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Toni Schönfelder
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Toni Schönfelder
A lifetime of innovation

GAO AUDITORS SAY AGRICULTURE DEPARTMENT LAX IN HANDLING RUSSIAN FOOD AID The Agriculture Department failed to adequately direct, track and verify how $1.1 billion in U.S. food aid to Russia was distributed starting in December 1998, congressional investigators said in a report. The program was one of the largest food aid programs to a single nation in the history of U.S. food aid, the General Accounting Office said in the report released Tuesday. The GAO found that less than one quarter of the targeted regions in Russia received a tonnage amount of food that was equivalent to or near the planned allotment. ``The lack of timely reporting on commodity distribution by the U.S. government combined with weaknesses in the Foreign Agricultural Services tracking systems ... limited the agency´s ability to effectively manage the distribution process, identify discrepancies and minimize the potential for abuse,´´ the GAO report said. Russia asked the United States for food aid in December 1998 after its economy was reeling from the collapse of the ruble during the summer and farmers experienced their lowest grain harvests in decades. The United States agreed to provide 3.7 million metric tons of food aid. The report said most of this was sold by the Russian government to regional mills and was expected to raise $352.2 million for the Russian Pension Fund and $2.3 million for agricultural projects in Russia. A small portion of the U.S. food aid was donated to Russian social institutions to feed some of the poorest people, the GAO said. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee panel that deals with rural development and agriculture, requested the GAO report. The Foreign Agriculture Service disputed the GAO conclusion that because of internal control weaknesses it cannot assure food aid was delivered in agreed upon amounts to the intended regions. The service said there were no substantiated reports of fraud or diversion of commodities. AOL News (AP) Nov. 1, 2000

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