DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — A humanitarian aid group has reported at least $900,000 stolen from its programs in the Democratic Republic of the Congo by members of the organization with the help of others.
US-based GiveDirectly said it learned that members of its team in Congo conspired to embezzle a money transfer program, stealing funds intended for more than 1,700 poor families for six months starting in August of 2022. Rachi.
“This fraud was only possible because of a specific change we made to our payment process to be able to operate in this remote and unsafe region (of Congo),” said a statement from the group released on Monday. “We deeply regret that we were unable to detect this sooner and we take its vulnerabilities very seriously.”
GiveDirectly noted that the investigation is ongoing and that it was able to recover “a very small portion of the lost funds”, but the majority of the $900,000 remains “irrecoverable”. Still, he insisted that he would try to ensure that affected families received their money.
Give Directly said that more than 1% of the money it provided last year was lost to fraud, the largest number ever.
The group operates mostly in eastern Congo, a region wracked by decades of conflict. Some 120 armed groups are fighting for control of land and mines for valuable minerals, while communities try to defend themselves. According to the United Nations, more than 5.5 million people have been displaced and more than 26 million are suffering from hunger.
Analysts say the conflict and widespread poverty have acted as a catalyst for corruption among aid organisations.
“It is not surprising that corruption is rife given the key role of the development sector in the country’s economy. Billions of dollars flow into Congo for development programs every year and it is very likely that much of that money A large portion is lost to corruption,” said Benjamin Hunter, an analyst for African affairs at risk assessment firm Verisk Maplecroft.
GiveDirectly distributes wealth globally, giving more than $650 million to poor families in a dozen countries, most of which are in Africa. It distributes money using technology that allows money to be sent and received via SIM cards, which it says prevents many types of fraud. Once the money is deposited, one can withdraw cash from the mobile ATM.