GAO: U.S. aid slow to flow to Mexico
Only about half of the U.S. funds approved for the Mexican anti-drug fight since 2008 have been committed, despite efforts to speed up delivery of goods and training, according to a study released Wednesday.
The report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that 46 percent of the FY2008-2010 money for the Merida Initiative had been obligated as of March 31. Just 9 percent had been disbursed, the report said.
The pace of delivery of the supplies had picked up lately, the report said, with the U.S. government providing five Bell helicopters, biometric equipment, forensics material and canine teams to the Mexicans. The U.S. government has helped train over 4,000 officers at Mexico's federal police academy.
But "a significant amount of equipment and training intended to be provided under the initiative is still pending delivery," the study said. That includes at least a dozen helicopters, four airplanes, 200 polygraph units and "multiple professionalization programs and projects."
The U.S. government initially pledged $1.4 billion for the three-year Merida Initiative in 2007, but the first tranche of money didn't get congressional approval until 2008. The Obama administration intends to continue the program, and has requested $310 million for the initiative for Mexico in the 2011 budget.
U.S. lawmakers and Mexican officials have complained that the aid is moving too slowly to a country under siege from violent drug-trafficking gangs. In some cases, Mexican officials have been so frustrated by the delays that they have purchased their own equipment instead of waiting for U.S. deliveries, the report said.
The GAO report said delays occurred because of the time it took to negotiate bilateral and inter-agency agreements, and to increase staff in U.S. diplomatic offices managing the program.
It noted that the State Department doesn't consider the disbursement levels to be good indicators of the progress being made, since they are affected by slow invoicing by vendors and problems with incomplete documentation.
The report also rapped the State Department for not having more complete timelines on the expected delivery of the aid, and for lacking indicators to to track progress of the program.
Mary Beth Sheridan
| July 21, 2010; 4:17 PM ET
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