The U.S. has spent nearly $2 billion over the last five years attempting to rebuild Haiti after the island was devastated by a massive 7.0 magnitude earthquake.
And though the effort has made some progress, federal auditors are questioning the sustainability of many of the programs, which are plagued with cost-overruns and schedule delays.
That’s the conclusion of a new report from the Government Accountability Office, which reviewed 23 projects overseen by the U.S. Agency of International Development (USAID). Some projects were up to three years behind schedule; others were scrapped entirely because of mismanagement or because they were not sustainable
For example, one massive effort intended to rebuild Haiti’s health infrastructure program by constructing new health facilities around the Port-au-Prince area went more than $26 million over budget.
In another example, a project to build five electrical substations in Port-au-Prince wound up some $2.2 million over budget and took eight months longer than originally planned.
The auditors attributed the cost overruns and delays to overly ambitious plans, inadequate staffing and management issues.
This isn’t the first time the effort to rebuild Haiti has been under scrutiny. Last year, auditors flagged USAID’s “New Settlement Program,” intended to build houses for Haitians who lost their homes in the earthquake. The cost of the plan ballooned from $55 million to $76 million. At the same time more money was being spent, auditors said, contractors were building less. The number of plots of land the program was originally supposed to cover was reduced from 15,000 to just 4,000. The number of houses was also reduced by 77 percent, from 4,000 to 906.
“The mission did not achieve its goals for constructing houses and developing home sites within budget and on schedule,” the IG concluded.
A separate report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research reviewed the homes that were built under that program and found that about 750 of the houses were so shoddily built, they will cost millions more to repair.
At the time, the IG blamed USAID for lax oversight of the contractors building the homes, saying they “did not review contractor’s quality control procedures” leading to poorly constructed houses that will end up costing more.
In October, U.S. contractor, Tetra Tech, was given a $4.5 million contract to repair the homes, which had structural issues and drainage problems, The Fiscal Times previously reported.
In total, about $4 billion in federal tax dollars has been allocated to helping Haiti rebuild after the earthquake. Auditors said to ensure that money isn’t wasted, USAID and other agencies should enhance project planning and strategy.
The government isn’t the only one facing scrutiny over its role in the massive effort to rebuild Haiti. An investigation by ProPublica and NPR recently questioned how the American Red Cross spent $500 million in Haiti Relief money. According to the report, the Red Cross claimed that it has provided homes for more than 130,000 people. However, investigators said that the charity built just six homes.
For its part, the Red Cross disputed the report saying it was taken out of context. "It is particularly disappointing to see our work misrepresented, considering we answered more than 100 questions in writing and provided an interview with the head of our international programs," a Red Cross statement said.
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