CRS Responds to Questions about Funds to PSI

July 19, 2013 by

Concerns have been raised about funds CRS provided to Population Services International (PSI), particularly the grant for $2.789 million for a malaria program in Guinea. PSI’s range of programs includes family planning – which CRS does not support or agree with. Below are questions and answers addressing concerns about the grant.

Why does CRS work with PSI?
To save lives. CRS’ association with PSI is all about saving lives, and has never included any aspect of family planning. For example:

  • In Guinea, CRS is working with PSI to fight malaria, a leading cause of death among pregnant women and children under 5 in the country.
  • In El Salvador, CRS purchased water purification packets from PSI to provide victims of a major tropical storm in late 2011 access to clean drinking water. Clean drinking water is essential to save lives and prevent the spread of disease.
  • In Haiti, CRS bought water treatment tablets from PSI to treat victims of the 2010 cholera outbreak, and purchased rehydration salts from them in 2004 to treat diarrhea resulting from water-borne diseases, again saving lives.
  • In Zambia, CRS purchased from PSI a shipment of Clorin, an inexpensive household water treatment to ensure clean drinking water.

How much money is going to PSI?
In Fiscal Year 2012 CRS provided $9,588 to PSI for the water purification packets in El Salvador, mentioned above, which appeared in our 990 tax form. Days into our Fiscal Year 2013 (which starts October 1, 2012), PSI assumed a subordinate role in the Guinea malaria project, receiving $2.789 million over the next two years. The first part of that amount will appear on our next 990 for Fiscal Year 2013.

What is PSI’s role in the Guinea malaria program?
PSI will train and oversee community health workers to educate households on malaria prevention, and work with community organizations to hold anti-malaria themed events. It is also responsible for a media marketing campaign on malaria prevention and treatment. All of this is focused specifically on saving lives by preventing malaria.

Couldn’t CRS just work with someone else other than PSI?
In Guinea, CRS did not choose PSI for this work. Rather, the Country Coordinating Mechanism (CCM), a body made up of local leaders from government and civil society, chose PSI. In the other country examples listed above, CRS purchased items, such as water purification packets, because PSI had them available at the time we needed them. If we purchased the materials elsewhere, it would have delayed the process and may have cost lives.

When CRS gives money to PSI in Guinea, can’t they use it however they wish?
Absolutely not. The contract with PSI is very clear that the money is non-fungible – that means it cannot be shifted to other PSI programs or expenses. Some will say that all money is fungible, but that is not true. There are very tight controls over the money to ensure it only goes toward the malaria program in Guinea. Not only does CRS oversee and audit PSI’s expenses for the malaria program, but the Global Fund also has a team of Local Fund Agents who monitor all expenses as well, checking receipts, performing spot checks, auditing PSI’s books and examining every aspect of the money provided to PSI. We would not have agreed to work with PSI otherwise.

Couldn’t CRS see criticism of the malaria grant to PSI coming?
Yes, of course. But we had a choice: we could either accept funding from the Global Fund and save potentially thousands of people’s lives, knowing that the money could in no way go to PSI’s family planning activities, or we could walk away and turn our backs on thousands of people who may die from malaria, the number one public health problem in Guinea. At least 14% of child deaths in health facilities are due to this preventable disease. Since most children don’t even have the chance to access a health center, the death rate of children is probably much higher. We decided that saving children’s lives was more important than possible criticism. We believe we made the right choice.

Does working with PSI violate Church teaching?
No. Like many Catholic organizations that engage with the wider secular world, CRS sometimes works with organizations that hold positions contrary to Church teaching. When we were instructed by the donor to work with PSI in Guinea, we went through a very thorough review process to ensure that our local church partners were in agreement with CRS continuing with the grant with PSI included; we also very carefully reviewed the grant agreements and built in checks (mentioned above) to ensure that all messages in this project were focused solely on malaria and did not incorporate family planning.

In addition, CRS has a process for vetting our relationships with partners that is approved by the oversight committees of our board of directors, including bishops who are elected by the bishops of the United States to represent them in governing CRS. We have posted a permanent link on the home page of our web site affirming and describing our commitment to Catholic teaching. As stated above, we made certain that our work with PSI did not advance any positions that violate Church teaching. We take very seriously concerns about the grants, and even more so, we take very seriously our commitment to Church teaching.

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