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USAID Afghanistan — SIGAR, OIG Investigates Second Largest Recipient of Reconstruction Funds

— Domani Spero  

Via SIGAR — Snapshot of Top Ten Recipients of USAID Funds in Afghanistan Reconstruction (2002-2013):

Our analysis of USAID data indicated that the top ten implementing partners in total awards accounted for about $7.7 billion, or 58 percent of total obligations. The remaining 42 percent of obligations were awarded to a total of 193 implementers who averaged $29 million in total awards. The World Bank was the top overall recipient of USAID funds in Afghanistan, with total awards equal to approximately $1.75 billion. USAID provided $1.74 billion to the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), which is administered by the World Bank, and awarded the Bank a $2 million grant for a project supporting business environment reform in Afghanistan. International Relief and Development, Inc. (IRD) received the second highest amount of total rewards at approximately $1.1 billion. Table 2 shows the top ten recipients by total obligation as reported by USAID. Figure 3 demonstrates the percentage of total USAID reconstruction awards received by each of the top ten recipients.

via SIGAR

via SIGAR

Via SIGAR

Via SIGAR

 

International Relief and Development, Inc. (IRD), number #2 on the list above is the subject of a recent WaPo investigation on Big budgets, little oversight in war zones. Quick notes from the report:

  • International Relief and Development increased its annual revenue from $1.2 million to $706 million, most of it from the USAID.
  • The nonprofit rewarded its employees with generous salaries and millions in bonuses. 38 IRD employees received more than $3.4 million in bonuses during the same period, according to the company’s tax filings.
  • IRD’s impressive board of advisers included former House majority leader Richard A. Gephardt and John D. Negroponte, who served as ambassador to several countries, including Iraq, and was the nation’s first director of national intelligence.
  • The company hired an all-star cast of humanitarian officials, drafting them from the top levels of USAID. In addition to the former acting administrator, the officials have included the deputy assistant administrator, the director of contracts and a key operations officer. According to WaPo, it has hired at least 19 employees from USAID. “Several of them came directly from their desks at the agency to occupy important posts at the company.”
  • As acting director of USAID, Alonzo Fulgham made $199,418. As vice president of IRD, he received $330,000. Jeffrey Grieco made $185,000 as the top public affairs official at USAID. As chief of public affairs at IRD, he received $225,000.

According to WaPo, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John F. Sopko had opened an investigation into allegations of “significant waste and mismanagement” and “kickbacks and bribery by IRD senior employees over a road project, which wound up costing $317 million.

We understand that SIGAR is also investigating IRD for  attempting to “use confidentiality agreements as a way of prohibiting its employees from making critical statements about IRD to “funding agencies” or “officials of any
government.” 

Via WaPo:
Some of the people who might know the most about what has happened with IRD-run programs — former company employees — say they have been barred from speaking about their experiences. Before leaving IRD, they said, they were asked to sign confidentiality agreements.

The agreements warn employees that they could be sued for making any “derogatory, disparaging, negative, critical or defamatory statements” about IRD to anyone, including “funding agencies” or “officials of any government.” Lawyers who reviewed the agreements at the request of The Post said it appeared that they could violate federal protections afforded to whistleblowers under the False Claims Act.

[Read a copy of the confidentiality agreement.]

In a letter to IRD, SIGAR Sopko writes that “IRD’s policy of prohibiting employees fiom informing government officials of critical information appears to violate the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. §§ 3729-3733, federal whistleblower statutes, and the Federal Acquisition Regulation. … The threat of retaliation for reporting problems to oversight agencies is all too real. I am simply not willing to tolerate an attempt to institutionalize employee intimidation. Therefore, I am initiating an inquiry into these allegations.”

SIGAR had also asked USAID to consider inserting a provision in all future contracts, cooperative agreements, and grant agreements for Afghanistan reconstruction that forbids the recipients of federal funds from using confidentiality agreements that prohibit their employees from talking to U.S. government officials.

Meanwhile at USAID/OIG — a “well-placed government source” told devex.com that the agency’s watchdog has been conducting an investigation into IRD for “months.” Devex.com reports that Bill Pierce, who serves as a spokesperson for IRD, told Devex that he was not aware of an OIG investigation that had been going on for months. 

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Snapshot: Top 10 State Department Assistance Recipients FY2013

Via USASpending.gov

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Snapshot: Top 10 Recipients of US Foreign Assistance in FY2012 Actual and FY2014 Request

Extracted from the CRS: The FY2014 State and Foreign Operations Budget Request, April 18, 2013 via Secrecy News:

The list is dominated by strategic allies in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, as well as top global health program recipients in Africa. Israel would continue to be the top U.S. aid recipient, at $3.1 billion, a $25 million increase over FY2012 funding. Afghanistan would again rank second among recipients, though with a slightly smaller allocation compared to FY2012. Iraq would drop out of the top five, with elimination of the Police Development Program driving a 55% funding cut, while Nigeria would move up to number five with a proposed allocation of $693 million, or 7% more than actual FY2012 funding. Together, the top 10 recipients would account for about 37% of total bilateral economic and security assistance funds in the FY2014 budget proposal.

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–DS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top Ten Signs Your Embassy Might Be Dysfunctional … or Just Plain Dreadful

1.  Mission Favorites.  Mission staffer’s favorite movie is “Under Siege” but not/not because they’re die-hard fans of Steven Seagal.  The mission’s theme song is  “Front Office in a Bubble” to the tune of Jim Croce’s Time in a Bottle and it’s not because they want to save time in the bubble and spend them with you.

2.  Voluntold.  When the Front Office holds a meeting on morale participants had to be voluntold so there are real people in the room and not just left over cardboard cut-outs of Mitt Romney and Barack Obama from election past.

3.  Liquor Store Run.  Every town hall meeting causes a minor run on the commissary liquor store. This is not necessarily bad as it improves the commissary’s bottom line but, but when employees get up with a hangover the day after every town hall meeting, that is never a good sign.

4.  Not So Cute Nicknames.  Front Office executives and senior managers get nicknames that are neither cute nor fit for polite conversation. The nicknames are occasionally funny, that is, funny to everyone except to those they have been assigned to.

5.  Suck  It Up Buttercup.  The embassy’s motto of DMWL or “doing more with less” has been replaced with SIUB or “suck it up buttercup.”  If employees have legitimate concerns that are impairing their ability to do the work they are sent to do and you tell them to suck it up, what kind of manager does that make you?

6.  Hamsters on Wheels.  Mission staffers ask questions about crisis preparedness in various re-iterations, repeats, rinses, then do over again and again like hamsters on a wheel.  When employees kept repeating the same questions over and over it means 1) they’re not getting the answers they need or 2) they do not believe what you’re telling them.  In which case, they’ll keep asking those questions until they’re satisfied with the answer.

7.  Rumor Has It.  The rumor factory has taken over the embassy compound like the pink slime from Ghostbusters. Rumors express and gratify “the emotional needs of the community.” It occupies the space when that need is not meet, and particularly when there is deficient communication between the front office and the rest of the mission.

8. Humor-less.  It’s been a long time since anyone at post had a real good laugh. Once humor becomes the missing link in the chain of command, then that is a sign of not good things to come.  Employees who are unhappy, demoralized, despondent, frustrated, angry have a hard time laughing at anything unless they are laughing at their senior managers.

9. Post Trends. El Jefe of one of the largest sections at post is suddenly retiring. The resident regional psychiatrist also curtails and retires.  And just about everyone has a curtailment plan.  The non-resident regional psychiatrist posted across the globe has been told he/she is spending way too much time at post. The community liaison officer shows up at Country Team meetings wearing a mockingjay pin. (In The Hunger Games, the mockingjay is a symbol of rebellion and hope among the districts). Uh-oh, trends — the not so subtle and the crafty. And don’t even think about making mocking jay pins illegal.

10. Fan Mail.  Demoralized embassy employees in the Republic of Z send howlers to this blog.  Not one email or two email but emails from the parliament of owls.  Frankly, they are worse than those listed on Harry Potter’s Owl Post.  If you think being featured in this blog is bad, think about how much worse your morning can be when you end up in Al Kamen’s In The Loop column, widely read  by the chattering crowd inside the beltway and the Seventh Floor.

The end.

 

–DS