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HAITI | Gov't Study Says Haitian President Embezzled Development Funds

Featured Haitians call for President Jovenel Moise's resignation. | Photo: Reuters Haitians call for President Jovenel Moise's resignation. | Photo: Reuters
PORT-AU-PRINCE,  Haiti, June 5, 2019 - Haitians are increasingly demanding President Jovenel Moise to step down after the naiton's Superior Court of Auditors and Administrative Disputes accused him of embezzling millions of dollars meant for development projects.

The auditors said at least one million dollars were paid twice to build a stretch of a rural road in northern Haiti. The public ministry issued the same contract to two firms in 2014 with the same tax identification number, government patent, staff, and resumes. The only difference was the heads of the firms.

One firm was headed by Moise himself who was later picked by the then President Michel Martelly as his successor..

Moise’s construction firm, Agritans, received  US$419,240, a 66 percent advance, for the project two months before signing the contract.

“For the court, giving a second contract for the same project ... is nothing less than a scheme to embezzle funds,” the auditors said.

Some of the money came from Venezuela’s PetroCaribe oil program meant to aid Haiti's struggling classes. Under the program, Venezuela provided oil for deferred payments of over 25 years and at a one percent interest rate.

Haiti was supposed to use deal to build roads, hospitals, and other social programs from the billions of dollars the country saved from not having to pay for oil immediately. The country now owes Venezuela US$2 billion.

The state auditors submitted a 600-page report on the president's dealing to the Senate Friday, the second installment of a three-part investigation into the handling of billions of dollars from the oil program between 2008 and 2016.

Reginald Buolos, an influential businessman says he regrets his decision to support Moise during the presidential campaign in 2016.

“I urge you to start a process that should quickly lead to a political transition that would begin with your resignation as President of the Republic,” Buolos wrote in an open letter.

The interreligious organization, Religions for Peace, encouraged civil society organizations “to mobilize to save what remains of the country.”

The president did not comment on the audit reports but in a press statement Monday, Agritrans lawyer, Mario Delcy, said that the company “formally disagrees” with the report. Moise no longer heads the company.

For months, protesters have been taking to the street, with state repression, demanding justice in the alleged irregularities in the Petrocaribe program amid increased inflation.

Citizens were pressuring Moise to launch an investigation into the management of PetroCaribe funds when he came to power promising to fight corruption.

After months of nation-wide protests, Moise, in last October, announced the auditors would investigate the corruption allegations.

“He has to set an example and put himself at the disposal of justice,” said Velina Charlier,  who is part of Nou pap Dòmi (We won’t sleep) citizens’ movement. “We have to break the cycle of people stealing the government’s money and nothing happening to them.”

The report also revealed US$314 million assigned for the country's 2010 country's rebuild of homes went, instead, to the pockets of politicians. There was "a total absence of ... transparency and respect for ethics," the auditors wrote in regard to these funds.

Just under 60 percent of Haiti’s population lives in poverty. The Caribbean nation still suffers from major infrastructural damage caused by hard-hitting hurricanes and earthquakes over the past 12 years. However, the nation's systemic political corruption plays a major role in keeping the country in continual economic and political dysfunction.

“Fundamental to the pervasive problem of poverty in Haiti is the long history of political instability and the lack of governance. Corruption and misuse of public funds have resulted in a decline in the quality of all public services, … and the provision of basic infrastructure,” the World Bank said recently.

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  • Countries: Haiti

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