Holding Michel Martelly's Fondation Rose et Blanc and other NGO's Accountable
Corruption in the Haitian government has a long history. In 1922, Kelsey, a social scientist, described how Haitian officials used government contracts to build their own homes. He reported that material from the building of the National Palace also built a luxurious private home in Port-au-Prince1. Corruption in the Haitian government occurred with and without American support. The Duvalier regime, although reputed for corruption, was initially buttressed by the US. During the latter years of the Jean Claude Duvalier Regime, the US argued that corruption in the Haitian government was more than it could tolerate and decided that US aid to Haiti would be largely channeled to non-governmental agencies.Today, Transparency International ranks Haiti 146 out of 178 nations for its level of corruption2.Since 1995, the Dole Amendment has barred USAID from supporting the Haitian Government3.
Once the U.S. and other international donors made the decision to channel funds to NGO’s, influential Haitian politicians and business-people followed the money trail. Many left government to start NGO’s. There is no agreed upon definition of what constitutes a non-governmental organization (NGO). USAID defines them as: “ …a wide range of local organizations in countries which are recipients of U.S. foreign assistance.” 3 The government of Haiti defines an NGO as a “private, apolitical, not-for-profit institution or organization that pursues the objectives of development at the national, departmental, or communal level, and uses resources to realize them.” (Haitian Government Decree of September 14, 1989) 4.
Today, Haiti competes with India for the country with the most number of NGO’s per capita.Although some of these organizations have done wonderful works in Haiti, many have simply enriched their founders. Corrupt Haitian officials used to treat government as chwal papa, meaning their personal inheritance. Today the new chwal papa is the NGO. According to the Wall Street Journal, this year 70% of the international aid to Haiti will be channeled through NGO’s. The Wall Street Journal went on to say:
“Haiti is one of the world's most extreme examples of a country that both needs NGOs and has also, say critics, been held back by them. Called "the Republic of NGOs," Haiti is believed to have more aid groups per capita than any nation, perhaps as many as 10,000, according to the World Bank…Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, says NGOs may account for as much as a quarter of Haiti's gross domestic product….Many of the NGOs are a world apart from the rest of Haiti, based in rented mansions in the affluent mountaintop Port-au-Prince suburb of Pétionville. Here, fleets of SUVs with stenciled initials of the organizations are constantly on the move.”2
Because of the overall catastrophic failure of NGO’s, numerous activists have called for transparency in the expenditure of money collected supposedly for the Haitian people.In other words, it is the people’s right to know what amount of money was collected in their names and how that money was spent.The public cannot judge how socially responsible an NGO is if essential information for making that decision is withheld from the NGO’s website.The rampant poverty in Haiti offers abundant photo-ops for self-promotion.Pictures of people playing with kids, clothing them, and feeding them may be well intentioned; however they can also deflect attention from corruption within an NGO.
To evaluate an NGO, one needs full disclosure of its budget.A responsible NGO should outline its source of funding. It should clearly show its salary structure and show what percentage of money collected is spent on the people in whose name money was collected. It is imperative that the public have access to this information. NGO’s do not give from their hearts. They are organizations/businesses that give from public funds. As such, they have a fiscal responsibility to the public. According to the World Bank, between 1992 and 1994, NGO’s in Haiti received 100 million dollars.3 The people who run NGO’s need to reveal their organization’s budget so that the ratio of money spent on employee salaries and on social services can be known. This will facilitate the public in determining whether or not funds have been diverted.
Michel Martelly’s Fondation Rose et Blanc’s website shows lots of pictures of the candidate doing social service. It reveals the name of donors and of volunteers, but it makes no mention of the amount of funds received. The organization’s budget is not publishedand there is no way of knowing how much of the money collected was actually spent on projects for which it was collected5.The lack of transparency here is alarming considering that Michel Martelly may soon have control of the Haitian national budget. In addition,Michel Martelly has been campaigning and using the activities of Fondation Rose et Blanc to win public sympathy. His actions may be in violation of Haitian law requiring NGO’s to be apolitical4.
We the Haitian people, must demand transparency from our NGO’s and from our government; otherwise they will leave us in the dark and bankrupt. Both Manigat and Martelly need to tell us how their government will control the NGO’s in Haiti, particularly because many tend to be arms of foreign government destroying the Haitian economy to the benefit of the donor nations. This is the case with “diri Mayami” whose distribution in the country has been facilitated by some NGO’s.Such activity may be particularly difficult for Martelly who used his popularity to promote Diri Tchako , a brand of diri Mayami.
1. 1.Caul Kelsey Ph.D. The American Intervention in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. Philadelphia, March, 1922
2. 2. Jose De Cordoba. Aid Spawns Backlash in Haiti. Wall Street Journal, November 10th, 2010