US government has halted funding several Syria relief agencies after realizing a systematic over payment to Turkish suppliers.
The US Agency for International Development (USAID)’s independent government auditor made the announcement in a statement, adding the organization had “established grounds resulting in the suspension of 14 entities and individuals involved with aid programs from Turkey.”
In its statement, USAID revealed “a network of commercial vendors, NGO employees, and others who have colluded to engage in bid-rigging and multiple bribery and kickback schemes related to contracts to deliver humanitarian aid in Syria.”
All charges relate to buying goods in Turkey, where suppliers were being systematically overpaid by NGOs, who are accused of failing to monitor their procurement, a process some of their staff was directly involved in.
Turkish private companies are charged with selling low quality goods, such as blankets and other basic materials for Syrians, to the NGOs at inflated prices and pocketing the difference, a senior USAID official said on condition of anonymity.
“What became clear in the course of this investigation was this was a pretty sophisticated operation,” the USAID official added.
Charities like the International Medical Corps (IMC) and the Irish charity Goal and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) which is headed by former British foreign minister David Miliband have been affected by the scheme. The IMC, one of the largest providers of medical aid to Syrians, confirmed that it had fired a number of its personnel after the allegations surfaced.
The NGO says that the 430 clinics under its support have so far treated more than six million Syrians in Syria and its neighboring countries.
Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura estimates that over 400,000 people have been killed in the conflict, which has furthermore displaced over half of Syria’s pre-war population of about 23 million.
According to the UN’s Financial Tracking Service, the US donated $397 million to aid groups working in Syria last year. The UN has asked for more than $7 billion to fund its Syria aid programs in 2016.