Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 August 2019

UN aid agency for Palestinians admits it is under investigation

Allegations of wrongdoing against senior UNRWA officials, according to leaked report

UNRWA chief Pierre Krahenbuhl is among the aid agency's senior officials facing allegations of wrongdong. EPA
UNRWA chief Pierre Krahenbuhl is among the aid agency's senior officials facing allegations of wrongdong. EPA

The leadership of the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees allegedly engaged in mismanagement and abuse of power, including nepotism and sexual misconduct, according to a leaked UN internal ethics report.

The allegations surfaced as the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) is battling an unprecedented crisis over funding and its future, after the United States cut support to the already under-funded aid agency last year.

The report, obtained by Agence France Presse, found "credible and corroborated" claims of serious wrongdoing by UNRWA's Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl.

The allegations against senior management included, "sexual misconduct, nepotism, retaliation, discrimination and other abuses of authority, for personal gain, to suppress legitimate dissent, and to otherwise achieve their personal objectives", according to AFP's copy of the report.

"The report paints a picture of a small number of mostly foreign senior leaders centralising power and influence while disregarding UN checks and balances," according to AFP's assessment.

In one instance, Mr Krahenbuhl is accused of having fast-tracked the creation of a new senior position for a colleague with whom he was romantically involved.

Two of the senior leadership employees highlighted in the investigation left the agency in July, AFP reported.

UNRWA has denied any wrongdoing and said it was fully complying with the investigation, which is still ongoing.

"The agency cannot comment on an ongoing investigation, and everything circulating now, including in the media, is "allegations" and not findings," UNRWA said in a statement. "If the current investigation – once it is completed – were to present findings that require corrective measures or other management actions, we will not hesitate to take them."

The statement continued: "Over the past 18 months, UNRWA has faced immense financial and political pressure, but its entire staff body has steered it, serving 5.4 million Palestine refugees through the most unprecedented financial crisis in its near 70 years of history.

"We were able to close the unprecedented financial shortfall in 2018 (over US$200 million) thanks to tremendous donor support and measures taken by the agency. The successful outcome of our global mobilisation was the result of decisive leadership, exemplary support by refugee-hosting countries and our fantastic partners and donor countries."

Updated: July 29, 2019 10:21 PM

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