The Irish government is withholding funds from the aid agency Goal after a US government inquiry into fraud relating to the distribution of humanitarian contracts for Syria.
USAid gives $125 million in aid to Goal and the investigation is into bribery and bid-rigging affecting about $7 .2 million worth of contracts, The Irish Times reports.
Now the Irish government, reacting to USAid, has withheld about $4 million of aid to Goal. Goal has already sacked two staff members in Turkey in connection with the allegations.
Goal's chief executive, Barry Andrews, was informed that the funds were being held back “until we have clarification on the ongoing US investigation,” an email from the Department of Foreign Affairs – released under a Freedom of Information request – stated.
Niall Burgess, head of the Department of Foreign Affairs, sent a strongly worded letter to Anne O'Leary, Chairperson of Goal, who had not informed the Irish government of the American inquiry. Burgess expressed “serious concern . . . about the almost complete lack of communication by Goal’s management or board with this department around these issues prior to today.”
O’Leary apologized and stated that the Office of Inspector General of US Aid investigation was a “very sensitive and confidential process and they were under specific instructions from the OIG on what information should be shared,” the memo stated.
The Freedom of Information documents released had all the relevant information on the allegations redacted, but they are believed to involve serious irregularities in procurement in the multimillion-euro Syria aid operations based in Turkey.
There are 25 investigations into aid for Syria since February 2015. Bribes for contract-steering and collusion are the primary focus of the investigations.