The United States awarded contracts worth more than two million dollars to sons and allies of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, Reuters revealed on Wednesday. The American government, apparently embarrassed by the disclosure, withheld some details on the grounds of privacy and fears that would leave the people vulnerable to terrorists.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) said that family ties were not a factor in awarding the contracts, which included deals to repair roads and for mounting public relations campaigns to polish up America’s image. Other contracts were for advertising and promotions to help the Fatah party headed by Mahmoud Abbas, in the 2006 legislative election. Hamas surprised American experts and won a majority in the voting that the U.S. promoted as the introduction of democracy in the P.A.
Abbas’s son Yasser, who owns the Falcon Electro Mechanical Contracting Company and Sky Advertising Company, won U.S. contracts through “full and open” bidding, USAID said. His brother Tarak is general manager of the advertising firm.
Reuters pointed out that joblessness is the PA has doubled since the Oslo War, also known as the Second Intifada, began in 2000. It said the dealings with the Abbas family constitute a sensitive issue because of the hundreds of millions of dollars that the U.S. has pumped into the PA.
An Israel National Newsinvestigation last year revealed that the State Department has invested millions of dollars over the past decades in an attempt to increase American influence in the PA and win over the Arab population with cultural and educational grants and programs.
Reuters commented that USAID's slowness in releasing of information that the news agency requested “may suggest a degree of political embarrassment.” USAID hid the names of company officials and employees listed in prime contracts to Falcon and Sky, claiming the need for confidentiality and security.
Documents obtained by Reuters showed that after elections, the U.S. promoted a strategy “of providing targeted, discreet support to emerging leaders, independent media, and selected civil society efforts."
The government watchdog Project on Government Oversight in Washington sharply criticized the strategy. "When we're supposed to be promoting democratic ideals and restoring trust and faith in the American system of government, it's ridiculous that the American government isn't releasing complete and accurate contract information," the group’s general counsel Scott Amey told Reuters.
Yasser Abbas’s lawyers asserted that all of the contracts were won fairly and that he actually has suffered some business losses since his father took office.
U.S. officials said that the contract rules do not bar family members from winning contracts.