Gary Juste is the Office Chief of USAID/Haiti’s Office of Acquisition and Assistance.
There is a myth that when USAID enters into an agreement with a U.S.-based non-governmental organization or contractor, most of the money stays in the United States.
The reality is much different. A significant amount of resources is spent locally.
- A case in point: one of our health partners in Haiti employs 963 people; 950 are national staff and only 14 are international staff; this means that Haitians represent 98.5 percent of the staff. Also, international staff contributes to Haiti’s economy through routine purchases from local markets for food, fuel, clothing and electricity.
- U.S.-based organizations working in Haiti purchase items from the local economy. For example, a democracy and governance project spent nearly $500,000 on the local market for computer rentals, printers, Internet service, office rental, equipment and supplies during start-up.
At the same time, we understand the importance of partnering more directly with a variety of organizations, including local entities. However, U.S. law demands that grantees meet strict U.S. Government criteria to be fully accountable and liable for spending U.S. taxpayer dollars. It would be irresponsible of me as a USAID employee—and also unfair to me as a U.S. taxpayer—to make awards to organizations unable to track funds.
Immediately after the January 2010 earthquake, we worked with existing partners to quickly provide life-saving assistance. Following the emergency phase, we have continued to increase contracting to local partners and build the capacity of Haitian organizations to receive direct funding—in line with USAID Forward procurement reforms. Since the earthquake, we have worked directly or through sub-awards with over 400 Haitian non-governmental organizations and firms.
To increase the number of new firms who compete, we have reached out to local entities and made them aware of U.S. government contracting opportunities and requirements.
- Since the earthquake, the U.S. government has hosted or participated in more than 30 Haitian diaspora-focused events. I have personally participated in 10 or more of these events in areas with significant Haitian Diaspora populations, such as Miami, New York, Chicago, Houston, New Jersey and Washington, D.C.
- In Haiti, we regularly conduct “How to Do Business with USAID” seminars. When we host pre-award conferences, on average more than 50 individuals from various organizations attend, including Government of Haiti representatives.
Many of our prime contractors use a variety of local sub-grantees. Sub-recipients of contracts make great implementers and it affords the prime contractor the opportunity to build the financial tracking capacity of the sub-grantee. We are making very deliberate efforts to build the capacity of these sub-awardees to receive U.S. funds directly in the future.
- A solicitation for a new, large procurement recently closed; the awardee is required to identify five local organizations to qualify as primary implementers by the third year and be eligible to receive direct awards from USAID, or face financial consequences (making them “walk the talk”).
- We have agreements in place with Haitian certified public accounting firms to provide financial services to our partners and work with local organizations to build their financial capacity to receive direct awards.
And we are making progress. Between March 2011 and April 2012, more than 40 percent of our funding went to non-traditional USAID partners—or partners which had never before received funding from USAID. Among them are two Haitian-American firms that were previous sub-awardees and which are now managing multi-million dollar contracts. One of the best ways to become a direct recipient of USAID funding is to begin as a sub-awardee.
Although this new way of doing business is much more time intensive, we also realize this is the best way to build local capacity and move USAID Forward.
Visit our FAQ Page for additional information on how we do business with local firms.