Monday, June 13, 2005
U.S. Congress to run Palestinian Authority
Ori Nir in The Forward [registration required] gives an account of the latest congressional Palestine-bashing that needs no comment from me.
Congress is taking the unprecedented step of establishing an in-house oversight apparatus to monitor daily how American aid money to the Palestinian Authority is being spent.
Rep. Jim Kolbe, the Arizona Republican spearheading the effort as chairman of the House subcommittee dealing with foreign aid appropriations, said that the new system will monitor online American funds as they are requested by the Palestinians, appropriated by the American government and spent in the West Bank and Gaza. Kolbe announced the new monitoring mechanism, which is still being designed, during a briefing Monday following his return from a recent trip to the Middle East.
The ranking Democrat on Kolbe's subcommittee, Rep. Nita Lowey of New York, .... an influential New York lawmaker who has long led pro-Israel efforts in the House, played a key role in negotiating many of the restrictions placed on aid to the Palestinians approved by Congress last month.
He [Kolbe] acknowledged that stringent oversight of American spending in the territories already exists and that the new oversight apparatus is unprecedented. "We as a subcommittee have never done this in any country, but we think that it is important enough that we have this kind of oversight," Kolbe said.
Early last month, Congress passed a $140 million emergency aid package to the Palestinians. The aid was to be disbursed indirectly, under strict conditions, through USAID for development projects carried out by nongovernmental organizations. Then, on May 26, when Bush met with Abbas, he pledged another $50 million in direct aid. The administration is soon expected to ask Congress for another $150 in aid to the Palestinians, to be included in next year's foreign aid budget.
In addition to the $140 million approved last month by Congress, Washington lawmakers earmarked $5 million for setting up an independent auditing apparatus that would scrutinize the use of the American dollars. Kolbe said his committee's auditing mechanism would be separate from the independent process called for in last month's bill or in any existing procedures for monitoring how American aid dollars are spent in the West Bank and Gaza.
"We want to be able to see requests as they come in for contracts, we want to be able to look at those contracts, we want to be able to see the vouchers and we want to see the expenditures on a daily basis," Kolbe said. The main purpose, he explained, is "to be sure that the money we are providing the Palestinians will get spent for the purposes for which it is allocated and that it does not find its way into the hands of organizations like Hezbollah or Hamas, where it could be used for terrorist purposes."
Did you catch the "daily basis" part? Wouldn't it be wonderful if the U.S. Congress would exercise a tenth of this effort in overseeing the expenditures of the U.S. government, and most especially the military?