/*********************************************** * Ultimate Fade In Slideshow v2.0- (c) Dynamic Drive DHTML code library (www.dynamicdrive.com) * This notice MUST stay intact for legal use * Visit Dynamic Drive at http://www.dynamicdrive.com/ for this script and 100s more ***********************************************/

House Foreign Affairs Committee Hosts Disappointing Hearing on Aid in Haiti

October 10, 2013

On October 9, 2013, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs convened a full committee hearing titled Haiti: Is Aid Effective? Panelists included Dr. David B. Gootnick, Director of International Affairs and Trade at the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), Mr. Thomas C. Adams, Haiti Special Coordinator at the State Department, and Ms. Elizabeth Hogan, Acting Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean at USAID.  The hearing was held in response to a GAO report which evaluated the progress of US Government programs in response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

As previously mentioned in an IHC blog post, because of higher than expected costs, USAID will be funding 3,000 new housing units in Cape Haitian instead of the 15,000 it had planned. The cost per unit will be $33,000. Ms. Hogan blamed poor original estimates coupled with enforcing stronger building and occupational safety standards as the major drivers for increasing the overall costs to almost three times the original estimate.

The committee expressed extreme concern over issues of land tenure rights.  Dr. Gootnick highlighted the lack of formal records for land ownership in Haiti and the resulting decision for all USAID home construction to occur on government-owned land, which is usually not in Port- au-Prince.  Many committee members were concerned that housing beneficiaries would never own their land (as it remains government-owned), and would be at the mercy of a historically corrupt government. When asked about the issue, Ms. Hogan said that land tenure rights are a political dilemma, and not a technical one.

Mr. Adams primarily focused on US efforts to improve the agricultural, health, and trade sectors.  He highlighted the vacant Haitian Senate seats and delayed elections as possible roadblocks in future development, but supported the need to work with the Haitian Government not around it. He called for an open dialogue with the Haitian government, but did not make any specific mention of any housing sector activities.

The majority of the questions from committee members were focused around issues related to accountability, USAID oversight and building specifics.  The most time was devoted to issues of square footage, building material standards, the inclusion of indoor sanitation facilities, and contractor oversight. The hearing therefore lacked any discussion of what USAID’s overall housing strategy might be going forward, and what options were considered as alternatives to new home reconstruction.

The IHC was disappointed that the hearing failed generate substantive discussion of the structural policy changes that might be needed, or the very real lessons that could be learned from the challenges that the US Government is facing in Haiti. The USAID new housing strategy is a high cost per beneficiary approach, and does not deal with the massive housing crisis facing of the people still left in camps around Port-au-Prince.  The rationale and basis for USAID’s housing strategy was unfortunately not discussed, and the hearing avoided answering or even asking the big questions.

The full hearing is available to watch here.

Leave a Reply

  • Categories

  • Archives