By Rachel Belt
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (HCNN) -- US State Department officials said on Wednesday that Haitian authorities have taken more actions to fight corruption than any of their predecessors and called for more progress in transparency as Washington ponders ways to directly fund the Caribbean country's government for the first time in a long time.
Thomas C. Adams, Special Coordinator for Haiti at the US State Department at Foreign Affairs Committee hearing
The Special Coordinator for Haiti at the State Department, Thomas C. Adams, acknowledged that the Haitian government has taken unprecedented steps to fight corruption and ensure transparency, but he noted that the Haitian Parliament needed to approve government law proposals that could facilitate necessary prosecutions.
"This government has filed more anti-corruption cases than any of its predecessors have," Adams told US House representatives during a hearing in Washington on Wednesday.
"The weakness is that they don't prosecute them successfully because they need a new anti-corruption law," said Adams arguing the current law makes prosecution difficult.
The senior US diplomat made the comments during a hearing by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs in Washington to assess US aid effectiveness in Haiti presented as the largest US aid recipient in the region.
The Haitian government submitted to Parliament, more than a year ago, a law proposal to stiffen anti-corruption measures and to increase prison time for corruptors and their accomplices. The Senate approved the text five months ago while the lower chamber has yet to take a vote on it.
More than 60 people, including government functionaries, have been jailed or indicted on corruption charges this year and several dozen other corruption cases have been filed and submitted to the prosecutor's office by the anti-corruption unit which has received, from the government, additional financial and logistical means to help it carry out its mission.
Adams welcomed a series of initiatives taken by Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe to ensure transparency and better governance and to assure donors as to the efficient use of aid money.
"The prime minister took this up. He has appointed very good people on this and two months ago we kicked off this transparency initiative," Adams stated.
US officials believe there should be more audit of expenditures and income, as well as more prosecution of people involved with public corruption in Haiti.
The acting assistant administrator for the Latin American and Caribbean Bureau of USAID, Elizabeth Hogan, said Washington was now dealing with Haiti in different way.
"We are doing business differently in Haiti and we are not working around the government," Hogan told lawmakers.
She said the US government was cooperating with Haitian authorities in putting advisors in key government ministries in order to help them build the infrastructure in procurement, management, information systems, merit-based staffing, among other things.
"I think we are seeing results already," Hogan said.
For example, she said, "we have an integrated management system that we have now seen through the ministry of finance that links up all the government ministries so that they will provide for the first time control and transparency of Haiti's government expenditures."
"That is a very important first step," said Hogan.
She hopes that such measures, if well implemented, will ultimately lead to more government to government initiatives and direct funding for the Haitian government.
"We are on the path but we are not there yet. We are going in the right direction," added Hogan.
The US aid to Haiti has been for many years now transiting through NGOs and other non-governmental groups.