KSRelief calls for UN probe into ‘serious reports’ of Yemen aid agency corruption

Men deliver aid donations from donors, in Aslam, Hajjah, Yemen. (File/AP)
Updated 09 August 2019

KSRelief calls for UN probe into ‘serious reports’ of Yemen aid agency corruption

  • Senior KSRelief officials have demanded an urgent investigation following allegations of wrongdoing brought to their attention by a number of international news organizations
  • “While the center values its strong strategic partnerships with the UN and its agencies, there are clearly stated mechanisms in its contracts with humanitarian partners which prohibit the exploitation of aid,” a statement said

RIYADH: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) has called for a full-scale probe into “serious reports” of corruption in UN agencies delivering vital aid to war-torn Yemen.
Senior KSRelief officials have demanded an urgent investigation following allegations of wrongdoing brought to their attention by a number of international news organizations.
A statement, issued by KSRelief’s media center, said: “The KSRelief called upon the United Nations aid agencies to review and enforce accurate, credible, neutral and transparent monitoring mechanisms for their humanitarian work in Yemen to prevent any abuse or exploitation of humanitarian aid.
“KSRelief officials were recently briefed on serious reports from some international news agencies alleging the existence of corruption in some UN agencies working in Yemen. KSRelief relies heavily on these agencies to deliver urgent humanitarian assistance to Yemenis in desperate need of help.”
It added: “While the center values its strong strategic partnerships with the UN and its agencies, there are clearly stated mechanisms in its contracts with humanitarian partners which prohibit the exploitation of aid by individuals or groups working or affiliated with the UN or international organizations for any individual or other interests.”
The KSRelief statement noted that aid contracts required the immediate disclosure of any incident of irregularity or corruption, and that KSRelief had the right to participate in any investigation into such incidents.
The center was also entitled to review all partner agreements to ensure compliance with transparent monitoring and implementation procedures.
“Therefore, the KSRelief calls upon the UN and its humanitarian agencies to immediately begin transparent investigations into these incidents, and to disclose any suspicion of the involvement of their staff members in corruption, abuses or complicity with any party with regards to the allocation of humanitarian grants and aid provided by Saudi Arabia,” said the statement.
“Moreover, the KSRelief emphasizes the importance of its valuable partnerships with the UN agencies in carrying out its mission to alleviate the suffering of all in need, and calls upon the UN and its humanitarian agencies to immediately review their monitoring, evaluation and reporting mechanisms to ensure impartiality and transparency in aid delivery.”


In war-battered Syria, pay demands turn football into ‘curse’

Updated 25 September 2020

In war-battered Syria, pay demands turn football into ‘curse’

  • $30,000 Is being demanded by players for a single season

DAMASCUS: Professional football clubs in war-battered Syria are struggling to sign new players, who are demanding raises to counter the decline in the value of their pay packets. 

Nine years into a grinding civil war, Syria’s economy is in tatters, life is increasingly expensive, and the national currency is in freefall on the black market. 

The coronavirus pandemic has compounded economic woes, with footballers forced to play in closed-door stadiums, wiping out turnstile revenues. 

“Professional football has become a curse,” said Eyad Al-Sibaei, president of Homs city’s Wathba club, runners-up in the Syrian league last season. 

“Players who once played with us for reasonable amounts are now demanding astronomical sums. They say it’s because of the devaluation” of the Syrian currency. 

The Syrian league, which has no foreign stars, was suspended for just one month for Covid-19, and it did not stop during the war except at the outset in 2011. 

Players were transferred last year for as little as 35 million Syrian pounds ($17,500 at the current black market rate), but Sibaei said players are now demanding salaries of up to 60 million pounds ($30,000) for a single season. 

“Next season, we’ll need between 400 and 500 million pounds for contracts and other expenses, knowing that the club only has around 160 million in its kitty,” he said. 

He said the club spent around 315 million last year, some of which he had to advance from his own pocket. 

Whereas the average Syrian earns between 50,000 and 100,000 pounds ($25-50) a month, an average professional football player brings home around 1.5 million pounds ($750) on a monthly basis. 

Osama Omri, a player with the Al-Wahda club which finished fifth last season, conceded football players were better off than the average Syrian. 

“The salaries are decent and the purchasing power of some players is good,” said the 28-year-old attacking midfielder with the Damascus club. 

“But it’s not enough to secure their future as a player’s lifespan on the field is short,” he said, as most players retire in their early thirties. 

No foreign player has been recruited since 2012, but today’s record devaluation is making even acquiring Syrian talent tough. 

The pound’s value against the US dollar has plummeted in the past year, from around 430 to 1,250 at the official rate, and from around 600 to 2,000 on the black market. 

The clubs Jaish and Shorta (army and police in English) are funded by the defense and interior ministries, respectively. 

But other clubs say the dual economic-coronavirus crisis has depleted their coffers, and are seeking funds elsewhere to recruit before the new season starts in a month. 

Reigning champions Tishreen, based in the coastal city of Latakia, have signed two new players with funds from sponsors and club board members. 

Ward Al-Salama, 26, who last year scored in Syria’s 1-0 win against the Philippines in World Cup 2022 qualifiers, is moving from Jaish for 50 million pounds ($25,000). 

Kamel Kawaya, 22, signed for Tishreen from Shorta for the same figure. 

Al-Wahda has renewed contracts with all its players, and even made three new signings. 

Its president Maher Al-Sayyed said he had pitched in to help cover some of next year’s ballooning budget. 

“I lent the club 180 million pounds while waiting for conditions to improve,” out of a projected budget of more than 600 million pounds, he said. 

In the northern city of Aleppo, Al-Ittihad are looking at a budget of 500 million pounds — more than twice last year’s. 

Basil Hamwi said they would be counting on fans and expatriates to help make it through the season. 

At Hutteen, another top-flight club from Latakia, coach Hussein Afash said he understood players’ demands. 

“The players are right to be asking for better-paid contracts after the devaluation of the pound as they’re now earning a fourth of what they did,” he said. 

Club president Khaled Tawil said he hoped that wealthy business tycoon Samer Foz would help cover costs. 

“We are counting on Foz, who sponsors our team,” he said.