Transparency International Bangladesh on Thursday said that the administrative and overhead costs of some UN agencies and international NGOs are higher compared to their spending on their programmes for Rohingyas and local communities in Bangladesh.

There are also allegations of corruption and irregularities in the operations of the camps and in the use of grants meant for the displaced Rohingya people and members of the local community, it said.

‘There are allegations of corruption and irregularities in utilising funds meant for programmes planned for target beneficiaries and operations of the Rohingya camps,’ TIB executive director Iftekharuzzaman said while launching a report at a press conference in Dhaka.      

UN Women is on top of the list with spending 32.6 per cent of its fund as overhead costs, according to the TIB report based on information about seven UN organisations for the 2017-October 2019 period collected from the office of the UN resident coordinator.

The overhead costs of the UNHCR were 25.98 per cent while the figure for the UNFPA was 18 per cent, the WHO 17 per cent and the International Organization for Migration 14.7 per cent.

The overhead costs were relatively low in the cases of the WFP – 10.3 per cent – and UNICEF – 3.0 per cent.

UN Women spends about 37.5 per cent of its fund for the beneficiaries, while the UNHCR 74 per cent, the UNFPA 82 per cent, the WHO 83 per cent, the IOM 85.3 per cent, the WFP 89.7 per cent and UNICEF 97 per cent.

The programming expenses of the UN bodies also include overhead costs of the local and international partner NGOs engaged in the implementation of their activities on the ground.        

TIB said that the government had no mechanism to ensure accountability for and control on the programmes funded by the UN agencies and their implementing partners.

Some officials in the offices of Cox’s Bazar and Bandarban deputy commissioners alleged of delay in project approval for at least 7 to 15 days and in some cases for more than a month.

NGOs have to pay unauthorised money of BDT 20,000 to 50,000 and BDT 50,000 to 70,000 respectively to some officials in the upazila and district administration offices to collect the completion certificate for each project, they said further.

 In addition, some camp in-charges are also alleged to extort money and demand unofficial benefits such as airline tickets, transportation and hotel facilities to visit relatives for giving approval and clearance of the projects.

Members of some committees formed by the local DCs also extort BDT 2,500 to 3,000 from each relief-carrying truck in the name of checking the quality and quantity of the relief materials, officials said.

 Any organisation not agreeing to pay the money experiences a delay of 5 to 15 days to get the clearance, while the organisations that pay the bribe usually get the relief checked fast.

A section of camp in-charges are alleged to extort BDT 2,000 to 5,000 for supervising each program implemented by the NGOs.

Some local, national, and international NGOs are alleged to have been using poor-quality materials in their works such as building shelters, establishing sanitary latrines, setting up learning centres and in community mobilisation.

They extract the money by flouting programme designs and through irregularities and collusive corruption in association with contractors in procurement process, it was further alleged.

Amid a deteriorating security situation, human trafficking, especially trafficking in women, occurs regularly in the camps by the camp-based middlemen, TIB said,

It further said, ’Around BDT 10,000 to 20,000 is paid initially to the middlemen and after the smuggled people  reach the destination another BDT 1,50,000 to 2,000,00 has to be paid.’

On the other hand, some financially solvent Rohingyas are accused of getting into the mainstream of Cox’s Bazar local population by using large amounts of money and the influence of locally powerful elites.

Going out of the camps illegally is as a common occurrence among the Rohingyas though they are not allowed to move out of the camps. Police in the check posts are accused of helping them to move out by taking bribes of BDT 500 to 1000.

The dependency on Rohingya ‘majhis’ in managing the relief distribution job has grown creating the risk of irregularities and corruption due to shortage of manpower under the Refugee Repatriation and Rehabilitation Commissioner on running the 34 camps and lack of knowledge on humanitarian principles.

Only rice, oil and pulses are provided under the free food distribution program and there are allegations of distributing products below the appropriate weight and of lower quality, TIB said.

Many Rohingyas complained that hospitals and health centres do not provide necessary medicines according to prescription while some Rohingyas alleged that they were compelled to seek help from brokers in government hospitals and give money for receiving services, it added.

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