World Vision apologizes for alleged fraud scheme in Liberia

The Christian humanitarian organization World Vision has issued an apology for the behavior of former employees charged in an alleged fraud scheme in the West African nation of Liberia. From 2005-2007 World Vision worked in the country as a food distributor and employment provider for a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) program as Liberia was emerging from the end of a long civil war. In a statement, World Vision said it received an anonymous tip that “lower level World Vision Liberia employees in key positions within this project were diverting food deliveries and building supplies for personal gain.” The Associated Press reported more than $1 million is aid was diverted by three former employees. The employees are accused of taking the food, selling it in local markets and keeping the profits for themselves. They also allegedly used construction materials tabbed for reconstruction purposes to build homes for themselves, using local workers paid with USAID funds, AP said. The fraud was vast and World Vision could only account for the proper distribution of 9 percent of the food aid, AP said. The former officials have been charged with 12 different counts and are jailed in Washington state pending trial in U.S. District Court, AP said. In addition to the food aid, World Vision was running a USAID program where commodities, like surplus U.S. wheat and oil, were to be given to Liberian communities in exchange for residents’ work on rebuilding roads and latrines and other construction projects, AP said. World Vision responded that is has tightened procedures to guard against fraud, including improved background checks and increased funding to train local officials on identifying fraudulent behaviors. “World Vision deeply regrets the alleged violations of U.S. law and the trust of donors and intended beneficiaries, by its former Liberian staff members in connection with this program,” the organization said. “We will repay any misappropriations for which we are responsible.” Links: Complete World Vision statement: http://www.worldvision.org/content.nsf/about/20090604-liberia Associated Press story on fraud in Liberia: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/politics/sns-ap-us-missing-liberian-aid,0,1305403.story

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