Is corruption so tempting as to malign even the United Nations agencies, generally known for their honesty and integrity. It is disappointing to find the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) is allegedly involved in irregularities in awarding contracts for construction of houses for the flood affected people of Balochistan – Shelter. The conduct of the world body’s provincial hierarchy can, in no way, be said to be above board in selecting non-governmental organisations (NGOs) for its housing project – Shelter. NGOs selected by the UNHCR to carry out relief works are charging Rs 20,000 per affected member but the matter used in the construction is very substandard. This fact was pointed out by provincial minister for Zakat and Ushr Mir Saleem Khan Khosa who, at a recent news conference, drew the attention of the chief minister and chief secretary of Balochistan towards the poor material being used in construction and demanded probe into the irregularities being committed by the UNHCR and compensation to the affected people. The UNHCR management in the province, particularly its Quetta office, altogether ignored the bench-mark criterion of NGOs registered three years ago with authentic donors, certified audit reports from chartered accountants and proper offices at district and provincial levels. Instead, it selected NGOs registered only few months earlier, had no audit reports, having no donor or were without any track record, but having links with UNHCR core team, and selected on political pressure and personal favour by the programme team. The selected NGOs also have a poor past record. Most of them were disliked and expelled by the district administrations in flood affected areas in their previous projects and blacklisted by their donors. There also are reports that the UNHCR officials are in collusion with the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) which issued NOC to the selected NGOs for the Shelter project. Other reports also say that “Shelter Programme” officials have openly been asking for commission for the allocation of projects. On refusal, they are booted out of the project. When some officials tried to bring corruption of the officials in the knowledge of higher authorities, they were told to mind their own business. The matter is believed to be already known to the UNHCR country head Neill Wright in Islamabad.
The whole episode needs to be probed and the provincial government would be discharging its duty if it orders an inquiry into the affairs. Before that all the contracts with NGOs must be scrapped so that the probe is not influenced from outside. The UNHCR country head is also required to do the same to penalize offending officials. Evidence can also be obtained from two field workers who met the provincial UNHCR head Mr Jose Abiera Belloza only to be fired from their jobs for pinpointing corruption in the UNHCR.