NEW YORK — Two years ago, auditors revealed the Washington, DC, consulting firm Chemonics International and a partner company were employing only one-third as many Haitians as their contract required to clear rubble left by the January 2010 earthquake from city streets as part of the US government-funded “Cash for Work” program.
Chemonics even directed some of those workers to remove rubble from private lots adjacent to its Port-au-Prince headquarters instead.
Undeterred by the mishaps, just three months later the US awarded Chemonics $53 million to implement 141 new Haiti projects. Now, an internal audit reveals some of these projects are lagging behind schedule and others have failed entirely because the company didn't engage local communities in the work.
More from GlobalPost: Haiti’s new Parliament building sits unfinished and unused
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which is in charge of allocating US aid in Haiti and around the world, responded to an audit last week of its Haiti contracts with Chemonics, the largest recipient of US aid contracts in the island nation and around the world. The audit, which concluded in February, examined 22 of the 141 projects, totaling $6.8 million. Among its findings:
“They're not your mom and pop's NGO or aid group.”~Jake Johnston, CEPR
Chemonics evaluated some of its projects based upon criteria that had absolutely nothing to do with the goals of those projects. In one case, Chemonics was charged with providing school supplies including chairs, desks and backpacks to two public schools, but it evaluated its work based on the number of children who returned to school. “The performance measure did not correlate to the activity,” according to the audit. Similarly, a project that was supposed to create a plan to improve roads in a Haitian town was evaluated by the “Number of reconstructed national governing institutions and systems that receive [US Government] assistance to incorporate principles that support democracy and government legitimacy” — whatever that means.
A Chemonics consultant who was supposed to help Haiti's national mapping agency replace geographical data lost during the earthquake hadn't finished the job when her contract ended in February. “The activity did not meet its objectives because Chemonics did not communicate effectively with [Haiti's mapping agency] or provide adequate support to the consultant,” according to the audit. “The Chemonics officials said they never asked agency staff members whether the consultant was meeting their needs and learned only at the activity’s end that [the agency] was not satisfied with her.” The head of the agency told auditors that the consultant's work was “insufficient and would have to be redone.”
Chemonics failed to conduct an “environmental mitigation and monitoring plan” before beginning a project to plant hundreds of thousands of medicinal jatropha plants near the city of Saint Marc. “Potentially adverse environmental impacts can occur if proper mitigation and monitoring procedures are not put into place before implementing an activity and monitoring it,” the audit warned.
Chemonics was awarded “urban beautification” contracts to build benches and spruce up public spaces near the new $224 million Carocol industrial park outside Haiti's northern city of Cap Haitien. But instead of hiring Haitians from the local communities, Chemonics brought in workers all the way from Port-au-Prince in the south of the country. “As a result, residents saw jobs in their neighborhood being done by outsiders, and without an understanding of the activities, they did not see how anyone local benefited,” the audit stated. It concluded two of these beautification projects failed altogether because Chemonics did not involve local residents in the process.
Chemonics failed to set timelines or estimated dates of completion for some work being done by subcontractors, causing some projects to run behind schedule. In September 2011, USAID awarded Chemonics a $1.9 million contract to build a temporary space for Haiti's parliament, which lost its building in the earthquake. But no timelines were set for steps in the process – such as installing “utilities.”
In March, GlobalPost witnessed Haitian subcontractors installing electrical wires in that building — four months after USAID officially “inaugurated” the structure, announcing it complete. A GlobalPost investigation found the building remained unused by Haiti's parliament months after the inauguration because USAID only asked Chemonics to construct the frame of the building — leaving the offices void of furniture and the chambers hall empty and unusable. Haiti’s