US Freezes $239 Million In Aid To Syria Over Significant Fraud

In this picture taken Thursday, April 14, 2016, a Syrian boy waits his family to loads their belongings onto a bus in the town of Palmyra in the central Homs province, Syria. Thousands of residents of this ancient town who fled Islamic State rule are returning briefly to check on their homes and salvage what they can _ some carpets, blankets, a fridge or a few family mementos. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

In this picture taken Thursday, April 14, 2016, a Syrian boy waits his family to loads their belongings onto a bus in the town of Palmyra in the central Homs province, Syria.

Struggling with growing evidence of “significant fraud” within the program, USAID has frozen $239 million in contracts involved in the humanitarian aid program in Syria. This follows recent reports of overt bribery in getting contracts, along with overt fraud in delivered aid.

Earlier this month, USAID officials reported on the problem to Congress, saying that several partners that were charged with handing out contracts were deciding who won based on bribes, and didn’t bother to inspect the deliveries they were contracted for. This included at least one case where a shipment of “food ration kits” simply being filled with salt, since the contractor just paid based on weight, not contents.

USAID had insisted that no aid was diverted to ISIS, though some had ended up with al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front. The Government Accountability Office (GAO), however, warned that USAID likely doesn’t have even an inkling of how much money has been lost to fraud.

Since expanding their war against ISIS into Syria, the US has repeatedly announced expansions of their humanitarian funding for Syria in an effort to buy some goodwill. This has been so focused on increasing the dollar value of the shipments, however, that very little care has been taken to see that it involved real aid being delivered.


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