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lundi 20 juin 2016

Senator to Red Cross: Public has ‘right to know’ how Haiti money was spent

HAITI JUNE 17, 2016 5:02 PM
- Senate report released this week calls into question how the charity spent money meant for Haiti after the 2010 earthquake
- Report says there are ‘substantial and fundamental concerns’ about the organization
- A full 25 percent of the donated money was spent on fundraising, management, a contingency fund and ‘program costs’

BY JUSTIN ELLIOTT AND LAURA SULLIVAN

ProPublica and NPR
A blistering Senate report on the American Red Cross raises fundamental questions about the integrity of the country’s most storied charity and its stewardship of donors’ dollars.
The report, which was released this week by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and contains nearly 300 pages of supporting documents, found:
▪ After the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the Red Cross spent tens of millions of dollars more than it has previously acknowledged on internal expenses. The Red Cross told Grassley that the money was largely spent on oversight to make sure the Haiti aid was used properly. But Grassley’s office found that the charity “is unable to provide any financial evidence that oversight activities in fact occurred."
▪ Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern made false statements to Grassley’s office about whether the charity cooperated with congressional investigators.
▪ McGovern and her subordinates have kept the charity’s own internal investigations and ethics unit “severely undermanned and underfunded.” The charity is “reluctant to support the very unit that is designed to police wrongdoing within the organization.”
There are “substantial and fundamental concerns about [the Red Cross] as an organization,” the report concludes.
In an interview about the report, Grassley said that even after a year of back-and-forth with the Red Cross, “we did not get satisfactory answers. It was like pulling teeth.”
Grassley launched his investigation following stories by ProPublica and NPR on Red Cross failures in providing disaster relief, including after the Haiti earthquake. The group raised nearly half a billion dollars after the disaster, more than any other nonprofit. But our reporting found that, for example, an ambitious plan to build housing resulted in just six permanent homes.
Red Cross officials, including McGovern, have repeatedly told the public that the charity retains 9 percent of donations to cover management and administrative costs. But Grassley found that a full 25 percent of donations — or around $125 million — were spent on fundraising and management, a contingency fund, and a vague, catchall category the Red Cross calls “program costs.”
On top of that 25 percent, the Red Cross sent the bulk of the donated money to other nonprofits to do the work on the ground. Those other nonprofits then took their own cuts for overhead costs — as much as 11 percent.
Over a year of written exchanges with Grassley’s staff, the Red Cross repeatedly revised its figures for the same projects.
“The most important thing (from the report) is an unwillingness to level with the people about exactly where the money went,” Grassley said in the interview. “There’s too many questions in regard to how the money was spent in Haiti that it gives me cause to wonder about money being donated for other national disasters.”
“One of the reasons they don’t want to answer the questions is it’s very embarrassing,” Grassley added.
In a statement, the Red Cross said that while it has not yet seen the senator’s report, the charity and McGovern have been transparent, and donors’ money was properly spent. The statement says the costs of the projects are “entirely justifiable given the size and complexity of the Haiti program, the scale of the destruction and the challenging and sometimes dangerous conditions of working in Haiti.”
The Red Cross was created by congressional charter more than a century ago, and receives a range of special benefits from the government.
Here are more details from the report:
On a page recently added to its website, the Red Cross says the so-called program costs for Haiti — roughly $70 million — went to “monitoring the use of donations, informing donors about how their money has been spent, paying skilled staff members to carry out the work, renting secure office space, and ensuring that dollars are leveraged as far as possible.”
But pressed by Grassley’s investigators, the Red Cross could not give an accounting of the oversight it says it did with the money. After repeated requests by Grassley’s investigators over the course of months, the Red Cross finally last month produced a document with a narrative description of oversight but no financial details.
In general, the Red Cross itself doesn’t know how much money it spent on each project in Haiti because of a “complex, yet inaccurate” accounting system, the report found.
The report echoes confidential findings made by consultants hired by the Red Cross, which were previously reported by ProPublica and NPR. An internal evaluation of one of the group’s water and sanitation projects found there was “no correct process for monitoring project spending.” Another assessment found that the group’s figures on how many people helped in a hygiene project were “fairly meaningless.”
In response to Grassley’s investigation, the Red Cross for the first time posted online a list of specific projects in Haiti. But the accounting on the list, along with other materials provided to Grassley, raises more questions than it answers.
Documents provided by the Red Cross to Grassley show that the charity at times spent large sums of money on management even when it appeared to be simply writing a check to other organizations that were doing actual projects.
In 2010, the Red Cross gave $4.3 million to its sister organization, the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) for disaster preparedness work. On top of the $4.3 million, according to budget figures the charity provided Grassley, the American Red Cross spent another $2 million on its own — to “manage” granting money to another organization.
The IFRC then took out its own overhead and administrative costs before using the money to help Haitians.
When asked why the Red Cross needed $2 million dollars to give money to its sister organization, the group said in its statement the costs were “incurred to ensure accountability, monitoring and evaluation of work performed and ensure our partners meet their contractual requirements.”
The Red Cross added that “Implementing a tracking system by project would take a lot of time and would be a waste of donor dollars that could be better spent on delivering services.”
In 2014, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., of the House Homeland Security Committee asked the Government Accountability Office to examine the Red Cross’ disaster services, in part because of problems in its response to Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
McGovern recently told Grassley’s investigators that the Red Cross “gave [the GAO] everything that they asked for.”
That statement was untrue, according to the report: “This is contrary to the documentary evidence of communications between GAO and [the Red Cross].”
The Red Cross, the committee found, “failed to provide to GAO a substantial volume of requested material.”
The report lists eight examples of things the Red Cross declined to provide to government investigators. They range from descriptions of the charity’s internal oversight processes to interviews with chapter officials involved in the response to Superstorm Sandy.
In its statement to ProPublica and NPR, the group doubled-down on McGovern’s earlier assertion: “At no point did the Red Cross refuse to provide requested information.”
McGovern has publicly portrayed the Red Cross as a beacon of openness. “We made a commitment that we want to lead the effort in transparency," she said at the National Press Club in 2011. But Grassley’s report notes that, as ProPublica revealed last year, McGovern hadtried outright to kill the GAO investigation.
Grassley’s report found that while the Red Cross couldn’t kill the investigation, it “was able to limit the scope of the GAO’s inquiry."
In meetings and email correspondence over the course of several months, Red Cross General Counsel David Meltzer questioned GAO’s legal authority to look at the Red Cross.
The Red Cross argued that investigators’ “requests for internal decision-making, internal oversight, and internal funding allocation are outside of GAO’s authority,” according to a GAO’s account included in Grassley’s report.
The negotiations reached an almost absurd denouement when the American Red Cross — or ARC — presented a hypothetical about why handing out blankets would not be subject to federal oversight
. As Grassley’s report puts it:
In a September 26, 2014 follow up phone call with GAO, ARC elaborated on its position and provided an example to provide additional clarity: if ARC is in the coordination tent with FEMA and a need for blankets is identified, and ARC has blankets to dispense, the implementation of the delivery of the blankets is outside the scope of federal involvement, but the conversation in the tent is within the scope of federal involvement. At the end of the September 26, 2014, conversation, GAO notes of that conversation state that ARC did not want “to open the door to a long, endless GAO review,” particularly on internal oversight.
As Grassley’s report notes, the Red Cross’ congressional charter explicitly gives the GAO the authority to scrutinize the group.
The Red Cross has about 20,000 employees. But its ethics office, which investigates waste, fraud, and abuse, is composed of just three people, according to the Grassley report. That’s down from roughly 65 staffers a decade ago.
One of the three remaining employees, the “compliance coordinator,” does intake of phone calls and does not do investigations. Another, the chief investigator, is based in New York, away from Red Cross headquarters in Washington.
Requests by the head of the unit, Teala Brewer, for more staff have gone unfulfilled by the general counsel, Meltzer, according to the report.
The report concludes that the Office of Investigations, Compliance, and Ethics was left so under-resourced that it is “unable to perform its primary function; namely, to perform investigations, ensure compliance, and maintain ethical standards.”
If you have information about the Red Cross, email justin@propublica.org. To anonymously send documents online, visit the SecureDrop site.
 Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/haiti/article84458967.html#storylink=cpy

VINGT JUIN...QUATRE AVRIL!

Aujourd’hui, on est le 20 juin. Le dernier jour du printemps qui s’enfuit encore une fois, sans se soucier des amoureux nostalgiques des temps plutôt doucereux. Il laisse la place à l’été. Ah oui l’été ! La belle saison des grandes vacances. Le moment propice pour évacuer les pressions et recharger les batteries !
Cette date marquant le passage d’une saison à l’autre reste très significative sous les cieux qui reçoivent régulièrement les assauts des éléments climatiques propres à ces quatre fractions bien distinctes de l’année. En France, un ministre socialiste a eu la brillante idée de dédier le premier jour de l’été à la célébration de la musique. Donc en France se célèbre la fête de la musique le 21 juin.
Chez nous en Haïti, il y a surtout une expression assez souvent utilisée qui fait intervenir le 20 juin.
Cette expression définit les aspects d’un visage sans doute fatigué, désœuvré.
Souvent on l’entend en langue vernaculaire dans un déconcertant « figi timoun lan make 20 jen 4 avril » dont une autre version serait le « Timoun nan ap fè figil fè tè pwa, té mayi »
Comme un curieux passionné de l’histoire de mon pays, j’ai dû déjà me poser cette question me demandant à quoi pourrait correspondre cette période aussi triste. 20 juin - 4 avril. Probablement j’ai dû aussi aller chercher une réponse que je n’ai pas retenue. Peut être, avais-je seulement l’intention de le faire et que cette intention à été supplantée par une autre priorité ?
Pourtant des sources existent pour se renseigner, apprendre et d’édifier sur le sujet. Je fuirais et je conseillerais de s’éloigner de Wikipedia, cette pseudo encyclopédie qui joue sa fiabilité au profit de son aspect trop ouvert et trop démocratique. Un outil qui reste donc dangereux dans des mains non expérimentées.
D’autres passionnés d’histoire nationale seraient sans aucun doute très à même de m’éclairer.
Si je me retrouvais en Haïti, je tacherais de rentrer en contact avec notre Fritz Valesco national alias « Pitit fèy »qui a déjà sondé les entrailles de notre histoire pour retrouver et partager ces événements considérés comme insignifiants pour remplir les espaces cachés entre prouesses et désastres. Pourtant, mis bout à bout, ils participent à la constitution de la vraie histoire de notre nation, celle qui a façonné notre moi identitaire. Je recommanderais et je recommande la collection préparée en créole par le professeur Jean Julien sous le titre « ISTWA PEYI DAYITI », une collection élaborée pour la célébration du bicentenaire de l’indépendance haïtienne. Un grand nom de ce monde ayant eu à dire que « l’histoire est un mensonge que personne ne conteste », et considérant l’existence de ces écoles assurant la promotion du questionnement des faits historiques comme négationnisme ou révisionnisme, je ne dirai pas de prendre les récits du professeur Jean Julien comme une vérité d’évangile .
Cependant c’est un outil d’une valeur inestimable pour tout haïtien qui y retrouvera un moyen simple de revisiter et réviser (dans l’acception scolastique du terme) son histoire.
Personnellement, quand je me sens happé par les engrenages du « homesickness » au lieu de chanter « fok mwen te kitew pou mwen te kapab konprann valew », je mets un CD de cette collection et je me retrouve et me ressource. Je tiens particulièrement à cette collection parce que le fait de les avoir en ma possession constitue un pan de l’histoire de ma vie. Une histoire d’amitié, une histoire de patriotisme, une histoire d’amour pour le pays. Je la reprendrai en quelques lignes comme un hommage à cet ami qui est devenu et qui reste encore un frère de combat, un collègue guerrier pour la cause haïtienne.
En 2004, en pleine crise politique post lavalassienne, j’ai découvert par hasard un forum de discussions entre des dizaines qui, sans substance, faisait la promotion de leurs camps. Je pris le temps de lire des échanges postés sur MOUN.COM et tout de suite je sentis que ce forum sortait du lot.
Des textes tranchant le vif du sujet mettant la réalité du pays et de sa société à portée de toute conscience bien constituée, me conduisirent à faire attention à des pseudos comme élise, Castille, Blekleroc, Dezagreman, Excalibur, Dilibon, Dekabess, Bagaydrol pour ne citer que ceux-là.
Moun.com devint une institution ou les politiciens en panne d’idées venaient volontiers y puiser.
Pour la grande majorité, on vint à s’apprécier sans se connaître personnellement.
Lors d’un voyage aux USA, j’ai établi un contact téléphonique avec l’un d’entre eux. Je me trouvais dans un autre état et un de mes frères devait me reconduire à New York. Avant d’atteindre ma destination j’ai demandé à mon frère de faire un petit crochet vers le bureau de cet ami qui s’identifiait comme moi, comme mouniste et l’on n’utilisait que nos pseudos. J’arrivai à son bureau un peu après midi. Quand je sonnai, il fit comprendre avec raison à la personne qui sonnait que le bureau était fermé à midi et qu’il fallait revenir plus tard. J’insistai sans m’identifier pour lui faire comprendre que c’était urgent et que je ne pourrais pas revenir.
Après avoir décidé de camper sur le principe de sa position, j’ai dû m’identifier avec mon pseudo de Mouniste et non seulement il m’ouvrit largement les portes mais il vint m’accueillir les bras ouverts.
Mon frère nous regardait médusé se jeter l’un dans les bras de l’autre scandant chacun le pseudo de l’autre. In n’y comprit rien.
Il ne pouvait pas s’imaginer qu’il s’agissait de notre première rencontre physique.
Nous discutâmes brièvement d’Haïti et au moment de partir, il mit son bureau à l’envers pour me trouver des cadeaux : Livres, CD de konpa, et la fameuse collection des 10 CD d’histoire d’Haïti préparée par Jean Julien. Ce fut le début d’une amitié convertie aujourd’hui en fraternité patriotique !
Merci encore cher ami !
Peut-être ces amis mounistes peuvent me rappeler la base justifiant l’existence de cette expression 20 juin, 4 avril !
Bon lundi et bonne semaine à tous !
Jonas Jolivert
www.jonasjolivert.net
20/06/2016