• News

  • Sports

  • Health

  • Uncategorized

  • SOCIÉTÉ

  • In English

  • Opinions

  • POLITIQUE

  • Conseil présidentiel

Loading

News

1 / 1

Exclusive | Bizarre spending on the Ouanaminthe canal

  • May 6, 2024
  • 18
  • 23
exclusive-|-bizarre-spending-on-the-ouanaminthe-canal

Documents obtained exclusively by AyiboPost raise questions over management of money collected for border canal

According to the official site fundraising for the canal on the Rivière des Massacres in Ouanaminthe, Haitian and foreign contributors have contributed nearly half a million US dollars and almost 43 million gourdes to the initiative.

The money remaining today will not be enough to finalize the construction work, according to the committee.

However, non-public documents obtained by AyiboPost raise questions about spending already made by the committee, seven months after it took office.

For example, the summary statement of expenses which covers the period which extends between September 19, 2023 and the beginning of 2024 shows payments to journalists of sums sometimes up to 150,000 gourdes for reporting costs and ” gratifications”.

Committee members “rewarded” themselves amounts ranging from 25,000 to 120,000 gourdes. Police officers normally paid by the state received tens of thousands of gourdes from the committee.

The Protected Areas Security Brigade (BSAP) collects its own funds, but the documents in AyiboPost’s possession attest to several transfers amounting to hundreds of thousands of gourdes to the structure. These amounts are paid for the surveillance service, confirms to AyiboPost the treasurer of the committee, Gaston Étienne.

Read also: Ouanaminthe: BSAP tried to seize canal cement by force

The entrepreneur and pastor Moïse Joseph is the committee member who made the vast majority of the major expenses in connection with the construction of the canal. His name is associated with around a hundred major transactions, according to documents obtained by AyiboPost.

Sometimes, Joseph is a direct beneficiary of the expenses since he owns a company working in the construction field.

Moïse Joseph admits to AyiboPost that his company “sells services” to the canal committee, which appears to represent a blatant conflict of interest. According to Joseph, his company supports the project even when there are no financial means available.

The total expenditure recorded until April 25, 2024 amounts to more than 101 million gourdes, confirms Michèle Adrien, a member of the committee’s finance commission.

However, according to Moïse Joseph, the remaining balance cannot ensure the finalization of the work.

Citizen Michel Hilaire is collecting money for the initiative in Canada through the “Mouvman Kanal la Pap Kanpe” (MKPK).

The 1is January this year, it distributes US$2,500 to “journalists, etc.” of US$10,000 for the canal committee, shows a list of dollar expenditures obtained by AyiboPost.

Hilaire did not respond to requests for comment before publication. The list of paid journalists is not public either.

The “konbit” ideal with contributions from entrepreneurs for a national cause is little reflected in the preliminary expenditure document for the construction of the canal.

The excavator operator alone costs the committee at least US$200 per day.

Rental and maintenance costs for the excavator amount to at least $46,500, the documents show.

The 1is January this year, it [Hilaire] distributes US$2,500 to “journalists, etc.” of a sum of 10,000 US dollars intended for the canal committee.

The names of a member of the committee — Moïse Joseph — are cited with that of a certain Henri Claude Audate in a gabion theft scandal on the construction site. 200,000 gourdes were released to pay a law firm, on March 20, 2024, as part of this case, according to the documents.

Joseph Moïse confirms for AyiboPost that indeed a law firm was hired to defend this cause which, according to him, was initiated by political hands to tarnish his image.

Guillaume Josaphat is part of the committee. He is one of the initiators of the movement which resulted in the resumption of construction work on the canal in August 2023.

Josaphat managed bank accounts and the first contributions before the committee was installed on September 19, 2023.

Michèle Adrien of the finance committee criticizes the latter for still not having given a detailed report – apart from a list of expenses without invoices – of its management.

At AyiboPost, Josaphat rejects the accusations. These are, according to him, “political negotiations”.

The Haitian technology firm HtiPay Inc collects funds for the channel and gives real-time updates on most transactions.

Voices are being raised online to demand a detailed report of the money received and the expenses made.

According to computer scientist Haveson Florvil, head of HtiPay, the lack of technical knowledge of the members of the committee would be one of the causes which hinder this work of accountability.

In addition, there is a problem of role assignments and a game of influence between members of the committee, continues Florvil, who sometimes participates in the structure’s meetings.

Voices are being raised online to demand a detailed report of the money received and the expenses made.

In an interview given to AyiboPost in November 2023, the committee spokesperson, Wideline Pierre, spoke of her dissatisfaction with the “poorly detailed” expenditure monitoring available on the HtiPay website.

Pierre wants a detailed report that can be presented to the press.

“I don’t manage the canal’s money, but this reporting issue is a torment for me who speaks on behalf of the committee,” she declared. Sometimes, I even thought about handing in my resignation.”

Contacted by AyiboPost, the Treasury Commission said it had made efforts to make the traceability of transactions effective.

This does not prevent a member of the said commission from pointing out technical errors such as unrecorded expenses and sometimes the entry of a transaction several times.

Some committee members are using the initiative to build political capital, according to several sources familiar with these maneuvers.

According to the document entitled “summary of expenses”, on October 11, 2023, the committee spokesperson, Wideline Pierre, had obtained the disbursement of 150,000 gourdes for 30 journalists covering the construction of the canal for their media.

Ethics prohibit a journalist from accepting money from the sources and subjects of his work. But Pierre maintains that it was a decision adopted by the entire committee.

I don’t manage the canal’s money, but this reporting issue is a torment for me speaking on behalf of the committee. Sometimes I even thought about handing in my resignation.

Wideline Pierre

Between the months of October and November 2023, around fifteen journalists whose names are clearly mentioned in the list of expenses had received 5,000 gourdes in “gratification” from the committee. It is unclear whether these payments continue today.

Several sources of fundraising exist.

More than 100 deposits were made totaling a sum of 143,362.35 US dollars into the committee’s bank account at UNIBANK, indicates one of the documents obtained by AyiboPost.

Around thirty deposits are recorded on the account in gourdes at UNIBANK totaling 7,439,987.06 gourdes.

Donations in kind are estimated at around fifteen million gourdes, according to the accounting made by those responsible for HtiPay.

According to Michèle Adrien from treasury, the head of HtiPay, Florvil, did not want to share specific data concerning the amounts collected on the online platform.

For his part, Haveson Florvil told AyiboPost that the committee as a whole never showed a real desire to produce a detailed report.

“The Htipay team will force the committee members to make the report public. We can block their access and all transactions on the platform,” threatens Florvil.

It should be noted that the relationships between the money collection platform and the construction of the canal have evolved over time.

At the beginning, HtiPay was part of a solidarity approach by making its computer system available free of charge for the canal construction project.

However, from January 1, HtiPay charges fees on each transaction and requires an amount for each service requested by the committee, confirms Haveson Florvil.

The committee as a whole has never shown any real desire to produce a detailed report.

Haveson Florvil

The committee has already paid 150,000 gourdes to HtiPay for an automatic report creation system, both parties confirm to AyiboPost.

Haveson Florvil submitted a first part of the report to the committee for the period from 1is September 2023 to January 15, 2024 and a second part going from January 16, 2023 to March 31, 2024, notes AyiboPost.

Another report should be submitted for the period from 1is to April 30, 2024, indicates Haveson Florvil.

According to Michèle Adrien, a member of the treasury, the report resulting from the HtiPay platform submitted by Haveson Florvil is riddled with errors.

“This report is not consistent with ours. He is not reliable. It will be put aside. The treasury is working to finalize its report in order to present it to the public shortly,” maintains Adrien.

Some committee members do not want full details of spending revealed in the public report, according to interviews conducted by AyiboPost.

This report is not consistent with ours. He is not reliable. It will be put aside. The treasury is working to finalize its report in order to present it to the public shortly.

This issue, as well as a trip by the spokesperson, Wideline Pierre, to France last January to participate in meetings with the Haitian community, is creating tensions, according to other members of the committee.

Upon his return to the country, Wideline Pierre did not want to present to the committee a report of his visit to France, arguing that it was “a personal trip”, informs an AyiboPost source at the committee level. This version of events is confirmed by Pierre.

The Cold War continues. Since February to the present day, Wideline Pierre no longer participates in committee meetings, informs Guillaume Josaphat.

Wideline Pierre mentions the relocation of the meeting place to Ferrier as the reason for her absence because she is worried about her safety.

At the same time, a rivalry for the political fallout from the construction of the canal exists between spokesperson Wideline Pierre and coordinator Moïse Joseph, according to several testimonies and the admission of one of those concerned.

Read also: Peasants, drivers and displaced people express their opinions on the presidential council

While awaiting a final decision on whether or not to release a detailed report of the committee’s expenses, several structures and personalities continue to collect funds for the construction of the canal. Normally, they should be accountable to the public. But nothing does not indicate whether they will do so.

Par Rolph Louis-Jeune

Cover image: volunteer workers participating in the construction of the canal at the Rivière des Massacres in Ouanaminthe, in September 2023. | © Pierre Michel Jean/AyiboPost


Discover our report produced with residents of Ouanaminthe in 2022 on the canal initiative:


Keep in touch with AyiboPost via:

► Our channel Telegram : Click here

► Our Channel WhatsApp : Click here

► Our Community WhatsApp : Click here

author avatar
Rolph Louis-Jeune