By Umar Cheema (The NEWS)
ISLAMABAD: Over 92 percent of the US aid money granted in previous years is being spent through the American NGOs resulting in the return of a fair portion of the financial assistance back to the donor country.
The News investigation found that of the projects run through $1.05 billion assistance, the government agencies were granted an amount of $29.68 million (2.78% of the total amount), UN bodies received $50.80 million (4.8%) and US NGOs bagged projects of $960 million (92.30%). This coincides with Ambassador Holbrook’s disclosure about short-listing more than 1,000 NGOs for awarding contracts in Pakistan.
As the misuse of the US taxpayers’ dollar due to lack of oversight has drawn fire from American watchdogs and concerned Pakistanis, the beltway bandits-influential US NGOs with strong connections in the USAID—-continues having a field day in Pakistan.
A detailed examination of the USAID projects, the history of NGOs and their ties in Washington indicates that majority of the contractors running projects in Pakistan have their executives and directors that previously served in the USAID or former administrations. Not in Pakistan only, they also won major contracts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Out of 34 projects worth $ 1.05 billion in different sectors, 29 have US NGOs either as the lead implementing partner or carrying out exclusively without local partnership. Four projects are directly run by the government or local organizations and five by the UN organizations.
A call for establishing direct partnership with local organizations instead of involving the beltway bandits has so far fallen on the deaf ear of the USAID. As the projects carrying hefty funds have been awarded to the US NGOs, yet there is no proper oversight.
The fact can be illustrated through an example of a five-year project of $83 million intended to carry out education sector reforms. It was awarded to the RTI International, considered 16th biggest receiver of the US overseas contracts.
The company claimed in 2007 having “positively impacted” 400,000 Pakistani students but the USAID’s inspector general could not validate the claims because the US mission in Islamabad reportedly didn’t require RTI to adhere to reporting requirement. The big question mark on RTI notwithstanding, it still is carrying out a project, now in health sector. A former high-ranking official at USAID, Aaron S. Williams, is a senior executive of the RTI. According to the US Centre for Public Integrity, a new position—-vice president of international business development-was created for William upon his joining the office.
A Washington-based Chemonics International Inc. that is running a project worth $ 90 million—-Empower Pakistan: Firms—-is owned by Scott Spangler, who was a senior USAID official during the first Bush Administration. The organization that receives 90 percent of its business from the USAID has its senior vice president of the Asia Division, Douglas Tinsler, who used to design and manage large-scale development assistance projects for the USAID, according to the Centre for Public Integrity.
Yet another Washington-based International Resource Group (IRG), doing a $23.48 million project—-Energy, Efficiency and Capacity—-has its three corporate vice presidents, David Joslyn, Dough Clark and Timoth R. Knight. All of them served with USAID on senior positions.
A Maryland-based organization, Development Alternatives Inc. has a $17 million project—-Pakistan Legislative Strengthening Project. The company has its vice president of operations, Larry Birch, who served 17-year in USAID. Again, the USAID is among its principal clients of the company besides the World Bank, UN agencies and the US Agriculture Department.
A Massachusetts-based NGO, Abt Associates Inc. that implements a $ 10.9 million project named Pakistan Safe Drinking Water and Hygiene Promotion Project (PSDW-HPP) has a former senior USAID official its vice president for international development, Janet Ballantyne, according to the Centre for Public Integrity.
Arkanas-based Winrock International is working on a $150 million project—-Community Rehabilitation Infrastructure Support Program. The company has a former member of Clinton administration, Kay K. Arnold, and a senator Robert J. Junior, among its directors of the board. US ambassador to Pakistan Anne Patterson also hails from the same state.
Other US organizations implementing projects include American Institute of Research ($107 million), National Academy of Science ($ 7.5 million), Population Council ($60 million), Centre for Disease Control ($ 5.7 million), Academy for Education Development ($75 millions), CDM Constructions ($120 million), Advanced Engineering Associates ($6 million), USEFP ($93million), IFES, Asia Foundation and others.
The aid money directly handed to the government agencies has only four examples as far as the distribution of $1.05 billion assistance is concerned: HEC ($6.8 million), Finance Ministry ($11.8 million), and Khushhali Bank ($11 million).
In other cases, the projects are either implemented exclusively by the US NGOs or the NGOs have partnered with local organizations/government agencies. According to the former finance minister, Sartaj Aziz, more than 40 percent of the aid money goes back to the donor country through consultants.