Former resident’s excessive spending criticised by diplomats
A former Bermuda resident has come under fire for her use of US funds as the American ambassador to South Africa.
The Washington International Diplomatic Academy, a diplomatic training organisation, claimed that Lana Marks – a luxury handbag designer and Donald Trump appointee – got the US State Department spend as much as $1 million to renovate a second official residence.
Ms Marks had an official residence in the South African capital of Pretoria, she sought to “re-establish” a second residence in Cape Town, more than 800 miles away.
Earlier US ambassadors had access to a second residence in Cape Town, but it was decided the property was underused and too expensive to maintain in 2011.
The Cape Town house later became the home of the US Consul General and ambassadors stayed in hotels on visits to the city.
Virginia Blaser, the Consul General, was said to have been told told her family had to leave the house by July 2020 – three months before her term was scheduled to end – so renovations could be carried out to the home in time for it Ms Marks to move in by the end of September.
But she never stayed in the house. She was said to have visited Cape Town in December that year, but stayed in a hotel.
Ms Marks stepped down as ambassador last month – less than two years after she took the post – after the inauguration of Joe Biden, a Democrat, as US President.
The story quoted an unnamed official who said: “It was extremely poor use of taxpayer money, and a very poignant example of excess.
“There was no legitimate reason for the ambassador to be in Cape Town for extended periods.
“The government of South Africa has been planning to move Parliament to Pretoria, and during Covid-19, all sessions have been virtual.”
Ms Marks – who was born in East London, South Africa – was given permission by the State Department to remain at the official residence in Pretoria for an extra two months, even though she was no longer ambassador.
The Wida article suggested the move was linked to Mrs Marks’ health as she had spent ten days in a Pretoria intensive care unit after she contracted Covid-19.
Wida is an independent organisation that offers diplomatic training headed by Nicholas Kralev, a former Financial Times and Washington Times correspondent, who co-wrote the story with Robin Holzhauer, a former foreign service officer.
Ms Marks and her husband, Neville Marks, lived on Knapton Hill in Smith’s for several years in the 1980s before they moved to Florida, where she made a name for herself as a handbag designer.
Ms Marks was well known as a tennis player and her husband worked as a private psychiatrist.
She and Dr Marks were convicted in Bermuda’s Supreme Court in 1982 of employment of a nanny without immigration approval, but were cleared of the charges a later year in the Court of Appeal.
Dr Marks took legal action against the Government over the the refusal of his work permit renewal in 1983, but the Supreme Court upheld the decision.