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GAO Releases Report on Haiti Reconstruction

By Anjali Bean (Research and Policy Associate, IHC)
June 28, 2013

This week, at the request of the House Foreign Affairs Committee leadership, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a critical report on the use of government funds in Haiti, following the earthquake in January of 2010. Congress appropriated more than $1.14 billion dollars for reconstruction efforts in Haiti in 2010, and the report outlines how little of these funds have been spent and how both economic stimulus projects and housing reconstruction plans have been far slower and more expensive than originally projected.

Of particular interest to the IHC is the section on USAID lead housing reconstruction. Both the number of beneficiaries expected and the projected costs of preparation and construction have been revised several times since 2010, with the number of beneficiaries decreasing while the costs increase. USAID originally set a goal of constructing 15,000 houses for $8,000 each, benefiting 75,000 – 90,000 people. Since then these projections have been reduced to 2,649 houses, costing $23,400 each and benefiting only 13,200 – 15,900 people, an eighty percent reduction in housing units from the original estimate.

The report cites uncertainty around land tenure as a major stumbling block for USAID. USAID stopped efforts to partner with private landowners in 2011, but ownership has been difficult to verify even on government land. Higher international standards for housing construction and Haitian government requests for amenities such as electricity and flushing toilets also contributed to increasing costs.

Furthermore, the report points out that all of the new construction is taking place outside of Port-Au-Prince in designated economic zones connected to other USAID projects. The planned housing developments were designed to accommodate workers, but there are questions as to whether the plants will offer enough economic opportunity to support the continuing costs of living in these more advanced units. While there is some funding to support community development efforts in the new settlements, there is not nearly enough, and there is concern that services such as grounds keeping, infrastructure maintenance, and solid waste collection will fail to continue once international assistance ends.

Read the full report here and press release from the House Foreign Affairs Committee here.

2 Comments on “GAO Releases Report on Haiti Reconstruction”

  • earl kessler June 28th, 2013 5:05 pm

    The GAO Report is so far off the mark it can only be on purpose. The Reconstructuion program was hijacked by the State department’s Cheryl Mills and not a USAID program. The issue was to do T-shelters at a minimum cost for as many as possible. That was going well until Cheryl Mills moved in and made a mess of the program. The idea of incremental growth and the engagement of the families in the development of their homes was not recognized as the”signature project” of THE USG or Cheryl Mills wanted so the USAID engineers pushed for too high of standards for the start of recovery.Basic services can be incrementally developed as well and in the face of the need in Haiti is the only solution….but oh no not for Mills and her crew. So State misappropriated funds to do “permanent” housing near a dubious idea of an industrial park populated by dubious tenents. USAID was left holding the bag.

  • Kraig Baier July 2nd, 2013 5:16 pm

    Please pass this on to Kessler. Way to go Earl. How many times in our experience has this same hijacking of incremental user involved housing reconstruction efforts taken place. I am sure you have seen this before as have I. Some how for many officials ” incremental growth and engagement of families” is too slow and too unsightly for USG support. They are then taken over by “realistic engineers”, upgraded and moved to a “tony” site with no people to get in the way. When this happens we (the GAO) should assign responsibility to real decision makers. Some how USAID always ends up holding the bag .

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