Goal fires staff in Turkey after inquiry into Syrian aid contracts

USAid investigation into alleged bribery grows to include additional agencies

Goal chief executive Barry Andrews: A US government investigation into alleged bribery and bid-rigging relating to humanitarian aid contracts for Syria has expanded to include 14 aid agencies and individuals and prompted Goal to replace a logistics team based in Turkey. Photographer: Dara Mac Dónaill

Goal chief executive Barry Andrews: A US government investigation into alleged bribery and bid-rigging relating to humanitarian aid contracts for Syria has expanded to include 14 aid agencies and individuals and prompted Goal to replace a logistics team based in Turkey. Photographer: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

A US government investigation into alleged bribery and bid-rigging relating to humanitarian aid contracts for Syria has expanded to include 14 aid agencies and individuals and prompted Goal to replace a logistics team based in Turkey.

The investigation into alleged fraud, being carried out by the internal spending watchdog of USAid, the US government’s foreign aid arm, has resulted in US funding of various international agencies being partly suspended and prompted one organisation to lay off 800 employees.

“The investigation to date has identified 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,” USAid said in a statement.

It is understood two Goal staff members, both of whom are Turkish nationals, have been sacked by the Dublin-based agency on foot of information emerging from the investigation. Pending the outcome of the inquiry by the Office of Inspector General, Goal has been instructed by US authorities to halt procurement of certain supplies using American funding. The suspension affects about €6.2 million of the €113 million Goal receives from USAid, the Goal organisation said.

Humanitarian operations

The investigation is understood to include the International Rescue Committee (IRC), led by former British foreign secretary David Miliband. A spokeswoman for the IRC, based in New York, told The Irish Times it was “fully engaged and working with USAid on this issue.”

Mercy Corps, another large humanitarian outfit, said it had been asked to temporarily suspend activities under two USAid grants: “We were able to resume these activities after ensuring that our systems were adequately mitigating any risks.”

It is understood the current investigation springs from inquiries that began last December into procurement irregularities in the multimillion-euro Syria aid operations based in Turkey. In a report to the US Congress on March 31st, USAid said that as a result of its investigation up to that point, five companies operating in Turkey and seven of the companies’ owners and operators were suspended from receiving US government funding.

“These companies and individuals were found to have violated federal or state antitrust statutes by colluding to win an award to provide supplies to displaced persons under two USAid-funded programmes,” the report stated. USAid told Congress that, in January, one affected agency sacked two staff members from its Turkey office “who had accepted money from vendors in exchange for steering contracts to them.” In March 2016, another partner organisation followed suit, firing a staff member from its Turkey office.

Funding suspended

International Medical Corps (IMC), a leading provider of medical supplies, said it had laid off 800 employees and fired three others suspected of involvement in the allegedly fraudulent scheme. It said it was co-operating with the investigation and its programmes funded by other donors continued.

In its statement, Goal said it continued to support hundreds of thousands of people in northern Syria through the provision of water and sanitation facilities, vouchers, and agriculture and livelihood programmes.