A desperate and largely unknown humanitarian crisis is deteriorating in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa, forcing millions of people to flee their homes and leaving millions more in need of humanitarian assistance. Oxfam is providing life-saving support but help is urgently needed to prevent the crisis turning into a catastrophe.
An independent financial investigation commissioned by aid agency Oxfam Great Britain has confirmed that fraud occurred in one of its programs for flood relief in Sindh, Pakistan.
The investigation, carried out by PwC, found that fraud had taken place during a period from September 2010 to March 2011. It related to the diversion of funds earmarked for operating expenses, overheads and human resources for two humanitarian programs carried out and managed by one of Oxfam GB’s partners, Pirbhat Women’s Development Society.
The programs involved the delivery of water and sanitation goods to temporary camp sites in Shahdadkot and Larkana, upper Sindh and the distribution of checks to flood-affectees to meet their basic daily needs. The investigation by PwC concluded that there was a loss from fraud of up to £135,000 ($220,000). Invoices were found to be falsified; and there was extensive manipulation of checks to suppliers. Oxfam’s emergency flood response spending in Pakistan totals £27 million ($44 million) and is currently reaching more than 1.95 million people with humanitarian aid in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Sindh.
“We will recover every penny of this money and continue to ensure that donors’ funds reach the people who need it most,” said Neva Khan, Oxfam GB’s Country Director in Pakistan. “Oxfam has a zero-tolerance policy towards corruption and we, and all our partners, share a commitment to high legal, ethical and moral standards.”
“Corruption is never acceptable. It, literally, takes away food from peoples’ mouths; takes away clean water to give them life; and takes money away that could provide people with better hygiene and shelter. “
Oxfam’s partner organization Pirbhat said the senior official identified in the report as a perpetrator and beneficiary of fraud had his employment contract terminated in May. Pirbhat said it intended to take appropriate action against him and to recover and repay the money that had been misappropriated in full.
“We first began working with Oxfam on women’s development issues seven years ago. We feel that our good work and our name has been blackened because of the action of one senior individual who has badly let us down as well as the communities we work with,” Pirbhat said in a statement. “We have already taken steps to tighten up our policies and practices to ensure something like this never happens again.”
Oxfam has ended all financial relationships with Pirbhat. Oxfam’s partnerships are based on trust in shared principles which in this instance have been lost. Nonetheless, Oxfam remains committed to continuing to work with and build civil society capacity in Pakistan.
Oxfam’s own internal monitoring and auditing system first identified suspected financial irregularities, prompting it to commission an external independent investigation in May. A team from PwC undertook the fieldwork in Pakistan in June.
“Wherever fraud or wrongdoing is found, it has to be tackled openly and transparently,” said Oxfam’s Neva Khan. “Covering up corruption will never help us as an organization or the countries in which we work. The important thing is that when malpractice is discovered, there are repercussions and penalties; lessons are learned and systems are tightened to allow us to continue to be accountable to communities that we work with and to improve our delivery of services in the future.”
Notes to editors
- Oxfam has been working in Pakistan since 1973. The 2010 floods were the worst ever in recorded history of Pakistan, affecting 20 million people, with 1,985 killed and another 2,964 injured. Oxfam responded by mounting its biggest-ever worldwide humanitarian response. In the past year, Oxfam and its partners have helped 2.4 million people affected by the disaster. Our assistance included emergency search and rescue, clean water and sanitation, cash grants and cash for work schemes, and shelter.
Download the Pakistan Floods Progress Report July 2010 / July 2011
- Oxfam GB published its first annual accountability report in 2007. All reports are available on the Oxfam GB website
- Oxfam GB has adopted the standards of both the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the International Non-Governmental Organisations (INGO) Accountability Charter, and is a member of the Humanitarian Accountability Partnership.
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