UNRWA Under Scrutiny for Ethical Abuses

YERUSHALAYIM -
Pierre Krahenbuhl, Commissioner-General of UNRWA. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein/File)

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) was rocked on Monday by disclosure of a scandal at the highest echelons.

An internal report obtained by the AFP alleges that senior officials were guilty of “nepotism, retaliation, discrimination and other abuses of authority, for personal gain, to suppress legitimate dissent, and to otherwise achieve their personal objectives.”

The authors of the report cite “credible and corroborated” charges of serious ethical abuses, reaching up to and including UNRWA’s top official, Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl.

In response to the story, UNRWA said it “is probably among the most scrutinized U.N. agencies in view of the nature of the conflict and complex and politicized environment it is working in.”

“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,” it said.

The quoted response did not directly address the allegations of wrongdoing.

The report was sent to the United Nations secretary general in December and U.N. investigators have since gone to the agency’s offices in Yerushalayim and Amman, collecting information related to the allegations, sources familiar with the matter said.

The agency provides schooling and medical services to millions of impoverished Palestinian refugees and their descendants in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and the Palestinian territories.

It employs around 30,000 people, mostly Palestinians.