U.S. reviews Cuban democracy programs

Feb. 8, 2013 at 11:47 AM

WASHINGTON, Feb. 8 (UPI) -- A U.S. government watchdog report said USAID improved its work on Cuban democracy programs but noted the U.S. State Department was lax in financial monitoring.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called on the Government Accountability Office to look into Cuban democracy projects last year when he was Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman.

Previous GAO reports were critical of the way in which the program was administered. Its latest report gave high marks to the U.S. Agency for International Development but was critical of the State Department's financial monitoring.

The GAO report said the State Department didn't carry out internal financial reviews on Cuban programs from fiscal years 2010 through 2012 "because of resource constraints."

"GAO is recommending that State take steps to improve its financial monitoring of implementing partners and provide clear guidance for approving subpartners," the report read.

The GAO said USAID and the State Department are working to support democracy in Cuba by giving contracts to partnering agencies working to promote a free civil society.

Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro voted in the country's parliamentary elections early this week. All candidates were chosen by the ruling Communist Party or its affiliates.

USAID worker Alan Gross is imprisoned in Cuba for assisting Jewish communities there. Congress has set aside millions of dollars in funding to support Cuban reforms.

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