The PetroCaribe scandal appears to be the never-ending tale that cripples the current administration in a way that the country has become ungovernable. Last week, the Superior Court of Accounts and Administrative Litigations, la Cour supérieure des comptes et du contentieux administratif (CSC/CA), the highest court of the land on financial issues released the second part of their audit report into the PetroCaribe embezzlement scandal to the Senate. The report, which was delivered to the senate by Jean-Michelet Simplice, Chief of staff of Justice Paul Velmarre Desmesyeux, President of the Court. Mr. Simplice stated that although there have been some changes from the earlier report, the core findings of the audit have remained the same. The 612-page document created contentious debates across the political spectrum as those close to the Presidency calls the report a document for political posturing in which the auditors manipulated the numbers and arrived at a pre-determined conclusion in accordance to their agenda, this according to a spokesman from the president’s office Guichard Doré speaking at a local radio program.
The main sticking point in the report that implicated the Presidency, more specifically President Jovenel Moïse, who is said to have benefited from a 20million gourde load while Director of an agribusiness, Agritrans, before becoming President of the Republic, and was reported to have used the same tactic to obtain road construction contracts with two other companies. The President’s spokesman refuted this allegation, which was corroborated by the Internal revenue office, Direction générale des impôts (DGI) without providing any proof. Senator Youri Latortue disagrees with the Presidential spokesperson whom he almost called a liar. The senator was able to point out claims in the report showing that the President’s company embezzled part of the funds allocated for the construction of the Borgne / Petit Bourg de Borgne road, while the company was not able to complete the project, as stipulated in the contract, while 5million gourdes has been paid to the company before the contract was even signed. Guichard Doré contended that the 5million gourdes were compensation by the state to the company for the construction of the Carrefour 3 – Anse a Foleur road that links the Northeast and Northwest departments. But the Senator also brought out the fraud that allowed the two companies, Betex and Agritrans, both belonging to President Jovenel Moïse, to obtain two contracts for the same project. Opposition groups have continued their call for the resignation of President Moïse since the report became public.
The new report that has been the source of much political discussions in the country based on the topics that it addresses, mainly; project management, contract awards, execution and project completion, four key areas that reveal a vast network of corruption by political operatives across the board. The Court recommends that public institutions to undergo structural reforms especially in the areas of development projects, contracts and management as well as contract awards.
In other news, the senate was a theatre of the absurd last Thursday when four radical opposition senators went on a rampage in the senate chambers. Images circulating on social media show the four senators Evaliere Beauplan, Nenel Cassy, Ricard Pierre and Antonio Cheramy, throwing chairs and vandalizing the hallowed chambers. Their actions have since been condemned by different sectors of the society, including a group of centrist senators who considered these acts as irresponsible and unworthy of leaders, and threatens the very shaky democracy that the country is going through. To them, this vandalism displayed by public servants, senators of the republic, could have grave consequences on the political stability and the already precarious socio-economic climate in the country, and could even weaken the national sovereignty. President Jovenel Moïse’s office condemned the senators’ actions and says to hope that reason will prevail soon.
Elsewhere, petroleum products are considered a menace to the crippling economy, despite the liberalization policies undertaken by the government. This alarming warning was made by six (6) petroleum companies operating in the country. In a letter to the Minister of Economy and Finance, Kimazou, Bandari Haïti S.A., CapInvest, Dinasa and Sol Haïti, warned that they do not have enough financial resources to buy petroleum in the international market, as such, there will be shortage in the near future. The companies sent a second letter to Minister Ronald Décembre on May 29, 2019 when they did not get any reaction from the authorities. They argue that the depreciation of the gourde and the increasing cost of fuel in the international markets make it difficult for them to purchase fuel because of lack of funds, because the government still owes payment for prior fuel supplies.
Finally, a study by Saulo Neiva, Regional Director of the l’Agence universitaire de la francophonie (AUF) found that over 85% of students with college degrees in Haiti leave the country. This brain drain that began since the days of François Duvalier continues until this day, even if the reasons for the flight have changed. Speaking at a meeting with teachers in higher education last month, the Regional Director also stressed that this statistic reflects a 10% increase since the days of Duvalier when intellectuals were forced into exile. This brain drain represents a serious intellectual deficit for the country. Noting that most of the graduates leave for variety of reasons but chief among them, the precarious socio-economic situation in the country, their situation in the host country is also not that entirely suitable for them to apply their knowledge. They usually fall into menial jobs in fields where they are not able to apply what they learnt in school.