Fraud and waste are so rampant in foreign programs that receive enormous amounts of money from American taxpayers that the U.S. government is spending $30 million to counter corruption in the projects it already funds. The new anti-corruption initiative will operate within the scandal-plagued United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which has a massive budget to provide humanitarian assistance worldwide and annually doles out billions to causes like reducing global poverty and under nutrition, providing bicycles for rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa, racial equality, and a national condom strategy in Eswatini.
Programs funded by USAID have long been plagued with wrongdoing as has the agency, which has an imposing annual budget of nearly $30 billion and operates loosely under the State Department. Citing the “critical importance of development and humanitarian assistance in advancing US interests around the world,” the Biden administration increased USAID’s budget substantially last year by nearly $2 billion. Among the administration’s priorities for USAID are reinforcing global health leadership and addressing the root causes of “irregular migration,” an experiment led by Vice President Kamala Harris that is failing miserably despite receiving around $300 million. The goal, according to USAID, is that the money will improve conditions in impoverished countries like El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras enough to deter its citizens from coming to the U.S. illegally. Instead, the U.S. has been slammed with record-breaking illegal immigration since Joe Biden moved into the White House.
Another fraud-infested USAID program that deserves scrutiny from its new anti-corruption division involves tens of millions of dollars in malaria drugs provided to Africa that are stolen annually and sold on the black market. The U.S. has spent billions of dollars in the last few years to treat malaria in Africa, where the disease is rampant and kills more than half a million annually. Years ago, a mainstream newspaper published a scandalous exposé documenting how organized networks steal large quantities of donated malaria drugs that end up for sale at street markets. More than 20% of the mostly American-funded malaria drugs are diverted annually with a street value of about $60 million, according to inside government sources cited in the news story. Uncle Sam provides the medication via a program called President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), which is led by USAID.
The agency’s new multi-million-dollar anti-corruption project aims to systemically address pervasive governance weaknesses that corrupt actors commonly exploit, according to the press release announcing the initiative this month. “This funding will strengthen the systems and actors needed to close loopholes, detect illicit finance and dirty money, follow its movement across borders, and ultimately hold corrupt actors accountable,” the press release states, adding that the investment will boost high priority reforms such as countering pervasive money laundering and enhancing asset recovery. “At the regional and global levels, this award will fund multi-country efforts to enhance international cooperation in tracking and blocking transnational corruption; and test tools and approaches that move anti-corruption practice forward,” the agency writes in its announcement.
USAID launched the new initiative to meet the criteria set by an overdue anti-corruption policy created about a year ago to address a crisis of fraud and waste in the agency’s programs. Embedded in the 45-page document is a section that indicates what inspired the Biden administration to craft the new policy. “While corruption inflicts grave damage on political systems and societies, it is also a profound personal injustice,” USAID’s anti-corruption policy states. “Women, marginalized communities, and the extreme poor bear the brunt of these harms, as corruption exacerbates unequal power relations and reinforces political, social, and cultural exclusion, which in turn makes it harder for these populations to hold corrupt officials accountable. Corruption often accompanies discrimination against women, LGBTQI+ individuals, indigenous persons, and other marginalized populations. These groups are regularly targeted for extortion – including sexual exploitation (“sextortion”) – and other egregious forms of abuse due to their perceived status in society. Understanding the linkages among corruption, discrimination, and exclusion is essential for ensuring that no one is left behind in our efforts to counter corruption.”