Loading
March 29, 2012
Seeing Red
By Deacon Patrick Moynihan *

By Deacon Patrick Moynihan *

When it comes to Haiti, the Associated Press appears to be able to turn over stones other news services either miss or cannot handle. In late 2010, the AP broke the story on the likely connection between the cholera outbreak in Haiti and the Nepalese military personnel serving in the country under the UN. This time, the AP has brought to light an odd multi-million dollar real estate purchase made in the midst of the international relief effort. 

According to Martha Mendoza and Trenton Daniel of the AP, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) used $10.5 million of the charitable funds the organization received on behalf of the quake-stricken people of Haiti to purchase what is known locally as the “Hilton Property” for its headquarters. The emergency relief organization has occupied the partially constructed buildings of the failed hotel project since Haiti’s earthquake on January 12, 2010. The story, published on March 26, adds that this purchase is just part of the $754 million dollars the IFRC has spent to date in Haiti.

This is not the first time that I have heard about this peculiar real estate project. Just months after the earthquake, I was contacted by a KPMG accountant. On a phone call in lieu of a meeting that would have sunk me in traffic for hours, the accountant informed me that the firm was helping its client, the IFRC, evaluate the benefits of buying the property they were currently leasing. As part of the calculation, he informed me that the emergency relief organization was contemplating being in Haiti for 5 to 10 years. 

You might wonder why a missionary would get a call from a Big Four accounting firm to confirm real estate values. Well, not long before the inquiry, I had published a column on land values in Haiti. In the article, I stated that land was more expensive in Haiti than one would expect. I think my price perspective fit their needs.

While not a professional appraiser, I did have enough knowledge and contacts to give an informal, uncompensated opinion on the price—which I did. I also let the caller know that while I felt the price was acceptable, the idea that the IFRC would be able to purchase a headquarters before the government of Haiti had secured even temporary offices was not. I still think that. 

I am also a bit puzzled by the IFRC’s plan, revealed this week by the AP, to convert part of the facility into a hotel and conference center. This was not mentioned in my conversation with the accountant. I wonder if this may have been added later as a cover story to mitigate the danger of negative PR for purchasing such a large property while the country remained crippled. The purchase has to be a bit embarrassing to say the least.

Even if the hotel and conference center is an actual idea, it is an alarming example of mission creep. Since when is it acceptable to build a hotel with relief funds? How does hotel operation fit with flood fighting? Could they be thinking of housing their own aid workers instead of paying for four star rooms up town?

The story’s revelation that the IFRC has spent over three-quarters of a billion dollars alarms me more than the hotel plan. This admission certainly gives support to President Martelly’s concern over the lack of visible results from the billions that have been spent in just over 24 months. This past September, Haiti’s belabored president lamented during a CNN interview, “… they’re saying that it was about saving lives. So you can’t really tell what money was properly used.” 

The story also makes me feel obligated to relate my only real experience with the IFRC in Haiti. On December 18, 2010, just eleven months after the earthquake, I visited the IFRC’s “Hilton Hotel” compound. A friend and I were in search of assistance with transporting a corpse to the morgue from a nearby tent city. Not only did we not find help, we found 163 vehicles sitting idle. It was the weekend; the landlords or tenants, whatever the case at the time, were out until Monday.

This latest story from the AP is the kind that makes a missionary’s head spin and, I hope, charitable donors see red.

Deacon Patrick Moynihan graduated Culver Military Academy in 1983, from Brown University with BA in Sanskrit and Classics in 1987, and from Providence College with an MA in Religious Studies [Theology] in 1999.

He taught Latin and English in a Catholic High School from 1987 to 1990, traded commodities, futures and options for an international trading company from 1990 to 1995 and directed a free Catholic mission school in Haiti for academically gifted children from the poorest areas around Port au Prince from 1996 to 2006.

Deacon Moynihan was ordained in October of 2001 as a permanent deacon for the Diocese of Rockford [IL] where he was the director of formation and later the Office for the Permanent Diaconate from 2001 to 2006. He has since gone back to Haiti and is currently the president of The Haitian Project.
« Previous entry     Back to index     Next entry »
Ads by Google
(What's this?)
blog comments powered by Disqus

RESOURCES »

Ads by Google (What's this?)

Featured Videos

Ebola orphans thousands of children in West Africa
Ebola orphans thousands of children in West Africa
One year after Haiyan: Philippines rebuilds homes, lives
An Indian contribution to the Vatican's Synod on the Family
Christ Cathedral CNA video Sept 2014
Alejandro Bermudez of CNA accepts ice bucket challenge
'The Real Albania,' remembering those who fled
Pope Francis in Albania, "one of the most important visits of the post-communist era in Albania"
Pope Francis greets paralyzed man who risked all to see him
Franciscans on the banks of the Tiber in Rome, working for the New Evangelization
Pilgrimage from Czech Republic to Assisi and Rome for intentions
Testimony of young Indian who met Pope in Korea
Preparations of the Closing Mass of 6th Asian Youth Day
Missionary of Charity, Korea
Testimony of Christian Love during Pope's Visit to Korea
Religious Sisters in South Korea react to Pope Francis kissing a baby
Warm atmosphere during Holy Mass at Daejeon World Cup Stadium
Images inside Pope Francis flight to South Korea
The tombs of the early Christians
Missionaries of Africa, called "the White Fathers"
Italian youth give testimony after mission to Peru
Nov
23

Liturgical Calendar

November 23, 2014

OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, KING OF THE UNIVERSE

All readings:
Today »
This year »

Catholic Daily

Gospel of the Day

Mt 25:31-46

Gospel
Date
11/23/14
11/22/14
11/21/14

Daily Readings


First Reading:: Ezek 34: 11-12, 15-17
Second Reading:: 1 Cor 15: 20-26, 28
Gospel:: Mt 25: 31-46

Saint of the Day

St. Romuald »

Saint
Date
11/23/14

Homily of the Day

Lk 19:45-48

Homily
Date
11/21/14
11/20/14
11/19/14
     HTML
Text only
Headlines
  

Follow us: