USAID Contracts with Sons of Abbas Called Into Question

Monday, April 27, 2009
Mahmoud Abbas
Reuters’ recent review of U.S. aid programs in the Palestinian territories uncovered two USAID contracts made with the sons of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that are involved with the agency’s attempts to promote a better public image of the U.S., winning over the hearts and minds of the Palestinians through advertising and infrastructure. Sky Advertising, managed by Abbas’ son Tarek, was awarded a $659,600 contract in May 2006, to take part in a USAID’s campaign to “reduce the negative attitudes and skepticism held by many Palestinians towards economic assistance from the American people.” The other contract of $1.89 million was awarded in May 2005 to a firm owned by Yasser Abbas, Falcon Electro Mechanical Contracting Company, to build a sewage treatment facility in the West Bank.
The lawyer for Abbas’ sons asserts that the firms were awarded the contracts after legitimate processes of competitive bidding. However, government watchdog groups question the fact that when the contracts were released to Reuters, the names of several aid recipients were withheld, including the names of Abbas’ sons and their respective companies. The explanation provided by USAID cites the need to maintain confidentiality and protect the security of the recipients from exposure to groups in the West Bank and Gaza, “including designated foreign terrorist organizations under U.S. law.”
The U.S. has supported Abbas and his Fatah Party publicly and financially since his election in 2005 and has condemned Fatah’s rival Hamas as a terrorist organization, supporting sanctions against the Gaza Strip, ruled by Hamas, since 2007.
-Amira Elmallah


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