By Julian Pecquet - 06/25/13 02:59 PM EDT
And panel Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said he'd soon be sending a bipartisan delegation of committee staff to Haiti to prepare for a hearing on the “troubling findings.”
The Obama administration said the tragedy was an opportunity to rebuild the Western Hemisphere's poorest country. That idea was pushed forcefully by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who honeymooned on the island four decades ago with Bill Clinton, the United Nations' special envoy to Haiti.
“The development of the North represents a new day for Haiti,” Hillary Clinton said at the opening of the 600-acre Caracol Industrial Park eight months ago, “and a new model for how the international community practices development.”
The GAO report greatly tempers those expectations.
It found that USAID had disbursed only about 31 percent of its funding — $204 million — as of March 31. Progress on the port that's supposed to support the Caracol park has been even slower, with only 6 percent spent so far because of planning delays, notably the failure to hire a port engineer.
“The USAID mission in Haiti lacks staff with technical expertise in planning, construction, and oversight of a port, as there is a vacant position for a port engineer on staff,” GAO concluded. “According to USAID officials, USAID has not constructed a port anywhere in the world since the 1970s, and USAID does not have a port engineer or port project manager among its direct-hire staff.”
USAID largely agreed with the GAO's recommendations and said it had made hiring a port engineer a priority.
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