GOP, Dems demand State report on Haiti earthquake funds

A bipartisan group of House members is demanding a new report from the State Department on how millions of dollars are being spent to help Haiti recover from a 2010 earthquake that killed an estimated 230,000 people.

The legislation from Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) is a response to a June report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO). That report found that as of March 2013, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) had spent less than one third of the $651 million Congress appropriated for Haiti relief efforts.

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"Although most funds have not been disbursed, State's reporting requirement ended in September 2012," GAO said. "As a result, Congress lacks information on the amounts of funds obligated and disbursed and program-by-program progress of U.S. reconstruction activities."

GAO also noted that while Senate appropriators asked State to offer more details about how the money is being used, State never provided these details.

Lee agreed that while millions of dollars have been pledged to Haiti, Congress has no clear sense of how the money is being spent.

"The Haitian people have continued to demonstrate resiliency, strength, and bravery despite the tragic events that have occurred," she said Monday. "It is beyond time that in turn, Congress supports Haiti to ensure that relief and reconstruction funds in Haiti are effectively spent to maximize their long term impact.

"Almost four years after one of the most catastrophic earthquakes in history, we have very little accountability and oversight in the recovery efforts, and we need to change that."

The bill comes just weeks after members of both parties criticized USAID in a hearing for scaling back its projections on efforts to build new housing in Haiti, and build a new port.

The bipartisan bill is cosponsored by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and ranking member Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.).

Other cosponsors are Reps. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), John Conyers (D-Mich.), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), Greg Meeks (D-N.Y.), Trey Radel (R-Fla.), Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.).