criticism about aid funds not being delivered. She said $300 million in previously committed spending during that time has gone to water, food, shelter, health and longer-term projects such as agriculture and the creation of a center to train Haitians to work in garment factories.
Why can there not be a clear accounting for what the money gets used for? As an old auditor I learned that when you cannot get a clear answer, there is always something that people do not want you to know. What is it that the people in control do not want me ... us ... to know?
The Haiti special coordinator's office will oversee diplomatic relations with Haiti and reconstruction strategy, according to an internal State Department memo on Adams' appointment obtained by the AP. Legislators proposed financing the office at $5 million a year for five years and employ up to seven people. Adams is a 35-year veteran of the State Department, the memo says. He was previously coordinator of assistance to Europe and Eurasia, overseeing aid to 18 former states of the Soviet Union and eastern Europe.
I have a very uncomfortable feeling ... shared, I believe, by many others who had hoped for some meaningful progress way sooner than now seems to be on the agenda!

Of course I have not raised the question of the political impasse associated with the elections and delay in Haiti. While this is a big issue ... it does not explain ALL that is constraining progress.

The situation would be improved enormously if the data were better, and metrics about use of resources and progress were universally accessible. Transparency and accountability are a big part of managing resources successfully!

Peter Burgess

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