Bags of money

A project to measure Palestinian “citizen satisfaction” regarding U.S. aid, launched five weeks before Barack Obama’s departure from the White House, remains on track and will cost U.S. taxpayers millions to carry out.

On a related issue, a plan in which U.S. taxpayers will pay companies to publicize the U.S. aid given to the Palestinians was launched shortly after Obama left office.

According to a new document that WND located through routine database research, audiences targeted by the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, include:

  • The Palestinian public, including (but not limited to): youth between ages 16-35, women and marginalized communities;
  • Palestinian media, including both traditional (print and broadcast) and digital media;
  • The Israeli public; and
  • The American public.

“The purpose of this contract is work with USAID on implementing the USAID West Bank and Gaza’s communication strategy that will increase public awareness and disseminate information about USAID assistance to both Palestinian and global audiences,” the solicitation said.

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The agency launched the P.R. plan “to promote a better understanding, appreciation, and sustained support for USAID’s foreign assistance among all stakeholders both in and outside of the West Bank and Gaza.”

Indeed, a flurry of U.S.-funded activity in the West Bank and Gaza launched in recent months is proceeding unimpeded. In addition to the “final performance assessment,” other recent endeavors include an initiative to build tunnels and other water-utility infrastructure linking Palestinian institutions and facilities to regional reservoirs.

The continued rolling out of these and other initiatives comes amid conflicting media reports that the Trump administration froze – or was considering freezing – $221 million that Obama released prior to Trump’s inauguration for programs benefiting the Palestinian Authority.

On the contrary, USAID recently met with contractors in the West Bank to discuss ongoing opportunities and already is reviewing bids submitted in consideration of the projects, according to a review of contracting documents that WND located through routine database research.

In the citizen satisfaction initiative, for instance, USAID could award contracts valued at $10 million over five years to assess whether the Palestinian Municipal Development Project, or PMDP – a $30 million local-government improvement project – is producing anticipated results.

USAID is winding down its final year for the PMDP, whose goals include the construction of 20 “Citizen Service Centers” designed to make it easier for Palestinians in the West Bank to obtain permits and licenses and to enable local governments to oversee regulations, process taxes and manage land.

The agency will hire a vendor to conduct surveys to see if the Palestinian people are pleased with this project. It also will attempt to identify “unmet needs” that potentially can be addressed in future assistance programs, according to updated documents dated Feb. 15.

The assessment could cost $4 million to $6 million during the first three years, and an additional $1 million to $2 million annually for two follow-up option years.

‘Building Foundations’

Immediately prior to revelations that Obama was unfreezing the PA-bound funds, WND reported USAID had launched the $500 million Building Foundations Program.

Among other benefits to the Palestinian people and government, the initiative seeks to build or improve Gaza and West Bank transportation networks and water, solid-waste and electric-power infrastructure. It also includes the creation of governmental buildings and other facilities, such as sports complexes, “designed to benefit the public interest.”

The recently located documents show that USAID met with interested vendors Jan. 18 in the West Bank city of Al Bireh – the location of “the tomb of martyred leader Yasser Arafat,” as the municipality touts itself – for a “pre-bid meeting” at agency contractor AECOM’s offices to discuss the program.

The agency then took contractors on a site visit in the city of Yatta, where it intends to soon issue task orders to build a network of tunnels and related water infrastructure, replete with a new radio communications system.

Indicative of the Building Foundation Program’s progress, an attachment to the latest procurement document answers 103 questions of a primarily technical nature posed by potential contractors.

Additionally, USAID this past week extended until March 13 the deadline for bids on this phase of the project, the first of many endeavors slated for the Palestinians.

In many of the recently released documents, USAID includes a pitch for how the U.S. government “continues to be the leading provider of bilateral development and humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians, providing more than $5.2 billion since 1994.”

“The USAID West Bank and Gaza (WBG) Mission manages more than 54 multi-year activities with a life of activity value totaling over $1.981 billion.

“Within this portfolio, the Mission manages an additional approximate 30 grants, with both local and U.S. organizations, that are funded through an annual program statement (APS) issued by USAID’s Office of Conflict Management and Mitigation (CMM).”

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