The United States government is cutting off millions of dollars worth of aid and is launching a probe into a network of NGO’s, companies, and employees in Turkey that have colluded to overcharge the U.S. government for basic aid it is providing to Turkey, as it settles thousands of Syrian refugees.
The fourteen agencies that have come under investigation are part of a ring that has allegedly been purposely overpaying Turkish groups and companies that have been providing basic products and services. Three of the major groups that have come under fire are The International Med Corps, David Miliband’s charity International Rescue Committee, and The Irish charity GOAL. The charges against these groups range from kickbacks, to bid-rigging, to bribery. All three of the major groups have released statements regarding the accusations against them.
The International Med Corps (IMC) is one of the largest groups that provide medical aid to Syria. In the past five years, they have treated over six million people and worked in 430 hospitals and medical facilities in the surrounding region. The aid that has been cut off is having a major impact on the organization.
According the Daily Mail UK,”IMC’s Chief Compliance Officer Ambassador William Garvelink said: ‘International Medical Corps has been actively cooperating with the USAID Inspector General, and we have also mounted our own internal investigation.’ We have a zero-tolerance policy for fraud and corruption and have fired staff members who were suspected of involvement.'”
The Irish charity GOAL has, since 2012, been involved in bringing food and clean water to the people of Syria. The Syria effort is one of the largest undertakings of this charity. In 2014, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) was the largest provider of financial assistance to GOAL in the range of €44.5 million in grant funding.
In an interview with The Journal, a spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs said, “The issues raised by the suspension of funding… are a cause for serious concern. We have this morning demanded as a matter of urgency a detailed report from Goal, on the overall situation and on any implications for Irish Aid funding.”
The last major group to be implicated in this scandal is David Miliband’s charity International Rescue Committee. David Miliband is the former UK foreign secretary who left politics in 2013 to head the International Rescue Committee. The Daily Mail UK reports that, in an interview with the Times, “A spokesman for the International Rescue Committee told The Times: ‘We are fully engaged and working with USAID on this issue.'”
These revelations come as a surprise to many because many of these groups are well established and well respected in the aid community. They are also tied to many other charities worldwide, where the American aid footprint has grown well into the billions. In 2017, the U.S. is slated to provide Libya alone with $20,500,000 in aid. In Yemen, the 2017 aid number is $55,884,000, and in Somalia, it’s a staggering $196,270,000. Alone these numbers are eye-opening, but the highly unstable climates these funds are flooding into — nations in civil war with multiple competing governments and growing Islamist insurgencies — raise questions regarding the efficacy of the aid. If aid is in danger of falling into the wrong hands in a modernized nation like Turkey, these revelations will lead many to ask: “Is this happening other places too?”