A nonprofit created and led by Secretary of State John Kerry’s daughter failed to deliver on promises made in government contracts and was subsequently awarded millions of Department of State dollars, The Daily Caller News Foundation has learned.
Dr. Vanessa Kerry’s nonprofit – called Seed Global Health – pledged to send 90 volunteer doctors and nurses to between 10 and 14 Third World countries in 2016, documents obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation show. Instead, just over 70 volunteers were sent to only five countries.
Her group faced similar problems in earlier years, but that didn’t stop the Department of State from handing Seed another $6.4 million.
The Department of State has given Seed a total of more than $9 million since 2012, which was funneled through the Peace Corps, as TheDCNF previously reported. Kerry’s nonprofit began missing contractually-required targets almost from its outset.
But instead of penalizing Seed for failing to fulfill its contractual obligations, the Peace Corps lowered Seed’s requirements and extended its contract with more non-competitively awarded funds provided by the State Department, documents obtained by TheDCNF show.
The contracts were awarded under the Peace Corps-run and State Department-funded Global Health Service Partnership (GHSP) – a program Kerry established in conjunction with officials from both agencies. She formed Seed specifically for the medical volunteers program and has never competed with other organizations for the funding.
A 2012 Peace Corps contract required Seed to send 40 volunteers to five countries in 2014. Instead, Seed sent 42 volunteers to just three countries, documents show.
The contract also required Seed to deploy 48 volunteers for six to eight countries in 2015. The same three countries that got 42 volunteers in 2014 received 32 volunteers in 2015, only one more than in 2013, Seed’s first year of operation.
Seed had claimed it would recruit 48 volunteers for both 2014 and 2015 and requested a budget increase.
The second failure also violated another part of the contract that ordered Seed “to scale up the program over successive years, expanding the number of volunteers, countries and health professionals involved.”
The Peace Corps reduced the contract’s annual recruitment requirements for Seed between 2012 and 2015, but it’s unclear exactly when or by how much. The corps also gave Seed an additional nearly $900,000 award for underestimated salary and travel expenses. Kerry began drawing a six-figure salary from Seed around the same time.
The Peace Corps awarded the group a contract extension in 2015, which included another $6.4 million award of Department of State money and additional reduced objectives.
“The original cooperative agreement noted an aggressive schedule … which was revised after the first year of the project due to unobtainable targets,” a draft of the extension said.
The five-year plan in the original contract showed that Seed promised to send 180 volunteers to between 15 and 18 countries. The extension altered that to a six-year plan capped at 76 volunteers deployed to just five countries.
Meanwhile, Peace Corps, Seed and Department of State officials were aware of the recruitment failures, but ordered the extension anyway, meeting notes show.
“Seed has acknowledged they haven’t hit the mark regarding recruitment, and they want to reset,” notes from a meeting held more than three months before the September 2015 extension show. Peace Corps officials also considered hiring their own medical doctor recruiter – another way the agency would help Seed, rather than punish or replace them.
Peace Corps officials also discussed pressing “Seed to plan for improved marketing and outreach strategies for recruitment due to the significant shortfalls,” in a January 2014 meeting.
GHSP’s creation history may shed light on why Seed secured additional funding with reduced requirements, even after failing to hit marks early on.
The program “was created as a result of an unsolicited proposal to the Peace Corps director from Seed Global Health,” the agency’s justification for not competing the contract extension, which violated a policy that limits contracts to five years, said.
John Kerry announced GHSP’s State Department-funded expansion and boasted at a December 2014 event about his daughter’s nonprofit’s partnership with the Peace Corps, though the secretary of state had “no role” in awarding the funds to Seed, State Department Spokesman John Kirby previously told TheDCNF.
On Wednesday, Department of State spokesman John Kirby told TheDCNF:
“As we have made clear, Secretary Kerry played no role in this decision making while in the Senate or subsequently while at the State Department. Using funds appropriated by Congress for PEPFAR, the State Department Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator directs funds through an interagency process to seven implementing agencies, including the Peace Corps. To be clear – this is a Peace Corps partnership and its approval went the through the standard interagency budgeting and review process. There was – and remains – no conflict of interest here.”
Peace Corps and State Department officials, however, discussed non-competively funding Seed through the GHSP, records show.
A Peace Corps spokesman who declined to identify himself told TheDCNF:
Peace Corps has a cooperative agreement with SEED, not a contract, and it was awarded in accordance with federal standards. As we stated previously, Peace Corps is proud of the continued work our agency has done to provide critically-needed health training and services to high HIV-burden areas in Africa. By sending qualified health professionals abroad to teach and expand clinical capacity, we are saving lives.
Seed did not responded to TheDCNF’s requests for comment.