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Show me the money! - Golding calls for audit of Haiti relief funds - Jamaicans to stay till March 5

Published:Monday | February 8, 2010 | 12:00 AM

IN THE wake of the mushrooming of thousands of organisations throughout the region soliciting money for emergency aid in Haiti, Jamaica's Prime Minister Bruce Golding has called for an audit of all funds collected in Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member states.

In the presence of CARICOM chairman, Dominican Prime Mini-ster, Roosevelt Skerrit, Golding said this should be done quickly in order to determine how much money has been collected so far, how much has been spent and how much is left.

His comments were made during a weekend news conference along with members of the CARICOM mission to Haiti. Members of the team, which included former Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson, visited Haiti on Saturday.

"I don't think that there will be any difficulty getting all the entities that have raised money to come to the table and say, 'Look, how can these funds be utilised to ensure in the most effective way for the Haitian people'," he said,

Stressing that he was not suggesting any wrongdoing, the prime minister explained that conducting the audit would "bring all of us to the same table so that there can be an understanding" on the way forward.

"We are at a point now where instead of running in with a bucket of water, we need to be a little more structured and coordinated," he said.

The glut of aid agencies and governments trying to deliver assistance to Haitians has sometimes had a counterproductive effect, with resources not being efficiently allocated, some commentators have argued.

Golding said CARICOM would be a useful vehicle through which some of these funds could be channelled in a way that was "transparent" and "accountable".

The prime minister also announced that Jamaica has received enough financial assistance from CARICOM to allow its contingent of soldiers and medical personnel to remain in Haiti at least until March 5.

No strife with caricom

Last week, Government announced that it was withdrawing the Jamaican contingent because it could no longer afford the $774,000 bill per day to keep them there. That decision was reversed after the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency provided US$10m and promised a further US$30m.

In an obvious attempt to reduce tensions, Golding said there was no prior arrangement for CARICOM to finance Jamaica's mission to Haiti.

"Neither was there any demand on the part of the Jamaican Government for CARICOM to do that," he said.

Golding explained that Jamaica had hoped to secure financial assistance for the mission from several multilateral agencies.

However, he said this did not materialise, as a number of those agencies indicated they had already made commitments to Haiti.

More than 200,000 people were killed and at least one million displaced after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake shook Haiti, causing widespread devastation in the capital, Port-au-Prince, and other areas on January 12.

Since then, Jamaica had led CARICOM's relief operation there.

However, come March 5, CARICOM will switch the focus of its operations in Haiti from emergency relief to reconstruction.

Patterson, who is the region's special envoy on Haiti, told journalists that several long-term measures will have to be taken to ensure the "rebirth of the country".

These measures, he said, should take into account the economic and social aspects of development as well as the environment.

"Simply putting back what was there before the earthquake will not be enough," he said.