27 November 2012
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Afghan aid is being quietly funneled to the University of Massachusetts in the home state of Senator John Kerry. Kerry is the Chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee which oversees the U.S. Department of State. More than $21 million in Afghan aid has or is being diverted to the “Center for International Education” to fund its programs in the wealthy town of Amherst, Massachusetts. The awards, by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), were uncovered by this reporter just last week. A review of the USAID’s public databases reveals no information on these awards, except for some vague references to the University being a “HEP” contractor. HEP stands for “Higher Education Project.”
The University of Massachusetts reports that it is being paid to focus on “capacity building, curriculum review, peer facility reviews” and in “helping to design a model for a network of Afghan educational institutions.” This vague and nebulous scope of work is virtually un-auditable. There are no metrics to measure or assess, and therefore no method for determining whether the funds are being wasted. USAID sends money into Massachusetts and Senator Kerry responds by being supportive of all USAID’s efforts. The University of Massachusetts then subcontracts part of the work to Indiana University, conveniently the home state of Senator Richard Lugar, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In Afghanistan this would be called bribery, but in Washington, D.C., Massachusetts and Indiana, it is standard politics. In the United States some public officials consider public jobs and public funds to be theirs to dispense; and dispense them they do: to family members, friends and supporters, even though such would be a crime if anyone paid attention to the law.
None of this is a recent phenomena. The University of Massachusetts is a regular beneficiary of USAID contracts for “studies” in Gaza, the Sudan and Malawi where it works on “international capacity building.” The University is associated with the Open Society Institute, a dubious organization partnered with the U.S. Department of State. The Institute professes to support human rights, but it only advocates for human rights against regimes unfriendly to the United States. For example, its Central Asia project avoids any criticism of Uzbekistan or Kazakhstan, which are longstanding allies of Secretary Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton. On November 4, 2012, the Institute published a laudatory article by Cornelius Graubner entitled, “The New Silk Road.” The new NATO rail and trucking route through Uzbekistan is praised as historic, with no mention of the Uzbek police state run by dictator Islam Karimov.
USAID knows that awards such as those described in this article are suspect, which is why there is no transparency within the agency. Notices of awards and dollar numbers do not appear on USAID’s Internet site for Afghanistan, and scopes of work are never published. Corruption flourishes best in the darkness.
The diversion of Afghan aid should have attracted the attention of the U.S. Department of Justice, but the Department only pays lip service to anti-corruption efforts. On paper it has an Office of Public Integrity which is nominally headed by an attorney named Jack Smith. The problem is that this Office has been drifting for years as it has no authority to prosecute Federal corruption. Instead it prosecutes State officials, but only when those officials have fallen out of favor and have no important interest groups supporting them. In essence, if internal polling finds no opposition to the prosecution, then criminal charges are filed. Anti-corruption prosecutions in Afghanistan commence using the exact same criteria. Afghan Government officials have studied the U.S. Government and have adopted far too many of its dishonest practices.