Menendez Sounds the Alarm on Trump Administration’s Selective Donation of Ventilators to Foreign Countries

Menendez Sounds the Alarm on Trump Administration’s Selective Donation of Ventilators to Foreign Countries

 

WASHINGTON – Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.)Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is raising serious concerns about the Trump Administration’s expenditure of more than $200 million in taxpayer dollars to donate ventilators during the COVID-19 pandemic to countries President Donald Trump personally selected.  

In an effort to ensure U.S. efforts to fight the global pandemic do not fall victim to President Trump’s politicization of our nation’s foreign aid, Senator Menendez is seeking clarifications on whether relevant agencies applied standard procurement, bidding and data-driven analysis in the Administration’s recent decisions to send thousands of ventilators to certain countries confronting the novel coronavirus. Among the countries the Trump Administration has provided the life-saving machines are Russia, India, and South Africa. 

“Given the scale and nature of the current [Covid-19] crisis, it is imperative that we ensure the effective use of U.S. aid dollars,” wrote Menendez to President Trump, citing the Administration’s suspect decision to waive congressional notification requirements for sending the ventilators during the pandemic.  “Providing ventilators to countries that need them is critical, but, as with any assistance, must be done in a productive and transparent manner. To that end, the National Security Council (NSC), in cooperation with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), must ensure greater transparency and accountability around the provision of ventilators.” 

Without a fulsome explanation for USAID’s procurement and provision of ventilators to a select group of countries, the President’s orders to ship more than 7,500 ventilators abroad, to just 40 countries, exemplifies the potential transactional politicization of U.S. foreign assistance and risks further tarnishing USAID’s reputation as an apolitical aid agency.

Senator Menendez reiterated his concerns in a separate letter to USAID Acting Administrator John Barsa, and called for further transparency regarding the respective roles of USAID and the NSC in the distribution decision-making process and the U.S. government’s efforts to ensure that COVID patients abroad have equitable access to life-saving ventilators. 

“To date, USAID has submitted two Congressional Notifications (CN) outlining the Administration’s plans to spend approximately $202 million in Global Health Program, Emergency Reserve Funds and Economic Support Funds, provided by the CARES Act, to purchase 7,582 ventilators to distribute to up to 40 countries,” wrote Menendez to Acting Administratior Barsa. “While the notifications provide some details, I am concerned that the NSC’s influence on these decisions both circumvents longstanding USAID procurement and accountability policies and interjects political agendas into how USAID allocates it Global Health and Emergency Reserve Fund resources.” 

A copy of the letter addressed to President Trump may be found HERE.

A copy of the letter addressed to Acting Administrator Barsa may be found HERE.

 

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