Rising Suspicions of Corruption in the Haitian Presidency

Written by Jonel Juste

Friday, 25 November 2011 17:07

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (defend.ht) - In recent weeks, different sectors of Haitian society affected by the presidency's National Fund for Education (FNE) have begun expressing concerns of transparency, raising suspicions of corruption.

On May 26th, 12 days into the presidency of Michel Joseph Martelly, the National Fund for Education (FNE) was launched. The objective of the fund would be to have every child in Haiti to attend school for free.

To finance the FNE, $8.5 million [US] dollars per month would be collected by assessing a $0.05[US]/minute fee on international calls to Haiti and a fee of $1.50[US] on international money transfers to Haiti.

By the government's estimates, the amount of money raised would be on the order of more than $42.5 million [US] dollars, not including private donations from former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who added $2 million [US] dollars and others who have contributed more than $10 million [US] dollars.

Questions of Transparency

The Haitian parliament, since the May inception of the FNE, began calling the fund illegal in that it was not approved by lawmakers. ARTICLE 111-2 of the Constitution of Haiti reads:

...only the Executive Branch may initiate budget laws, laws concerning the assessment, percentage and manner of collecting taxes and contributions, and laws designed to generate revenues or to increase revenues and expenditures of the Government, Bills introduced on these matters must be voted on first by the House of Deputies.

Furthermore, parliamentarians found that money collected was not being channeled through proper government institutions, namely the Ministry of Finance and the Economy and the Ministry of Education and Professional Development. In reality, no one outside the inner circle of the presidency knows the trail of millions of dollars.

In October, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance and Economy, Jocelerme Privert (Nippes/Inite), inquired on the status of the FNE and was told that the Bank of the Republic of Haiti (BRH) held the accounts of the FNE.

On October 14th, after a meeting with the Governor of the BRH, Charles Castel, Senator Privert reported to the senate that only $2 million [US] dollars had been deposited into the FNE account and no withdrawals, since its inception, had been made from it.

The chairman of the senate finance committee was quoted in the nation's second oldest newspaper, Le Matin, as saying "We need to know where the money comes from, how it was used and where it is being held." At this time, the committee had estimated $26 million [US] dollars to be unaccounted for.

Questions of Corruption

The Haitian Presidency, after delaying the start of the 2011-2012 school year by 5 weeks, announced in October that 772,000 children would be provided education subsidies for the school year.

The Office of the President broke down the subsidies in this manner:

Row Students Subsidy *Cost
A 56,400 Students having full cost of tuition paid to attend private schools $5.64M
B225,600Students enrolled into public schools, which are already free$22.56M
C490,000Students in public schools will have registration fees of $2.50-$5 waived.$2M
Tot.772,000Students receiving some form of government subsidy$30M
* The presidency announced the yearly cost per student to be $100.00 but education officials estimate the cost at $141.00 [US] per year.

Concerning row A and row B, no elected representatives of any department or commune in Haiti has been able to confirm the two lines.

Since October, deputies and senators have been asked, on radio, questions regarding the amount of students reported to be in programs A and B. Parliamentarian after parliamentarian, none can confirm this information.

On November 25th, Senator Edwin Zenny (Sud-Est/Inite), one who is very close in friendship with President Michel Martelly was asked by radio host Valery Numa of Vision 2000 about the education initiative and its impact in the department he represents, the Sud-Est, to which he responded:

"Truly you will be surprised Valery, I am not involved in it at all..."

An audio recording of the interview with Senator Zenny.

Anchorman Valery Numa
Senator Edwin Zenny
11.25.11 | {japopup type="iframe" content="http://radiovision2000haiti.net/home/"}Vision 2000{/japopup}

{mp3}11_25_11_SenatorZenny{/mp3}

Senator Zenny then began to explain that the people managing the FNE are the un-elected personalities that managed Michel Martelly's campaign for the presidency and that there is no available information regarding the FNE's status or its impact.

Moreover, Senator Zenny says that when he asked the president about the matter of the FNE the response returned was "the president is doing this for the people of Haiti and that he will do it with his team and that it should not be a worry of who is handling it or not." Zenny was satisfied with this response but not the interviewer, who then asked:

"What is keeping you, for example, as a Senator of the Republic, the Senator of the Sud-Est [Department], from getting in contact with the directorate of the education department of the Sud-Est and asking them how many students are in school through the program?"

Senator Zenny's response was:

"Well, there is nothing keeping me from doing that but the president said... (Senator Zenny begins speaking a mixed dialect of generally incomprehensible French and Creole.)"

Without any confirmation on the record of Row A and B, Row C has been confirmed but has caused operational difficulties for the nation's schools.

A near half-million students attending public schools in Haiti were waived from paying yearly registration fees of $2.50 - $5.00 [US], but the schools were not compensated for this loss of revenue.

The Secretary General of the Confederation of National Educators of Haiti (CNEH), Edith Delouis Lourdes, has reported a major crisis occurring which has prevented public schools in Haiti from purchasing equipment, health kits, cooking ingredients and even "pieces of chalk."

Anchorwoman Lilianne Pierre-Paul
CNEH Official Edith Delouis Lourdes
11.15.11 | {japopup type="iframe" content="http://radiokiskeya.com"}Radio Kiskeya{/japopup}

{mp3}11_15_11_LekolGratis{/mp3}

Lourdes says that the government gave some of the schools 15,000 HTG (Haitian Gourdes) for the school year to supplement having the fees waived but this amounts to $375.00 in U.S. currency.

Furthermore, Mrs. Lourdes reports that many schools throughout the country hadn't even received that amount but have been met by some parents who not only won't pay the registration fees but are refusing to pay other costs associated with their child's education. Lourdes estimates the total cost per school year for a child to be $141.00 [US].

Members of the CNEH, says Mrs Lourdes, when confronting directors in the Ministry of Education have received threats.

"Departmental directors of the Education Ministry threaten school officials telling them that the National Palace keeps their names as people demanding money to run school lunches."

Haitian Diaspora

The Haitian Diaspora, Haitians living abroad, are particularly offended by the FNE because it is phone calls to loved ones and remittances that are funding the project. Early on, Haitians living abroad understood that the fund was to send children to school and relunctantly accepted the surcharges.

The surcharges are tough on these Haitians as many have found that calling cards, which once granted them a 23-minute conversation with loved ones in Haiti, now only grant 6 minutes of conversation time. For money transfers of hundreds or thousands of dollars, the $1.50[US] fee levied on the transfer does not affect much, but for the vast majority of transfers to Haiti, which are on the order of $25 - $50, this fee is not well received.

Two callers from the Haitian Diaspora call in to a radio show to express their discontent with the FNE:

Radio Listeners, Callers from Haitian Diaspora
11.22.11 | {japopup type="iframe" content="http://radiokiskeya.com"}Radio Kiskeya{/japopup}

{mp3}11_22_11_DiasporaEducation{/mp3}

Haitians in the Diaspora, moreover, are willing to accept paying extra to educate the children of Haiti but are now against the charges as they haven't seen the results of their sacrifices.