Father and Son Reunited at US ConGen Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, nov.07Image by kaysha via Flickr

BBC News is reporting that David Goldman has been reunited with his nine-year-old son after a bitter, five-year custody battle with the boy’s Brazilian relatives.
The Brazilian family brought Sean Goldman through a crowd of reporters to the US Consulate General in Rio de Janeiro to be reunited with his father. Read Boy reunited with US father after Brazil custody fight (11:50 GMT, Thursday, 24 December 2009).

Yesterday, during the State Department briefing, Mr. Crowley had this to say: “In Brazil, our Embassy in Brasilia, our Consulate in Rio de Janeiro, many people have been up through the night – just to provide support to the Goldman family, to maintain contact with the Brazilian Government, and as we hopefully come to the end of this process and look forward to the reuniting of Sean Goldman with his father David.”

QUESTION: Does or did Sean Goldman have a U.S. passport? Did you have to issue him one? Have you issued him one?

MR. CROWLEY: We have issued him a passport – to his father. So he will be able to travel whenever the exchange of custody takes place.

QUESTION: Recently, you issued it?

MR. CROWLEY: It’s – in the last 24 hours.

Related Item:

Hague Convention – Child Abduction

Updated 9:47 pm
The State Department’s press office released the following statement from Secretary Clinton dated December 24: “I am thrilled that 9-year-old Sean Goldman was reunited with his father David Goldman earlier today in Rio de Janeiro and that they are flying home to New Jersey. I want to thank everyone who helped bring this long process to a successful conclusion, including a number of members of Congress and many concerned parties both here and in Brazil. We also appreciate the assistance and cooperation of the Government of Brazil in upholding its obligations under the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction. I offer my warmest wishes for father and son as they celebrate their first holiday season together in five years.

A Strategy for that $7.5 billion Pakistan Aid

Map of PakistanImage by Omer Wazir via Flickr

Christopher Flavelle
writes Washington to Reduce Funding for U.S. Contractors in Pakistan for ProPublica on December 22, 2009. The report quotes Stephen P. Cohen, a South Asia expert at the Brookings Institution and a former member of the Policy Planning Staff at the State Department who praised the new report (Pakistan Assistance Strategy Report), but questioned the ability of Pakistani NGOs to handle the increase in American funding, as well as USAID’s ability to monitor those projects. “We should have been addressing Pakistan’s problems more effectively earlier,” Cohen said. “This is a good report. They say all the right things. The question is, is it too much, too late?”

Flavelle did a follow-up report yesterday State Dept. Responds to Criticisms Over Pakistan Aid Report (Pro Publica | December 23, 2009). Report reprinted below under creative commons license:

The State Department has responded to criticisms over how it is going to spend and oversee $7.5 billion in new civilian aid for Pakistan, outlined in a plan that ProPublica reported on [1] yesterday.

That plan, which is outlined in a report [2] (PDF) the department sent to Congress last week, calls for shifting spending on U.S. aid projects away from American contractors and nongovernmental organizations and toward their Pakistani counterparts, as well as relying more on Pakistani public accounting firms to monitor that money. Development workers have raised concerns that the policy shift could make American taxpayer money more vulnerable to waste and abuse.

Robin Raphel, the U.S. coordinator for economic and development assistance in Pakistan, told ProPublica today that the key point of the plan is to foster lasting development in Pakistan and help strengthen local institutions.

“When you don’t have Pakistani buy-in, input, ownership of these programs, you might think you’re gaining something fast in the short term, but it isn’t sustainable,” said Raphel. The emphasis on strengthening institutions in Pakistan may include allowing the Pakistani government to run the bidding process for some U.S.-funded programs. Instead of the U.S. Agency for International Development choosing the Pakistani groups that will provide goods and services for the programs it funds, Raphel said that some of those contracts may go through the Pakistani procurement process, with American oversight.

Asked about the risks involved in relying on Pakistani accounting firms, Raphel said that much of the work would be done by Pakistani branches of international accounting firms like KPMG, and that accounting firms used would first be vetted by the USAID’s Inspector General’s office. She added that any training of accounting firms done by that office, which will have just nine staff members in Pakistan, would be contracted out.

A senior administration official, who asked not to be identified, expressed frustration over the criticism of Pakistani organizations. “There’s a widespread perception that every Pakistani you run into is corrupt,” said the official. “I find myself a little impatient with that assumption. Pakistanis are very capable of doing this kind of work. I think it’s very patronizing.”

Active links added above.

USAID/Afghanistan: Audit Says Civilian Assistance – Not on Target

arrow found the targetImage by melilab via Flickr

USAID’s OIG office had just released its audit of USAID/Afghanistan’s Afghan Civilian Assistance Program. Quick summary below excerpted from the report:

The main goal of the Afghan Civilian Assistance Program (the program) is to provide assistance to Afghan families and communities that have suffered losses as a result of military operations against insurgents and the Taliban. Assistance under the program is generally provided in goods and services to those who have suffered losses─a farmer might receive a tractor or livestock and a grocer might receive merchandise to restock his store. The program is being implemented through a $27 million, 3-year cooperative agreement (April 2007 to April 2010) with the International Organization for Migration (IOM, the implementer). As of December 31, 2008, $18.5 million had been obligated and about $6.4 million had been spent for program activities. (See page 3.)

The audit concluded that the program is not on target to assist eligible beneficiaries under the program. The implementer reported that as of September 1, 2008, close to the midpoint of the program, only 803 of the more than 6,000 eligible families under the program were receiving assistance (about 13 percent). As of January 22, 2009, the implementer reported that it had actually assisted only about 40 percent of the estimated target number of 5,102 eligible families included in a recovery plan it had developed in October 2008. (See page 5.)

Program Assistance Was Not Effectively Monitored and Evaluated
We found that the mission was not substantively involved in the program and had not followed up regularly on the status of the implementation plan, monitoring and evaluation plan, and quarterly program reports. The mission also had not performed sufficient site visits of program activities or properly monitored the staffing of key positions. The mission’s current technical representative indicated that, because of other responsibilities, he had worked on the program only as time permitted. Until recently, the mission was not aware of the program’s slow progress. The lack of key planning documents, early in the life of the program, has impeded the program’s progress. Because of program delays, many of the intended beneficiaries did not receive assistance expeditiously.

Program Progress Was Impeded by Understaffing
The program cannot achieve its intended results, under an ambitious recovery plan, without sufficient staffing to keep pace with changing conditions. As of January 2009, only 56 of the 86 staff members that are needed to meet program targets had been acquired, and the program implementer was not keeping pace with changing program conditions. High-risk security conditions affected the staffing levels, and the need for program changes was not addressed effectively. Staffing shortages and slow reactions to changing conditions have delayed the program’s progress.

Program Implementation Approaches Can Be Improved
The Code of Federal Regulations states that recipients of USAID awards are responsible for managing and monitoring each program. The audit identified four issues that are making implementation of the program inefficient and less effective. Implementer officials said that they were too focused on program implementation issues or had not thought of changes needed to streamline the implementation process. Improved approaches should be implemented during the course of the program to ensure that resources are being used efficiently and effectively.

USAID/Afghanistan’s written comments on the draft report are included in its entirety, without attachments, as appendix II to the OIG report (see pages 16 to 23).

The program’s new end date is now November 30, 2010. No mention on how much more money would be needed for the seven-month extension, or a realistic expectation about this program. The implementer was only able to assist 40% of the target beneficiaries in the two years plus that it was running the program. And it will be able to bridge the 60% gap in less than a year? Is that really possible?

Related Item:
Audit of USAID/Afghanistan’s Afghan Civilian Assistance Program | Audit Report No. 5-306-10-004-P | December 15, 2009 | PDF

James Hogan: Now a Cold Case?

Cold Case FilesImage via Wikipedia

AP reported a few days ago that the police spokesman in Curacao acknowledged that they have no new leads on the disappearance of Vice Consul James Hogan who was reported missing by his wife on September 25 in the Netherlands Antilles. Investigators are reportedly considering all possibilities. The report also states that a State Department spokesman Darby Holladay declined to comment on this matter. The Background Note for the Netherland Antilles even in the redesigned website of State.gov still has James E. Hogan listed as one of the three principal US officials in the country.

I can’t imagine what this must be like for his wife and children, most especially during the holidays. Our thought and prayers for the family. May they find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy help burn out the pain of his absence.

Vice Consul James Hogan: 1440 Hours Missing | Diplopundit

Nov 24, 2009

James Hogan: Missing Now for 31 Days | Diplopundit
Oct 26, 2009

US Diplomat James Hogan: 19 Days Missing | Diplopundit
Oct 13, 2009

DNA Match in James Hogan Search | Diplopundit
Oct 03, 2009

US Navy Joins Hogan Search in Curacao
Oct 02, 2009

US Diplomat Missing in Curacao | Diplopundit
Sep 30, 2009