By Evan Dyer, CBC News, April 8, 2023
Another delay in the delivery of Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicles (MRAPs) to Haiti means that Haitian police will have to wait even longer for the vehicles they desperately need to protect their dwindling force from Haiti's ruthless and well-armed gangs.
The manufacturer has confirmed for CBC News that the earliest potential delivery date is May 3 — and that is subject to change.
Mississauga-based INKAS signed a contract to deliver 18 armoured vehicles to Haiti last year. The contracted delivery date was subsequently extended to the last day of 2022. But by that date, only six of the MRAPs had been delivered.
Since then, three more have been transported to the island by the Canadian Air Force. Half of the contract remains unfulfilled.
Although Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has mentioned the vehicles frequently when discussing Canadian assistance to Haiti, they are not a gift of Canadian aid. Rather, they're the subject of a commercial contract with a private Canadian company and the government of Haiti is paying full price for the equipment.
Ottawa has provided the military's heavy C17 Globemaster transport aircraft to rush the vehicles to the Haitian National Police as soon as they become available.
Haitian government points the finger
The delays have caused tensions between Canada and Haiti and between the Haitian government and Haitian national police, who find themselves on the losing side of a war with heavily-armed gangs that have overrun much of the capital Port-au-Prince.
March 2023 was the worst month yet of the recent crisis in terms of homicides, kidnappings and territory lost to gang control.
The gangs have access to guns ranging in power up to .50-caliber, while Haitian police depend heavily on the few armoured vehicles they have.
Last month, the country's acting justice minister, Emmelie Prophète-Milcé, accused INKAS of not respecting the terms of its contract.
"The supplier did not keep its word," Prophète-Milcé told Haitian radio Magik 9.
The manufacturer hits back
INKAS responded to the criticism with a harshly-worded rebuke to Haitian media.
"We are pained to learn that certain news outlets in Haiti believe they have a free licence to spread vile lies about our organization, about our activities, and most of all about our obligations," wrote chairperson Margarita Simkin.
"We've always tried to keep a low profile, and to help the people of Haiti and Haitian National Police, not to the best of our ability, but far beyond.
"With production being crippled by the global supply chain disruption, affecting every major automotive manufacturer, we have gone out of our way with gestures of good will — we have provided multiple additional Armoured Personnel Carriers, armoured vehicles, high-end drones and multiple, long-term training engagements, as well as vehicle maintenance to Haiti National Police — all free of charge to the nation of Haiti.
"All of the above is conveniently overlooked by every two bit 'journalist,' couch commentator and politician trying to cash in on issues, in the hopes of increasing their political capital, or perhaps dancing to the strings of their criminal masters."
Simkin also denied Haitian reports that INKAS had been paid in full and up front for the vehicles. She insisted the company lost money on the contract.
Supply chain problems
Speaking with CBC News earlier this year, INKAS company officials cited supply chain problems as the main cause of their failure to meet the terms of the contract.
"The war in Ukraine has affected manufacturers like Volkswagen Audi. It turned out that wiring harnesses for many vehicles that Volkswagen Audi produces are made in Ukraine," INKAS managing partner Eugene Gerstein said.
"More often than not, a vehicle is ready but it lacks a part that might be worth $100, like a sensor. Without that sensor, the vehicle cannot operate
"In our case, for example, transmission speed sensors were one of the issues that we've encountered.
"We're doing everything in our power to speed up the manufacturing process. We are acquiring the needed parts from everywhere, from all over the world ... working around the clock in shifts. Our procurement department is chasing parts around the world.
"It's a trench fight trying to get parts that someone else is trying to get."
Gerstein told CBC News that the company was working to overcome those problems and expected to deliver additional MRAPs by the end of March.
When that didn't happen, Gerstein told CBC the next likely date for delivery would be this month.
"We've ran into more snags — the estimated date at this space in time is more towards mid-April," he said in an email.
"We've set out to rebuild the whole electrical array by hand. Because the shortage also affects actual connectors as well (which are very unique), we are removing factory connectors from items like speedometers and adding a different, available style, and then adding the other side to each harness, piece by piece."
But INKAS has now delayed the next estimated delivery again.
"We've suffered a setback — some of the items we've intended to use and need are still missing," Gerstein said in an email. "We put in play an alternative strategy, however it again boils down to lead times from outside suppliers.
"Four vehicles will be ready by May 3. The subsequent three will be ready by May 24, and then the last 3 by June 14."
Posted April 8, 2023