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Questions over where aid money destined for Somalia ended up

A soldier from Somalia's Puntland keeps guard on high grounds at the Galgala hills, during preparations for an offense against al Shabaab militants, north of the capital Mogadishu (Reuters). CREDIT: REUTERS/OMAR FARUK

Sunday, January 25, 2015

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Millions of dollars in UN aid earmarked for impoverished Somalians is believed to be missing, Fox News reported on Tuesday.

The money was supposed to be used for food, water, medicine, and other vital relief for Somali citizens affected by the famine of 2010-2012, but Fox says the money was diverted by charitable organisations working on behalf of the UN. 

The UN's Office of Internal Oversight Services began investigating the missing UN Common Humanitarian Fund (CHF) monies in 2012, and discovered that most of it went into the pockets of administrators at the three organisations. 

Confidential reports issued in November 2013 and May 2014 also "suggested possible payment of project funds to a terrorist group."

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA) denied that "any CHF cases are linked to the transfer of funds to terrorist organisations."

However, investigators uncovered a 2012 email in which a UN contractor asked the head of his non-governmental organisation (NGO) for money transfers, and reported that a colleague was "pressed by al-Shabaab to do the three payments as quickly as possible." Al-Shabaab is a terrorist organisation based in Somalia.

Of the $260 million in aid distributed by CHF between 2010-2013, $162 million was funnelled through OCHA. In 2014, UN auditors criticised OCHA for its practice of giving 80 per cent of project monies upfront, and 20 per cent after project completion.

The auditors found that OCHA provided "no assurance that the funds disbursed to NGOs were used for the intended purposes."

According to reports, the three organisations misappropriated the initial 80 per cent, and presented phony receipts, invoices, and reports to cover their tracks. Of the organisations' 21 projects, 17 had evidence of fraud.

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