Syria Humanitarian Assistance:

Implementing Partners Have Assessed Some Risks of Providing Aid inside Syria, but U.S. Agencies Could Improve Fraud Oversight

GAO-16-808T: Published: Jul 14, 2016. Publicly Released: Jul 14, 2016.

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Thomas Melito
(202) 512-9601
melitot@gao.gov

 

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What GAO Found

Delivery of U.S. humanitarian assistance to people inside Syria is complicated by three factors including a dangerous operating environment, access constraints, and remote management of programs. Active conflict creates a dangerous environment characterized by attacks on aid facilities and workers, and humanitarian organizations face difficulties accessing those in need. Additionally, U.S. agency officials must manage programs in Syria remotely, increasing risks to the program, including opportunities for fraud. Despite these challenges, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), U.S. humanitarian assistance has reached 4 million people inside Syria per month.

Examples of destruction to health facilities after aerial attacks

Examples of destruction to health facilities after aerial attacks

The Department of State (State), USAID, and their implementing partners have assessed some types of risk to their programs inside Syria, but most partners have not assessed the risk of fraud. Of the 9 implementing partners in GAO's sample of funding instruments, most assessed risks related to safety and security, but only 4 of 9 assessed fraud risks. Such an assessment is important as USAID's Office of Inspector General (OIG) has uncovered multiple instances of fraud affecting U.S. programs delivering humanitarian assistance to Syria. In May 2016, USAID OIG reported that 1 of its active fraud investigations resulted in the suspension of 14 entities and individuals. Given the challenging environment in Syria, fraud risk assessments could help U.S. agencies better identify and address risks to help ensure aid reaches those in need.

Partners have implemented controls to mitigate certain risks, but U.S. agencies could improve financial oversight. For example, almost all partners in our sample have controls to mitigate safety risks and some use technology to monitor the transport of goods. Additionally, U.S. agencies have taken steps to oversee activities in Syria, such as quarterly meetings with partners and spot checks of partner warehouses. Further, in October 2015, USAID hired a third party monitor to improve oversight of its activities and help verify progress of its programs. However, the monitors' training curriculum lacks modules on identifying fraud risks. Without such training, monitors may overlook potential fraud risks and miss opportunities to collect data that could help USAID improve its financial oversight.

Why GAO Did This Study

This testimony summarizes the information contained in GAO's July 2016 report, entitled Syria Humanitarian Assistance: Some Risks of Providing Aid inside Syria Assessed, but U.S. Agencies Could Improve Fraud Oversight (GAO-16-629).

For more information, contact Thomas Melito at (202) 512-9601 or melitot@gao.gov.

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