US wants probe into suspected UNRWA corruption

“We’re extremely concerned abt UNRWA allegations. We urge a full & transparent investigation,” US Envoy Jason Greenblatt tweeted.

By Joseph Wolkin, World Israel News

Following an Al Jazeera report on Monday that the Ethics Department of UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, has accused Commissioner General Pierre Krähenbühl of corruption, U.S. Middle East peace envoy Jason Greenblatt is calling for a full probe into the agency.

The UNRWA chief is charged with abusing “authority for personal gain, to suppress legitimate dissent and to otherwise achieve their personal objectives.”

“We’re extremely concerned abt UNRWA allegations,” Greenblatt tweeted on Monday. “We urge a full & transparent investigation by the UN. UNRWA’s model is broken/unsustainable and based on an endless expanding number of beneficiaries. Palestinians residing in refugee camps deserve much better.”

When America cut funds to the agency, Krähenbühl and other higher-ups in UNRWA allegedly had “an extreme concentration of decision-making power” for themselves. The group’s internal report said the leaders were “highly dysfunctional.”

According to the report, soon after Krähenbühl’s appointment as UNRWA chief in 2014, he began taking trips to the Gulf with agency official Maria Mohammedi, and their relationship went “beyond the professional.” He then appointed her as his senior adviser and used his authority to enable her to travel with him on the organization’s dime.

UNRWA Deputy Commissioner-General Sandra Mitchell and Chief of Staff Hakam Shahwan are also involved in the corruption allegations.

Krähenbühl did not respond to request for comment from Al Jazeera.

The U.N.’s Office of Internal Oversight Services is examining the allegations detailed in the Al Jazeera report, but Greenblatt wants an independent investigation.

UNRWA has been the source of much controversy over the years, apparently grossly exaggerating the number of Palestinian refugees and perpetuating their refugee status, as well as supporting an education system that reportedly incites anti-Israel hatred and violence.

“Israel’s policy is that UNRWA should be closed down,” Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said in a briefing of foreign diplomats in December. “They’re the problem, not the solution.”