#HAITI CORRUPTION:The more corruption is denounced, the deeper Jovenel Moïse gets into endless talk

The more corruption is denounced, the deeper Jovenel Moïse gets into endless talk

 

It has been already over a year since corruption has become the subject of intense national
debate. Approached timidly in the beginning, today, especial- ly with the PetroCaribe affair, that
debate has eclipsed almost all other burning issues that cause discord among the citizens. President Moïse
himself finds it wise to say some- thing against corruption, notwith- standing his political and administra- tive alignment with those accused of having participated in the squandering of the PetroCaribe Fund. Remember
his sortie against that scourge in his September 2017 speech at the United Nations! So far, however, nothing
concrete has been done. As the days and months go by, the Head of State proves himself to be only a smooth
talker.

Lately, President Moïse has weighed in against that crime in his official speech at the conference on public procurement held at the Con- vention and Documentation Center of the National Bank of Haiti (French acronym BRH.) Certainly, the president has access to all the data concerning everything related to this area. So, he must be believed when he says that there has been “overbilling of almost all contracts awarded during the last ten years.“ That is, under the administrations of Préval-Bellerive and Martelly-Lamothe, as well as Martelly-Paul. Thus, he agrees with the results of the investigations conducted by the two Special Senate Committees on the misuse of the PetroCaribe Fund. Based on facts, recommendation was made to bring charges against two former Prime Ministers, Jean-Max Bellerive and Laurent Salvador La- mothe, as well as against a dozen mi- nisters, directors general and other senior officials of those administration  We are at a loss thinking about what would have prompted the Head of State to use such language. After all, didn’t he use the term witch huntersfor those who demanded the pro- secution of the thieves of the Petro- Caribe Fund? Didn’t he say that such “persecution” would never take pla- ce under his administration? That’s not the first time that President Moïse has riled against corruption. Yet he’s never gone past the talk. So, we can’t rely on his lat- est sortie against the illegal acts perpetrated by senior officials in signing of contracts. In that vein, we wonder about similar revelations made by the former director of the Anti-Cor- ruption Unit (ULCC,) retired Colonel Antoine Atouriste. He confirms the president’s denunciations. In an interview with the daily Le Nouvelliste which appeared in the June 13 issue, the retired senior military officer maintains that the Head of State “understands and masters the problem of corruption.“ He strongly supports President Moïse’s statement about “overbilling.” As quoted by Le Nouvelliste, Mr. Atouriste states: “When it’s the State paying, there is overbilling multiplied by three. But when paying to the State, through the General Directorate of Taxes (DGI), [equivalent to the IRS], and the General Customs Administration (AGD,) it‘s under- billing.“

In all likelihood, Jovenel Moïse is in possession of the same facts high- lighted by the former director general of the ULCC. Yet, he prefers to waste time in endless talk, instead of leading with decisive action against that crime which is condemned by the democratic sector, civil society and large sectors of the population. As reported in the same issue of the daily, dozens of files on corruption submitted by ULCC to the government prosecutor in Port-au-Prince for legal pursuit have been relegated to File 13.

Gérard Junior Jeanty, quotes Antoine Atouriste, in the title of his article in Le Nouvelliste: “Fight against corruption: Important institutions have failed in their mission,“ confirming that the initiatives taken by the ULCC, under his direction, were never followed-up. The former senior military officer, named in 2012 to head the institution, was dis- missed by President Moïse in 2017. He revealed the following: “When I arrived at ULCC in 2012, I had found 14 cases of corruption. Then I found 16 more. I had taken care to transfer all 30 cases to the government prosecutor. However, those cases have so far been closed with- out further action by the prosecutor’s office. Most of them are very serious cases of corruption related to public procurement, overbilling, corruption and waste of public funds.”

It’s a mistake to think that Presi- dent Moïse’s latest declarations are indicative of a different approach in his so-called fight against corruption. He’s not really giving up his dilatory stance, nor his short-lived threats against that scourge. All the talk is intended for external consumption. After all, the Coordinator of the National Public Procurement Commission (French acronym CNMP,) offered Mr. Moïse a way out in his own interview to Le Nouvelliste. Based on his reasoning, the president may persist in his inaction against corruption, without being criticized by the international community. Res- ponding to a question from the daily on overbilling in the past ten years, as pointed out by the Head of State, Florien Jean-Mari, Coordinator of the CNMP, replied that t he can’t comment on the subject.

On the other hand, he said he believed that in his speech to the symposium, President Moïse provided “elements of an answer.“ For the- re is no reference to compare prices in the country. Still quoted in the newspaper, here’s how Mr. Jean- Mari puts it: “When a contract is submitted to the CNMP for evalua- tion, technicians may consider that the amount of the contract is rather high. However, to say there is over billing, one must take into account reference prices, something that does not exist at the moment.”

Analyzing conflicting remarks made publicly by the Haitian president and senior officials of past and present administrations, Mr. Moïse finds comfort in justifying his inaction against corruption. Thus, regard- ing the ongoing debate on the Petro- Caribe dossier, in particular, and corruption, in general, there’s a strategy aimed at deceiving the international community. But the latter isn’t really confused by their shenanigans, knowing well that it‘s dealing with crafty operators. In the process, the Moïse-Lafontant administration has painted itself in a corner of despair, dragging a budget deficit impossible to make up with the revenues that are currently available. Meanwhile, the international community refuses to come to the rescue of his administration, as was done for previous governments.

All goes back to the president taking the oath of office while under indictment for money laundering. Yet, Mr. Moïse and his handlers thought they are crafty enough in using tricks to snatch from the White Man the millions they lack. Now, after sixteen months in the National Palace, the Banana Man faces reality. He’s drowning together with his advisers. They run the risk of an ever-growing general revolt. Having reached a cul- de-sac, the president tries to emulate François Duvalier in the latter’s cry of despair as expressed in his Jacmel speech: “There are two poles of attraction in the world, if I am not at- tracted to one, I will gravitate to- wards the other.“ As for President Moïse, on returning recently from the G-7 Summit in Quebec, Canada, he exclaimed: “The people (sic) have no friends, they have only interests.“ Thus, he called on Haitians to rely solely on themselves to get their country out of poverty. Otherwise, he said, “Two or three centuries later, we will still be where we are today.”

Mr. Moïse and politicians of his ilk don‘t seem to understand the reasoning of Haiti’s traditional donors: When your country has millions of dollars at its disposal — not millions but billions—you swindle your people. The international community is sitting it out on the Moïse-Lafontant administration, sending a message telling those guys to find the resources they’re looking for else- where. Because, they could force the identified thieves to return the stolen funds to the Haitian people. “Examples must be traced,” said a Haitian businessman recently.

In other words, when the talk stops to make room for concrete actions, everything will be back to normal.

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