Corruption’s stain [Archives:2005/905/Opinion]

December 22 2005

Faisal Al-Sufi
The ex-president of World Vision once confirmed that missions and evangelization are major components of the organization's program. “We can't feed people and let them go to hell,” he said.

Even the most professional and independent non-governmental organizations cannot abandon their ideologies while carrying out humanitarian missions. The worst thing is for an organization to fabricate excuses to attract donors' money for humanitarian purposes and then use it for personal interests. This happens even in Yemen. I know some families who were not famous for wealth or trade, but because of their organizations, they became real-estate owners and traders. Weak financial sponsorship of non-governmental organizations makes them dens of corruption. Donors and embassies that supply funds have no mechanism ensuring donations are spent rightfully. Public sponsorship also is weak. Some workers in these organizations consider such funds private property and since it's 'evangelical' money, it can be spent as they like. They do not acknowledge these funds as public wealth to be protected and spent for the good of their target groups. A question arises about the impact of these donations on public life.

I attended a press conference Dec. 9, International Anti-Corruption Day, where a top executive in one of these organizations spoke about corruption. As journalists, we were depressed. The man hadn't the least idea of the cause for which he was fighting. I had another experience with this organization. I once suggested to a visitor from Transparency International that my personal conviction is that it is not a good idea to link its organization to Transparency Yemen. When I reminded the press conference speaker of the corruption in Transparency Yemen, he said, “Faisal has come here especially to embarrass me.” I left the press conference, leaving him to speak about corruption without embarrassment.

That day was full of surprises. Before the press conference, someone handed me an envelope. When I opened it, I found documents stating corruption is practiced inside an organization considered a local branch for Transparency International. The process is as follows:

A donation is obtained from Transparency International or an embassy for apparently noble purposes. This could be a legal awareness program, election monitoring or a symposium. People start working and then receive their payment, not to exceed 50,000 Yemeni Riyals. The receiver is to sign the receipt, leaving the rest for the organization's official who enters the date, spending purpose and beneficiary's name. However, the corrupt official then writes the sum as $900 (180,000YR). Invoices and purchase receipts often are handled this way. Finally, the donor receives a file with all documentation proving funds were spent on the project. Of course, also included are published news items about the project.

While World Vision does not want to feed people and let them go to hell, some of our organizations receive donations in the name of starving and illiterate people, yet neither feed them nor eradicate their illiteracy. People cannot escape fabricated accusations. What is to be done?