WASHINGTON — Haiti‘s top reconstruction planning official owns part of the country’s largest concrete company, which stands to reap major gains from the coming wave of international rebuilding aid.
Patrick Delatour, Haiti’s tourism minister, leads a commission that has been crafting plans to rebuild Port-au-Prince and other earthquake-devastated areas. He acknowledged he is 5% owner of GDG Concrete and Construction, which he started in 2000 with his cousin. The company, which calls itself Haiti’s only supplier of ready-mixed concrete, helped construct the U.S. Embassy and several other major buildings in Port-au-Prince, it says on its website.
“I own a 5% share of that particular company, and in the long term, when that company continues to grow, it is obvious that I will have my interest protected in there,” Delatour said in an interview from Haiti. “It is normal. I don’t see any conflict of interest.”
The company’s website lists Delatour as vice president, but he said he took a leave from that post when he became tourism minister in 2006.
That majority owner, Haitian-American Michael Gay, is Delatour’s cousin, both say. GDG employs the minister’s nephew, Bernard Delatour.
A graduate of Columbia University, Delatour lost his elderly parents in the earthquake. He has been featured in several news stories since the quake as a spokesman for the government’s reconstruction efforts, which he says could require $3 billion in international aid. His interest in the construction company has not previously been reported.
Delatour said that he declared his ties to the company on a disclosure statement and that Haitian law allows his holdings. He compared his situation to that of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who owns a majority of Bloomberg, a media company.
New York’s Conflicts of Interest Board ruled that since Bloomberg’s company does no business with the city, the mayor was not required to sell his shares. CDG has done work for the Haitian government, its website says, including the Department of Transportation and Public Works, Toussaint L’Ouverture International Airport and a government residential building.
“That is three government projects among hundreds of private ones,” Delatour said.
Delatour also likened his situation to that of Dick Cheney. After Cheney became vice president in 2001, he retained stock options in Halliburton, an oil services company, and their value soared as the company became a major player in Iraq rebuilding. Before taking office, Cheney signed an agreement to donate the options profits to charity.
“American Cabinet officers are not paid wages that are below the poverty level,” Delatour said. “Haitian ministers make less than taxi drivers.”
Delatour should cut his ties to the company, said Robert Maguire, a Haiti expert at Trinity Washington University in the District of Columbia.
“How appropriate is it, in the aftermath of this tragedy, when massive contracts may be left to this company and a minister may be in a position to reap personal benefits?” Maguire asked.
Gay, who spent most of his career as an engineer in the USA, said the company is clearing rubble and doing rebuilding work for private companies.
GDG is in position to win donor-funded rebuilding contracts, Gay said, but he fears that large international companies will get most of the work.
“No American company is going to be giving you a subcontract just because you are the cousin of a minister,” Delatour said. “They are not in the charity business.”
Just another move by the Preval/Delatour circle to steal more money. They really don’t care how obvious it is and willingly “give the finger” to the International Community that stands mute as hundreds of millions are stolen by hold-up people who do not even bother to wear a mask.