In Jan. 26, 2015, the U.S. Agency for International Development suspended the non-profit company that ran a Cuba program called “Hastening the Transition to Democracy.”
International Relief & Development, or IRD, had received at least $3.5 million for Cuba projects from September 2011 to September 2014.
USAID accused IRD of reckless spending and mismanaging contracts, many of them in Iraq and Afghanistan. The company also billed taxpayers for more than $1 million in parties and lavish retreats, the Washington Post reported.
In response, the Post said, the IRD fired its board of directors and laid off 21 employees.
IRD also sued USAID. During those proceedings, the agency admitted that the same employee who suspended IRD was in charge of USAID’s acquisition office, which was a potential conflict of interest.
On Aug. 3, 2015, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered USAID to declare that its suspension of IRD null and void.
USAID then released a statement saying:
USAID has nullified and vacated its suspension of IRD, and accordingly has retracted all findings on which it was based. Therefore, IRD should be considered as never having been suspended, and USAID retracts any statements asserting that the suspension of IRD was appropriate and validly imposed.
Ordained minister Arthur Keys Jr. founded IRD in 1998. In 2012, I wrote that he had earned more than $3 million in salary and other benefits from 2008 through 2010.
In 2011, Keys, 73, reported earning $676,916 from the IRD and related organizations.
His wife, Jasna Basarick-Keys, 62, was the company’s program operations chief. Her take was $363,255, I reported in 2013.
In October 2015, I wrote about an audit had found irregularities in IRD spending on its Cuba project.
IRD received 99.97 percent of its income from the U.S. government. John E. Bennett, an ex-State Department official who led a team in Iraq that worked with the firm, told the Post:
IRD is a nonprofit in name only. They built an organization designed to get USAID money.
U.S. government agencies gave IRD $2,239,721,199 from 2007 to 2018. See awards and contracts.
Keys has since retired and lives in Pennsylvania, the Tribune-Review reported.
In December 2014, Robert Ervin took charge as president and CEO. The IRD website promised “new levels of transparency, oversight, and accountability.”
A 2016 tax form, the latest available, showed Ervin’s salary and other compensation as $483,379.
No doubt, the USAID suspension and the Washington Post stories hurt the IRD’s image. So IRD opted for a sensible and timeworn solution: It changed its name.
Blumont is off to a roaring start. Since August, 2017, the company has raked in $38,317,453 in government funds, most of it from USAID. See contracts and awards.