Monday, November 29, 1999

Holbrooke promises transparency in US aid to Pakistan

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US Special Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke has promised "accountability" and "transparency" in America's civilian aid to Pakistan, a fortnight after a top Senator had expressed serious concern that the funds might end up in bank accounts of corrupt politicians and officials of the country.In a letter to Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Senator John Kerry, Holbrooke said the State Department and the USAID are taking several measures to improve accountability, including requiring separate bank accounts for US assistance and placing US-hired accountants inside ministries.Pledging more transparency as the money starts to flow, Holbrooke in his letter dated June 14 said: "We are beginning to communicate our plans to the [Government of Pakistan] and the Pakistani people."Your suggestion of providing more information about our efforts on the Internet is a good one, and we plan on putting more information on the USAID and embassy websites as our plans become more concrete."Holbrook's letter to Kerry is in response to the strong-worded letter written by the Senator last month in which he apprehended that the massive civilian aid flowing into Pakistan would be squandered or stolen and argues that the high level of corruption in Pakistan would make effective aid distribution a challenge."Among the Pakistani population there is already a fear that the funds will merely enrich the corrupt elite. Channeling so much of the money through untested institutions so quickly could serve to confirm these suspicions," Kerry wrote."If significant portion of the Kerry-Lugar-Berman funds are, for example, siphoned off to private bank accounts, political support for continued appropriation of the money could evaporate in Washington and Pakistan," he said."We agree completely," Holbrooke said in his response to Kerry's letter.In his four-page letter, Holbrooke, confirms that half of the USD 1.45 billion in aid to Pakistan in 2010 will be channeled through Pakistani federal and provincial agencies, 13 per cent of which will go to direct budget support."We also have established USAID and State Inspector General Offices in Islamabad, and are asking them to lend their expertise in the project design phase to help develop better mechanisms to guard against waste and fraud," Holbrooke said."We believe that, with such oversight, aid channeled through the government is at least as accountable as aid through under-supervised contracts - which was often the norm in the past," he said.

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