[Marxism] GAO Audit Finds Waste In Cuban Aid Program

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Thu Nov 16 10:50:38 MST 2006

("I think that this administration and to some extent the last wanted
simply to curry favor with the Cuban American exile community," [Rep. 
Jeff] Flake said. "It's been kind of a bipartisan thing, and you haven't 
had anybody really challenge it. We just kind of turned away.")


From: chuck at afgj.org
To: lasolidarity at lists.mutualaid.org
Sent: Thursday, November 16, 2006 10:11 AM
Subject: GAO Audit Finds Waste In Cuban Aid Program

Today's Washington Post shines a little light on US "democracy
building" programs against Cuba. Is anyone doing research on who are
these eight groups that receive 2/3rds of the money? Investigative
delegations to Nicaragua and Venezuela over the past several months
have given us additional information about USAID and NED
anti-democratic grants. The Cuba information could give us additional
data for an effort to abolish NED and to limit USAID grants to
sustainable development projects in the new Congress. The Latin
America Solidarity Coalition has an NED Working Group which has been
working for several years to abolish the NED. If you have information
or would like .to help serve on that working group, please contact
James Jordan jpj at mutualaid.org or Chuck Kaufman chuck at afgj.org

Chuck Kaufman

Nicaragua Network


GAO Audit Finds Waste In Cuban Aid Program

USAID Is Criticized for Lack of Oversight

By Karen DeYoung

Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 16, 2006; Page A12

Nearly all of the $74 million a federal agency has spent on contracts
to promote democracy in Cuba over the past decade has been
distributed without competitive bidding or oversight in a program
that opened the door to waste and fraud, according to a report
released yesterday by the Government Accountability Office.

In one of the more extreme cases of apparent abuse, the GAO said a
Miami-based group used government money to purchase "a gas chainsaw,
computer gaming equipment and software (including Nintendo Game Boys
and Sony PlayStations), a mountain bike, leather coats, cashmere
sweaters, crab meat, and Godiva chocolates."

The group said in its grant application to the U.S. Agency for
International Development that it would use the money "to provide
humanitarian assistance and information to [Cuban] dissidents and
their families." The director of the grant recipient, Accion
Democratica Cubana, told the Miami Herald that all the luxury items
-- but not the chainsaw -- were sent to Cuba. But GAO author David
Gootnick said the lack of documentation made that impossible to

Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who requested the audit along with Rep.
William D. Delahunt (D-Mass.), said the lack of oversight and the
failure to follow government rules led to creation of a money trough
that existed largely to provide jobs and operating funds to
Miami-based activists who oppose Cuba's communist government.

"I think that this administration and to some extent the last wanted
simply to curry favor with the Cuban American exile community," Flake
said. "It's been kind of a bipartisan thing, and you haven't had
anybody really challenge it. We just kind of turned away."

Delahunt, currently the ranking minority member of the House
International Relations subcommittee on oversight and investigations,
said at a Capitol Hill news conference that he would hold hearings on
issues raised in the audit when the new Congress convenes under
Democratic leadership.

Flake and Delahunt chair the bipartisan Cuba Working Group, which has
pushed unsuccessfully for changes in long-standing travel
restrictions and economic sanctions -- tightened by the Bush
administration -- that prohibit sending virtually anything to Cuba.
"What is striking about this," Flake said of the democracy program,
"is we're basically spending money to beat our own embargo."

Under Clinton-era legislation, USAID distributes money to U.S. groups
to send surreptitious aid -- including food, medicine and office
supplies -- to Cuba and non-monetary assistance to political
dissidents and independent journalists trying to operate within the
island's tightly controlled communist system. The administration has
promised an additional $80 million in funding over the next two years
and expanded the program to include detailed plans for a transition
to democracy in Cuba. Planning has accelerated with President Fidel
Castro's relinquishment of power to his brother, Raul. Although the
official Cuban government position is that Fidel Castro is recovering
from surgery and will return to office, U.S. intelligence officials
have said they believe he has terminal cancer.

In its official response to the 59-page GAO report, USAID said that
it was "taking issue" with unspecified findings but that it would
"seek to improve agency performance in managing, monitoring and
evaluating this assistance."

GAO auditors began with a cursory examination of the 50 grants that
were made under the program from 1996 to 2005. Twenty-eight of the
grants, it said, were "modified" after the fact in ways that extended
agreed-upon completion dates by an average of one to three years and
"increased the aggregate value of these agreements nearly eight-fold
-- from about $5.9 million to nearly $50.1 million."

Auditors then conducted an in-depth examination of 10 grantees that
account for more than three-quarters of the aid money. Although the
GAO acknowledged the difficulty of operating effective aid programs
in Cuba, it found that many of the grantees lacked records that would
make it possible to determine how the aid money was used and what it

Proposals for funding for virtually all the 10 grantees had been
unsolicited and not offered for competitive bids by USAID. The
government in most cases failed to comply with its rules requiring
pre-award examinations, contract specificity, monitoring and formal
audits at the end of a program. The GAO said it had referred three of
the contracts for further investigation.

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