Report: UNRWA violating regulations

UN humanitarian agency allegedly fails to meet US anti-terrorism legislation.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) does not check agency beneficiaries against a list of known terrorists identified by the police or Israeli government, US Congressmen Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Steven Rothman (D-NJ) told US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a letter released for publication on Thursday. In the letter, Kirk and Rothman cited a recently released United Nations Board of Auditors report that included a harsh assessment of UNRWA's management, efficiency and security. Additionally, Kirk and Rothman called on Rice to do more to ensure UNRWA is complying with federal anti-terrorism laws. UNRWA is charged with the mission of providing some services to Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza. US taxpayers are the most generous donors to UNRWA, contributing more than $100 million annually. The Kirk-Rothman letter reports that UNRWA fails to comply with federal anti-terrorism laws. Repeatedly, UNRWA has refused to give names of Palestinian staff who left their agency positions to run for the PA parliament as Hamas candidates. While pledging to the State Department that they deny humanitarian assistance to terrorists, UNRWA does not check beneficiaries against a list of known terrorists provided by the police or Israeli government. "In the increasingly hostile environment of the Middle East, with the Palestinian Authority now controlled by the Hamas terrorist organization, we must upgrade our oversight of the more than $100 million US taxpayers contribute to UNRWA," said Kirk. "After an exhaustive review of the UN's own audit, it is clear UNRWA is wrought by mismanagement, ineffective policies, and failure to secure its finances. We must upgrade UNRWA's financial controls, management and enforcement of US law that bars any taxpayer dollars from supporting terrorists." "US anti-terror law explicitly prohibits taxpayer dollars from supporting terrorists. However, we know that a number of UNRWA staff ran for parliament in the Palestinian territory as official Hamas candidates earlier this year. We know that Hamas supports the indiscriminate killing of civilians. We know that UNRWA cannot account for large amounts of money it has spent. And we know that UNRWA does not check Palestinian beneficiaries against a list of known terrorists," said Congressman Steve Rothman (D-NJ). "With all of this information known, the United States must find out what is unknown: Are US tax dollars funding terrorists through UNRWA?" The United Nations Board of Auditors' newly released report shows that UNRWA fails to implement a number of recommendations from previous audits and fully disclose financial statements to the auditors; employs poorly qualified and inexperienced staff; lacks a human resources plan; fails to make results-based management decisions; and fails to compare relevant financial records. The audit states that UNRWA does not track those responsible for recording, deleting, or in any way manipulating financial information, and thus has no way of detecting foul play. The letter was sent the day after Assistant Secretary of State David Welch briefed members of the Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee on West Bank/Gaza and Lebanon Assistance Programs. Kirk said, "It will be difficult to continue funding UNRWA at current levels until we can be assured that US taxpayer dollars are not subject to the type of mismanagement highlighted in this report." Kirk and Rothman's letter requests an outside independent audit of UNRWA and calls on the State Department to issue an analysis of each of the concerns expressed by the UN Board of Auditors report.