Injustice to donors, beneficiaries in Rohingya crisis funding

Updated at 12:38am on December 07, 2019

HIGHER administrative and overhead spending compared with the spending on programmes for Rohingya and local communities by some UN agencies and international non-governmental organisations, as Transparency International, Bangladesh reports, coupled with the prevalent irregularities and corruption that the government could attend to, is worrying on a few counts. The local chapter of the global civil society organisation, as New Age reported on Friday, says that UN Women tops the list of such administrative and overhead spending, with about 32.5 per cent of its fund, while it spends about 67.5 per cent of its funds on beneficiaries, followed by the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, with about 25.98 per cent, while it spends about 74 per cent on the beneficiaries. Transparency International, Bangladesh, which has based its findings on information on seven UN organisations for 2017–October 2019 collected from the office of the UN resident coordinator, however, says that administrative and overhead spending for UNICEF is 3 per cent of its funds while it spends 97 per cent of the funds on beneficiaries; and for the World Food Programme, the administrative and overhead cost is 10.3 per cent of the funds while its spending on beneficiaries is 89.7 per cent of the funds.

This having been the case, allegations of corruption and irregularities in the operation of the camps in Cox’s Bazar and Bandarban and the use of grants meant for the Rohingyas, more than 1.1 million of them now sheltered in Bangladesh after they fled military violence in their native land of Rakhine State in Myanmar, and local communities suggest the absence of accountability of any sort in the programmes. Non-governmental organisations are reported to be paying Tk 20,000–50,000 to upazila administration offices and Tk 50,000–70,000 to district administration offices for completion certificates of each of the projects. People in charge of camps are alleged to be extorting money and undue benefits for the approval of and clearance for projects. Members on the committees that deputy commissioners have set are also reported to be extorting Tk 2,500–3,000 from each truck carrying relief supplies. While people in charge of champs are said to be extorting Tk 2,000–5,000 for the supervision of each programme, middlemen are reported to be extorting, initially, Tk 10,000–20,000 and, finally, Tk 1,50,000–2,00,000 in cases of trafficking in people, especially women, from the camps. It has also been alleged that police personnel at check points allow the Rohingyas to move out of the camps, which is a common happening, in exchange for Tk 500–1,000. All this speaks of failures of the government and the poor, if not the absence of, control on the Rohingya camp management.

An administrative and overhead spending comparatively higher than the spending on beneficiaries by the UN agencies and international organisations is injustice to both from whom the money has been taken and for whom the money is meant. Any inaction of Bangladesh authorities about the irregularities and corruption that could be prevented but have been let loose also adds to the injustice against the sources and beneficiaries of the funds. The government must attend to the issues without further delay.