USAID Producing 'Mixed Results' in Rebuilding Haiti, GAO Finds

The National Palace from the Fort Nationale neighborhood in Port-au-Prince has not been rebuilt since the 2010 earthquake. The National Palace from the Fort Nationale neighborhood in Port-au-Prince has not been rebuilt since the 2010 earthquake. Dieu Nalio Chery/AP

Construction of a key port, power plant and permanent housing in earthquake-scarred Haiti has been delayed due to the U.S. Agency for International Development’s lack of expertise and unrealistic timeframes for contracts, said an audit released Tuesday.

The Government Accountability Office said the agency as of March had achieved “mixed results” and spent only one-third of the $651 million it received under a supplemental appropriations bill following the Jan. 12, 2010, quake that killed 230,000, injured 300,000 and displaced 2 million Haitians.

Calling the projects interdependent, the auditors found that USAID had successfully completed the power plant ahead of schedule but was two years behind on the new port. It also failed to hire a qualified engineer.

The Senate Appropriations Committee had directed the State Department to provider greater detail in progress reports, but that requirement ended in September 2012. Hence, “Congress lacks information on the amounts of funds obligated and disbursed and program-by-program progress of U.S. reconstruction activities,” the report said.

Planning has been hampered, the study said, by unrealistic initial timeframes, delays in awarding the contract for a feasibility study and incomplete information in the study. An estimated funding gap of $117 million to $189 million is larger than initially anticipated, GAO continued, “and it is unclear whether the Haitian government will be able to find a private-sector company willing to finance the remainder of the project.”

GAO recommended that USAID improve oversight, deliver more timely reports, consider higher funding and hire an engineer. USAID agreed with a draft of the recommendations; State did not comment.

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