WHO says it has ‘zero tolerance’ for corruption in Yemen

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The World Health Organization (WHO) says it follows “a zero-tolerance policy against all forms of corruption” amid calls for greater transparency following an Associated Press report on fraud and mismanagement marring some UN operations in Yemen.

WHO issued a statement on Wednesday saying it has an on-going investigation into its Yemen office after an internal audit last year found that controls over administration and finances there were “unsatisfactory.”

The audit, it said, identified “conflicts of interest” and “suspected wrongdoing” among staffers in Yemen.

WHO said it “moved quickly to address audit recommendations,” appointing a new country director, hiring more experienced staff and reforming the office structure to increase accountability.

In a report on Monday, the Associated Press revealed investigations by the WHO and UNICEF into operations in Yemen.

According to three people with knowledge of the probe, UNICEF is investigating Khurram Javed, a Pakistani national who is suspected of letting a senior Houthi official use an agency vehicle.

That effectively gave the Houthi official protection from airstrikes by the Arab Coalition fighting the Houthis, since UNICEF clears its vehicles’ movements with the coalition to ensure their safety. Officials say they fear the agency’s vehicles could be targeted by airstrikes if coalition forces believe they are being used to shield Houthi militia.

Meanwhile and according to internal documents and interviews with current and former aid officials, some UN staffers had been involved in fraud or mismanagement profiting off the massive humanitarian aid program aimed at keeping Yemenis alive amid the country’s destructive civil war.

When asked about the Associated Press story on Tuesday, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said WHO is “taking these allegations seriously” and that “all allegations of misuse of aid need to be investigated.”

The information minister in Yemen’s legitimate government called on the UN to be transparent in its investigations.

“We urge the U.N. to declassify these investigations ... to reveal the outcomes” to the Yemeni people, Moammar al-Iryani wrote in a tweet this week.

A major funder of humanitarian aid to Yemen, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center, also urged the UN to review its monitoring systems and “share detailed reports on its financial and accounting measures” with donors.

Saudi Arabia has sent millions of dollars to help fund aid operations by the UN and other agencies in Yemen.

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