Humanitarian aid groups fear they may have to halt their operations if the Hamas government insists on conducting an audit of their activities.
The audit is slated for July 25. Some believe the review signals plans by Hamas to start collecting income tax from aid workers in Gaza, IRIN reports. Currently, humanitarian workers in the area are not required to pay income taxes, as per a presidential decree.
“What we understand of the Palestinian NGO law is that the authorities have the right to do an audit if there is reasonable concern or suspicion of corruption, not a blanket audit on everyone,” said Neil Jebb, who heads the U.N. shelter cluster in Gaza.
Consenting to the audit, according to aid agency staff, would breach the “no contact” policy of some non-government organizations funded by governments that tag Hamas as a terrorist group, including the United States and United Kingdom.
Talks between Hamas officials, donors and some aid agencies have reached an impasse, and if no compromise is reached on July 25, at least 18 U.S.-funded groups have indicated they will suspend their work in the Gaza Strip, IRIN adds. This would mean Gaza would lose more than $135 million in aid per year.
A study by the European Union indicates that non-governmental actors manage 90 percent of social services in the Palestinian territories.
“I’m hoping they will come to an agreement but I wouldn’t say I’m hopeful,” Maxwell Gaylord, the United Nations resident humanitarian coordinator, told IRIN. “The authorities in Gaza are sticking to their guns at the moment. If neither side wants compromise, there is nothing much we can do about it.”
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