Money intended to pay for the education of poor children in Haiti has gone missing. Many are now pointing the finger at the country’s new president, Michel Martelly, and the people around him.
When Martelly was elected last May, he announced a $42.5 million National Fund for Education to be financed by a tax on international phone calls and wire money transfers to Haiti from its large diaspora. The money would provide a free education for every Haitian child. Even former President Bill Clinton kicked in $2 million, and other international donors added $10 million to the project.
Now, many in the Haitian Parliament are asking questions. Any money raised has not flowed through the government, and only the president and his inner circle appear to know where it went. Lawmakers found that only $2 million has been put into the National Fund for Education and that no withdrawals have been made. They estimate that $26 million cannot be accounted for. Within the country, yearly registration fees of $2.50 to $5 have been waived for around a half-million school children. Schools, however, report not having been compensated for those lost fees. As a result, some schools are reporting that they are short of such basic supplies as chalk. Haitians living abroad are also angered: As a result of the education tax, calling cards that once gave them 23 minutes of talking time now only provide them with six.
If adults are supposed to set an example for their children, what kind of an example is being set here?
Finmeccanica, the Italian aerospace giant, is best known for making an array of snazzy military products: helicopters, aircraft, space missiles and all kinds of “black box” electronics.
Now, in an Italy already embroiled in economic turmoil and political mayhem, the incoming government of Premier Mario Monti is being handed yet another problem, courtesy of Finmeccanica, which is 30 percent owned by the Italian treasury. While Americans were enjoying their Thanksgiving turkey last Thursday, Finmeccanica’s chairman announced that the board will meet this upcoming week to discuss charges that the aerospace giant maintained a slush fund used to pay politicians in return for getting government contracts. Already, one Finmeccanica director has been arrested in the corruption probe, another has resigned, and many company officials are under investigation.
The specific allegations are that a division of the company, called Selex Sistemi Integrati, skimmed millions from government contracts and then handed the money over to third parties, who in turned used the money to pay politicians and others in power. Finmeccanica chairman Pier Francesco Guarguaglini is under investigation and has denied any wrongdoing, as has his wife, Marina Grossi, the chief executive of the Selex subsidiary.
For Monti, this is a headache he can ill afford to have. He has called for a “rapid and responsible” solution to the allegations. That, of course, may be wishful thinking: Finmeccanica has been performing poorly of late. Its stock is down. Many fear that it will lose its credibility in the marketplace and that customers may begin to shun the company.
Finmeccanica was once the pride of Italy– a financial powerhouse that only enhanced the country’s image in the business world. Like so much else about Italy these days, can Finmeccanica be restored to its former glory?
The Australian bribery scandal involving a former Labor member of Parliament keeps getting more delicious.
The case centers over attempts by energy industry executives to get millions of dollars in government contracts. The bait was a woman named “Tiffanie, ” the setting was a five-star hotel and and an Italian restaurant named Tuscany where the wine flowed.
Now Tiffanie is talking. Actually it is Tiffanie’s friend Cindy, who made a statement to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). In it, Cindy talked about visiting the house of an energy industry official with a luxurious pool whose lights went on when someone entered it, a massive in-home theater and a garage with a rotating platform to show off cars.
Tiffanie and her friend, Cindy, however, may have the last word. Tiffanie has said she was paid $400 by the energy companies — via a former boxer name Lucky Gattellari — to meet the former MP, Ian Macdonald, in a hotel room. She described Macdonald as being “gross and sick.” Even more, once entering the hotel room, Tiffanie said that Macdonald simply went to sleep.