Thursday, October 8, 2015

USAID contractor's work still a mystery

Four years ago today, I sent a letter to the U.S. International Agency for International Development, asking for information about a program that the Pan American Development Foundation was running in Cuba.
USAID responded the other day, sending me 123 pages of documents related to millions of dollars in PADF spending. Unfortunately, USAID redacted or withheld just about every trace of information that might shed light on just what the the non-profit organization was doing in Cuba.
The documents make reference to several programs, but give no details.
For instance, a Sept. 1, 1998, letter says that USAID gave PADF $236,700 "to provide support for a program in environmental civil society."
USAID redacted the program description.
Guidelines for the award said "no funds or assistance under this cooperative agreement may be provided to the Cuban government."
That makes sense. But the money wasn't for dissidents, either: USAID funding made available under this grant or cooperative agreement will be used for cash assistance to individuals residing in Cuba who are dissidents or victims of political repression or to Cuban democratic or human rights groups.
And it wasn't for the Catholic Church. A November 1998 document states:
At the request of Catholic Church officials in Cuba, no USAID-funded material assistance, direct or indirect, is to be provided to the Catholic Church in Cuba, with the exception of books and other international material. Other exceptions may be authorized if requested in writing by the CARITAS Director in Cuba, but the authorization must acknowledge the assistance is requested from USAID funds.
So whatever happened to that money is a mystery to me.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

USAID contractor submitted questionable expenses

A contractor for the Agency for International Development submitted nearly a quarter million dollars in questionable expenses in 2009 and 2010, according to an audit obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA.
The contractor, International Republican Institute, or IRI, claimed unsupported costs of $244,856 while running a Cuba program on behalf of the U.S. Agency for International Development, the audit said.
The DMP Group, based in Washington, D.C., performed the audit. I asked USAID for copies of DMP audits on March 18, 2011. USAID responded on Sept. 25 - four years, six months and seven days later.
The DMP examined IRI expense reports dated from March 1, 2009, to March 31, 2010. That was only a fraction of the expenses that IRI submitted as part of its multimillion-dollar Cuba contract.
The DMP audit found "weaknesses with regards to IRI's financial management system."
We questioned unsupported costs of [redacted] due to the lack of cost or price analyses documented in the procurement files. This is a repeat finding from the previous financial compliance review form dated May 2009.

Eusebio Leal to visit Florida

Eusebio Leal. Photo: Office of the Havana City Historian
Eusebio Leal, the Havana city historian who showed Secretary John Kerry around Old Havana in August, plans to visit Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida.
A news release about his visit is below:
Dr. Eusebio Leal, Cuba’s leading preservationist who is lauded for saving the country’s Habana Vieja district, will give a talk on his lifelong endeavors at Flagler College on Sunday, Oct. 11.

“He is dynamic and daring in his passionate commitment to preserve Havana,” said Dr. Leslee Keys, Flagler College’s director of historic preservation. “He has become legendary in his work.”

Keys was quick to point out parallels between the rise of the preservation movement in Cuba, as well as in St. Augustine and the greater United States.

“His work in Havana began just as St. Augustine had completed its 400th anniversary celebration,” she said. “Announcements were made in 1967 about the Hotel Ponce de Leon closing to become the centerpiece of the soon-to-be founded Flagler College. Also, the U.S. had just passed the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. Call this timing a ‘perfect storm’ for preservation, if you like.”

Journalist predicts end to Cuban Adjustment Act

Alan Gomez
The Cuban Adjustment Act will eventually get an adjustment of its own, according to Alan Gomez, an immigration reporter at USA Today.
"I think it's absolutely going to end, but I think it's going to take a while," Gomez told students and faculty at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida.
Now that the United States and Cuba have diplomatic relations, it's "harder and harder to justify specialized treatment" of Cuban migrants, said Gomez, who spoke at Flagler College as part of the Forum on Government and Public Policy.
"There's a lot of push" to change the law, Gomez said, but he doesn't expect anything to happen for at least a year for several reasons, including the fact that the current Congress is "verifiably one of the least productive in history." (For more on the debate over the immigration law, see "Investigating the Cuban Adjustment Act").