The State Department’s Office of Transition Initiatives, or OTI, says it has carried out “over 60 engagements in conflict-prone countries by promoting reconciliation, jumpstarting local economies, supporting emerging independent media, and fostering peace and democracy through innovative programming.”
Dig through OTI’s budget and you’ll see such intriguing items as “develop an internal and external communication strategy for the government of Paraguay,” $19,593.29.
But many of the OTI’s publicly available spending records are vague or incomplete.
Spending records don’t list the Cuba project that OTI operated from a secret base in Costa Rica, for instance. Nor do they list Costa Rica.
OTI reported spending a total of $1,263,694,937 over the past 12 years, including $460,987,292 that was purportedly spent in the U.S.
The agency’s annual budget jumped from $6 million in 2007 to $281,722,787 in 2018 before dropping to $198,453,793 in 2019.
The top 10 target countries were:
Syria, Libya, Nigeria, Kuwait, Colombia, Ukraine, Lebanon, Burma, Cameroon and Honduras.
OTI’s top five contractors were Chemonics International Inc., $324,220,306; Social Solutions International Inc., $166,412,017; Creative Associates International Inc., $166,113,425; Development Alternatives Inc., $118,749,648; and International Business Machines, $86,881,358.
Both Creative Associates and Development Alternatives have been key operators in Cuba.
OTI’s spending records show that $74,201,873 went to undisclosed contractors and awardees from 2007 to 2019.
Many budget descriptions are shrouded in acronyms. From 2007 to 2019, for instance, the agency spent $115,264,568.56 on a category listed only as IGF::CL::IGF – GHSI-III.
In government speak, IGF stands for Inherently Governmental Function, defined as “a function so intimately related to public interest that it must be performed by government personnel and not by government contractors,” according to USASpending.gov.
IGF::CL::IGF is an activity that is “closely associated” with the performance of Inherently Governmental Functions.
GHSI-III stands for Global Health Support Initiative III, a U.S. Agency for International Development program that offers jobs in support of the agency’s health programs.
Other budget items are more specific. The description for an expense in Macedonia states:
This exercise is about figuring out how to operate effectively in this environment. Also trying to figure out if we need to re-examine the PAD (Project Appraisal Document) or at least the assumptions on which it is based. We had two staff conduct a scenario planning exercise and we will incorporate that in our review.
Cost: A modest $2,665.04.
Another budget item states:
Add additional funding in the amount of $7,873.87 for video services…provide a wide range of skilled public affairs and creative development support on an as-needed basis for key activities requiring unique or advanced skill and surge capacity required as a result of worldwide crisis or other events.
If you’d like to see more on the award descriptions, see this interactive graphic. This is the fine print – the most detail you’ll find on how the money was spent.
For more on OTI, see: