Friday, July 13, 2012

USAID fails audit

Violence continues in Iraq today.  Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) reports a Baghdad home bombing targeting a Lt. Colonel with the Ministry of the Interior -- he wasn't home, his parents were and the 2 are dead. All Iraqi News adds that bomb attacks targeting Shi'ite mosques in Kirkuk left four people injured.

Today the US Government Accountability Office released [PDF format warning] "IRAQ: U.S. Assistance to Iraq's Minority Groups in Response to Congressional Directives."  According to the report, through November 2011, the US taxpayer has footed the bill for $40 million which was supposed to go towards assisting Iraq's minority population.  Since Iraq's population is estimated by the CIA to be 31 million, the US government could have skipped the minority issue and given a million dollars to every Iraqi.  So the GAO just completed a 12 month audit (June 2011 to July 2012) to see if USAID was living up to the outlines of Congress' 2008 directive?

Are they?

No one knows.  USAID didn't pass the audit.  The report notes:

Our analysis of USAID documents found that USAID could not demonstrate that it met the provisions of the 2008 directive because of three weaknesses. First, although USAID reported that it provided $14.8 million in assistance to minority groups through existing programs to meet the 2008 directive, its documents could link only $3.82 million (26 percent) of that amount to the Ninewa plain region. The documents linked $1.67 million (11 percent) of the assistance to areas outside of the Ninewa plain region. USAID documents did not provide sufficient detail to determine the location of the remaining $9.35 million (63 percent).
Second, USAID documents generally did not show whether the projects included minority groups among the beneficiaries of the assistance and whether $8 million was provided specifically for internally displaced families. According to USAID officials, the agency generally did not track its beneficiaries by religious affiliation. For $14.7 million of the $14.8 million in assistance, USAID documents did not provide sufficient detail for us to determine that Iraqi minority groups were among the beneficiaries of all of the projects. Only 1 of the 155 projects ($66,707 out of $14.8 million) provided sufficient detail in its documents for us to determine that the assistance was directed to internally displaced families; however, the location of that project was outside of the Ninewa plain region. While USAID documents listed $2 million in funding for a microfinance institution, USAID officials were unable to provide detail on whether all of these loans were disbursed in the Ninewa plain region. 
Third, USAID officials and documents did not demonstrate that the agency used unobligated prior year ESF funds to initiate projects in response to the 2008 directive. USAID could document that the agency used unobligated prior year funds for two of the six programs after the date of the 2008 directive. However, according to USAID officials, the agency did not use unobligated prior year funds for the remaining four programs.

When you can't produce documentation to back up your claims, you have failed the audit.

Which is bad news for Iraq's minorities and for US taxpayers.

The report notes this background on Iraq:

Iraq is ethnically, religiously, and linguistically diverse. Ethnically, Arabs comprise about 75 percent of the population of Iraq, with Kurds comprising around 15 percent and other ethnic groups, such as Turkoman and Assyrians, comprising the remaining 10 percent. Religiously, Shi’a and Sunni Muslims make up 97 percent of the population of Iraq, with non-Muslim groups -- such as Baha’i, Christians, Sabean Mandaeans, and Yazidis -- comprising the remaining 3 percent of the population. Some communities may be an ethnic majority but a religious minority (such as Arab Christians), while other communities may be an ethnic minority but a religious majority (such as Shi’a Shabaks). For the purpose of this report, we refer to the following religious and ethnic communities as minority groups: Anglican, Armenian, Assyrian, Baptist, Chaldean, Coptic, Greek Orthodox, Latin Catholic, Presbyterians, Sabean Mandaean, Shabak, Syriac, Turkoman, and Yazidi. 
Since 2003, Iraq’s minority groups have experienced religiously and ethnically motivated intimidation, arbitrary detention, killings, abductions, and forced displacements, as well as attacks on holy sites and religious leaders. In August 2007, coordinated truck bombings killed some 400 Yazidis and wounded more than 700. In August 2009, a series of attacks in Ninewa province killed almost 100 and injured more than 400 from the Yazidi, Shabak, and Turkoman communities. In February 2008, a Chaldean archbishop was kidnapped and killed -- the third senior Christian religious figure to be killed in the city of Mosul since 2006. A series of attacks against Christians occurred in 2010, including an attack in October on a Catholic church in Baghdad that left more than 50 dead and 60 wounded. 

You may notice a major minority group not listed above.

Iraq's LGBT community.  They were not excluded from the 2008 supplemental directive and the 2010 directive should have allowed for the LGBT community. 

Is the Senate failing (Senate Appropriations Committee) or is USAID?

The 2010 directive specifically was about refugee assistance and that should have covered the LGBT community.  But the US government is not doing anything to help that community.  And they get away with that and with doing nothing to protect Iraqi LGBTs from being hunted and killed in Iraq -- "hunted" is the only term for what has repeatedly taken place -- so at what point does the government get their act together?

Obviously, not any time soon.  Because this failed audit should immediately result in Senate hearings but you won't get that.  The failed audit will be greeted with a yawn as Democrats in the Senate rush to protect the White House.

Thing is, the White House should be able to protect itself.  It's Iraq's LGBT population that needs protection.

While the US does nothing, Radio Netherlands Worldwide reports, "The Dutch government has decided to grant aslum to gay Iraqis. Immigration minister Geert Leers says Iraq is no longer safe for homosexuals, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders. Mr Leers has already announced a temporary halt to the deportation of gay Iraqis last month following an alert from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  The ministry warned that it was impossible to be openly gay anywhere in Iraq without being at serious risk.  The Iraqi authorities also fail to take any measure to stop discrimination or attacks on homosexuals."

The Nobel Peace Prize Committee needs to strip Nelson Mandela of his award and give it to Nouri al-Maliki.  So argues an Al Mada columnist tongue-in-cheek.  The column is prompted by ridiculous claims, by attorney Jabbar Freih Kanani, that Iraq has achieved reconciliation and should now be the model for Egypt and other countries in the Arab Spring.  The parody column ends with Nelson Mandela explaining to Nouri that he (Mandela) had walked the path of reconciliation his entire life and how fortunate he (Mandela) is to see Nouri show him how it can actually be done in the blink of an eye.

Wael Grace (Al Mada) reports on how the Parliament's sessions are often televised but, even so, not everything is televised.  For example, one MP shares that they are often briefed on a bill -- whether it's legal, whether it's sound -- by specialists in the area and these briefings do not get televised.  Some bills are withdrawn and those actions are not televised.  One MP feels that everything should be before the public. Others feel there is too much information being televised while some argue that the experts and specialists appearing before the Parliament to brief them on the bills are unnecessary because the bills result form deals and agreements within Parliament and they don't need any advice with regards to that.  Kitabat notes that it was announced yesterday that 100 MPs will work on drafting a law to limit the three presidencies -- Prime Minister, Speaker of Parliament and Iraqi President -- to two terms only.

Al Mada notes that, with the ongoing violence in Iraq, Iraqiya has been calling for retired officers to be re-instated in the security forces and that Nouri's picked up that call with insiders (unnamed) within Nouri's State of Law saying he did so when he realized it could help his political slate's election chances.  In May, he met with officials in Nineveh Province and this is among the provinces where Nouri would, State of Law insiders insist, benefit politically from such an action.  Iraqiya feels Nouri's call is just more empty words and will not be followed up on.  Dar Addustour notes that this is supposed to move forward in Salah al-Din which wants the officials back and that Nouri appears to have provided a green light for the program to start there.

Al Mada reports that Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh declared Monday that whether or not the United Nations releases Iraq from Chapter VII does not matter when it comes to their weapon purchasing.  The United Nations placed Iraq under Chapter VII in 1990 following the attack on Kuwait.  al-Dabbagh insists Iraq will continue to buy weapons including F-16s.  al-Dabbagh insisted that Iraq will use all of its political power and international connections to get out of Chapter VII and that it is unfair for the United Nations to continue to impose reperations costs on Iraq.

At the start of the week, KRG President Massoud Barzani announced the creation (in the Kurdistan Regional Government) of a National Security Council which would, it is hoped, bring greater security to the three northern provinces.  Since then he's been accused of nepotism and wanting to become a dictator by the struggling third party Goran (and by some MPs in Nouri's State of Law).  Al Mada notes that Barzani has responded that the National Security Council would serve all the people in the KRG and that its creation is about meeting the citizens' safety needs.

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