US Embassy Belize: Three DCMs+Two Senior Manager Curtailments Since 2014, and More

Posted: 2:53 am ET
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State/OIG inspected the US Embassy in Belmopan, Belize from February 29 to March 11, 2016. According to the report, Embassy Belmopan’s authorized staffing includes 40 U.S. direct hires, 10 U.S. local hires, and 106 locally employed (LE) staff. The embassy’s FY 2015 budget, including all agencies, was approximately $35 million, which included $6.5 million in Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL)-managed foreign assistance and $19 million in Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations funds. Belize’s capital, Belmopan, is approximately 90 minutes away from the much larger Belize City, the country’s economic, political, and cultural hub. This distance affects access to professional contacts, medical services, and cultural and entertainment activities. See the full report here (PDF), or read the quick summary below:

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Report summary:

  • Despite logistical difficulties inherent in the distance between the capital and the much larger Belize City where most government officials reside, the Ambassador had cultivated relationships with the highest levels of the Belizean Government. This enabled the mission to promote U.S. Government interests.
  • The lack of internal controls over non-official use of government resources weakened safeguards against waste, loss, unauthorized use, or misappropriation of funds, property and other assets.
  • The Bureau of Human Resources, Office of Overseas Employment, had not responded to three long-standing embassy requests submitted as part of the requirement to change the local compensation plan. Premium rates and use of compensatory time were inconsistent with local law and prevailing practice.
  • Embassy Belmopan’s ClassNet equipment and architecture were significantly outdated compared to that deployed worldwide. A planned Global Information Technology Modernization upgrade was cancelled without warning as part of a worldwide suspension of installation activities.

US Embassy Belmopan is headed by non-career appointee, Carlos R. Moreno who assumed charge as Ambassador to Belize  on June 21, 2014. His deputy is DCM Adrienne Galanek who arrived in September 2015. According to the OIG report, there had been three DCMs and two senior manager curtailments “due to personal and performance issues since June 2014.”  

Excerpt below:

Embassy Belmopan was striving to manage mission resources and personnel more effectively. Most country team members were serving in leadership positions for the first time, and some section chiefs were also working outside of their areas of expertise. Embassy leadership was focused on advancing U.S. interests, developing a more collegial atmosphere, and improving internal controls.

Embassy Belmopan was striving to manage mission resources and personnel more effectively. Most country team members were serving in leadership positions for the first time, and some section chiefs were also working outside of their areas of expertise. Embassy leadership was focused on advancing U.S. interests, developing a more collegial atmosphere, and improving internal controls.

OIG conducted 49 documented interviews of U.S. staff, 26 of which elicited comments on the Ambassador and Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM). Confirming the results of OIG’s pre-inspection survey, interviewees consistently expressed the opinion that both the Ambassador and DCM were approachable, concerned for the welfare of their staff, and had strong interpersonal skills, all of which are leadership attributes emphasized in 3 Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) 1214. For example, the Ambassador and DCM demonstrated their commitment to embassy safety and morale when deciding how to allocate the sole U.S. direct-hire position received through the Mission Resource Request process. Compelled to choose between an additional political reporting position and a Foreign Service nurse practitioner position, they opted for the latter to mitigate Belize’s limited health care facilities and improve employee access to skilled medical care. The interagency community, which consisted of the Peace Corps, the Military Liaison Office, and the Drug Enforcement Administration, all gave the Ambassador and DCM high marks for their efforts to foster cooperation throughout the mission.

Nonetheless, the Ambassador’s scores in OIG’s inspection survey, which evaluates ambassadors on more than a dozen leadership attributes, were lower in several categories than the average range seen in embassy inspections over the past 5 years. These leadership categories included communication, engagement, and feedback—all crucial factors in ensuring a well-managed embassy. Employees referred to the Ambassador and DCM as a good team that worked hard to cultivate a collaborative atmosphere, but employees also stated that the Ambassador and DCM had only partially succeeded in attaining this goal. Staff consistently described the DCM as overworked and struggling to resolve intersectional squabbles. OIG found that lengthy staffing gaps and the inexperience of several country team members had strained work interactions and contributed to low morale. Since June 2014, three DCMs and two senior managers had curtailed due to personal and performance issues, departures that hampered team building efforts.

OIG observations and employee interviews indicated a mission working to accomplish U.S. objectives. However, the front office often took weeks to clear and approve cables, memoranda, and embassy notices.

Yay!

  • An OIG review of the Ambassador’s and DCM’s claims for official residence and representational expenses and gift records determined that they both adhered to applicable regulations and to the 3 FAM 1214 principle that all employees model integrity.
  • The DCM performed nonimmigrant visa adjudication reviews, a required element of consular internal controls, as prescribed by 9 FAM 403.9-2(D).
  • The Department rated Belize high for crime. All embassy personnel who completed OIG surveys stated that the Ambassador and DCM supported the embassy security program as required by the President’s Letter of Instruction and 2 FAM 113.1(c)(5). The embassy was up-to-date on all emergency drills.
  • Props for Consular Section chief, Yomaris Macdonald: “Consular management and operations, including management controls, met Department standards. OIG reviewed emergency preparedness, visa adjudication standards, fee and controlled item reconciliation, and Regional Consular Officer reports and found no deficiencies. The Ambassador, DCM, consular officers, LE staff, Regional Consular Officer, and Bureau of Consular Affairs managers uniformly cited the Consular Section chief for her leadership skills.”


Yo, Tsk! Tsk!

  • Inspection surveys and interviews indicated that more front office attention to management operations was warranted.
  • The First-and Second-Tour (FAST) officer and specialist program had been dormant for several years.
  • The Bureau of Human Resources, Office of Overseas Employment, had not responded to three long-standing embassy requests submitted as part of the requirement to change the local compensation plan.
  • The ClassNet local area network was old and unreliable. The last equipment refresh or upgrade was in July 2010, making Embassy Belmopan’s ClassNet equipment and architecture significantly outdated compared to that deployed worldwide.
  • The Information Management Office was not conducting Information Systems Security Officer duties as required by 12 FAM 613.4 and 12 FAH-10 H-112.9-2. The person assigned these responsibilities was unaware of his assignment, nor had he completed the training requirement for the position.
  • Record Keeping Did Not Comply with Archiving Requirements
  • Lack of Management Controls Risked Inappropriate Use of Staff and Resources

The OIG Inspection Team was composed of Amb. Joseph A. Mussomeli, the team leader, John Philibin, the deputy team leader and the following members: William Booth, John Bush, Ronda Capeles, Darren Felsburg, Leslie Gerson, Michael Greenwald, Edward Messmer, Matthew Ragnetti, and Colwell Whitney.

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Consular Work Enters 21st Century: US Citizen John McAfee Blogs from Guatemala Jail

Perhaps you’ve heard by now about the anti-virus software tycoon John McAfee who fled Belize to seek asylum in Guatemala. If not,  read Wired magazine’s piece, John McAfee, Unhinged: His Bizarre Breaks From Reality.

Anyway, Mr. McAfee has now been arrested in Guate, was refused asylum and will reportedly be sent back to Belize where authorities were looking to question him about the shooting death of American expatriate Greg Faull.

But because the Internet is the now public space, Mr. McAfee has an official blog (The Hinterland, the official blog of John McAfee) which is updated often.  He is on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.  His tweets @officialmcafee has over 11,000 followers, about the same number of followers as @usembassyguate, the official Twitter feed of US Embassy Guatemala.

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And he’s blogging even in jail! About this being a “groundbreaking” activity and about speaking to a Duty Officer at the US Embassy in Guatemala.

Blogging from jail
Date: December 6, 2012 at 5:24 am- by John McAfee- Comment(s): 84    

I am in jail in Guatemala.  Vastly superior to Belize jails.  I asked for a computer and one magically appeared.  The coffee is also excellent. Only time will tell what will happen.  No one has a crystal ball.  However, I would be truly shocked if I did not conduct the press conference tomorrow as I had originally planned. Stay tuned. I believe, by the way, that blogging from a jail cell might be a groundbreaking activity.

The American Embassy Guatemala
Date: December 6, 2012 at 6:11 am- by John McAfee- Comment(s): 30    

I just spoke with the duty officer at the Embassy who said there is nothing that they can do.  I asked to be returned to the States, and again … nothing they can do.  So I will wait and see. P.S.  Anybody have friends in the State Department?

Late afternoon of December 6, Mr. McAfee made a plea to his supporters to email or tweet the President of Guatemala to “beg him to allow the court system to proceed, to determine my status in Guatemala, and please support the political asylum that I am asking for.”

Shortly after that, reports says he was taken to a hospital. But it was not a heart attack, just high stress.  ABC News who has a reporter in Guate writes that John McAfee has been returned to an immigration detention cell in Guatemala after being rushed to a Guatemala City hospital via ambulance and that he may soon be deported back to Belize.

We can’t remember a case of a US citizen arrested overseas who is, in the words of one journalist covering the State Department, “a walking television show.” And this one has a Twitter and blog account and is actively using them.  ABC News details the reported heart attack:

McAfee, 67 […] was reportedly found prostrate on the floor of his cell and unresponsive.  He was wheeled into the hospital on a gurney. Photographers followed in pursuit right into the emergency room, but as emergency workers eased McAfee’s limp body from the gurney and onto a bed and began to remove his suit, he suddenly spoke up, saying, “Please, not in front of the press.”

Please don’t laugh, this is actually quite sad.

* * *

If you are the American Citizen Services Officer in Guate or Belize, our thoughts are also with you.  We’ve never seen any training material or murder boards for a walking/talking teevee show. But you’ll do fine, take a deep breath and swim, don’t sink.

If you are a Consular Officer somewhere in the Western Hemisphere, get ready; if he gets out of Guate, he may show up at your window.  If you follow him on Twitter, he might give a heads up.

If you are the Bureau of Consular Affairs, this is potentially, as Mr. McAfee says, “groundbreaking.” How should your Consular Officers deal with a detained citizen blogging/tweeting from jail?  This is the first one, but this may not be the last.  Is it time to update your ConGen training on the Republic of Z?

domani spero sig