Syrian opposition group accused of wasting aid

Boxes of relief supplies delivered through the Syrian opposition's Assistance Coordination Unit. Allegations of mismanagement and waste plague the aid agency set up by the U.S. and other top donors to deliver assistance inside the conflict-torn country. Photo by: USAID / OTI / CC BY-NC

An aid agency set up by Western donors to deliver assistance through the Syrian opposition’s networks inside the country will undergo an external audit to look into allegations of mismanagement and waste from former employees.

This was confirmed to the BBC by Suheir Atassi, president of the Assistance Coordination Unit, based in Gaziantep (Turkey) and supported by the Syrian National Coalition of rebels who oppose President Bashar al-Assad.

The ACU was established over a year ago with funds and technical assistance from the United States, the United Kingdom and other top donors to lead coordination of humanitarian assistance in rebel-held areas of Syria, as well as rebuild essential services like basic healthcare while the conflict is ongoing.

But despite receiving up to $47 million in its first year of operations, only 90 of an initial goal of 250 monitors have been recruited to track international assistance flows inside Syria.

ACU former staff claim a substantial part of the money has been spent on very high salaries for generally incompetent workers, no one is being held accountable for the expenses and managers have been seen carrying large amounts of cash in plastic bags.

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    Carlos Santamaria

    As associate editor for breaking news, Carlos Santamaria supervises Devex's Manila-based news team and the creation of our daily newsletter. Carlos joined Devex after a decade working for international wire services Reuters, AP, Xinhua, EFE and Philippine social news network Rappler in Madrid, Beijing, Manila, New York and Bangkok. During that time, he also covered natural disasters on the ground in Myanmar and Japan.