It could be recalled that the Obama administration approved an improper transaction of the non-profit humanitarian agency World Vision United States with the Islamic Relief Agency (ISRA) in 2014. Government funds were sent to an agency despite being sanctioned for its ties to terrorism.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley recently released a report detailing investigation findings on ISRA and World Vision’s relationship. His staff began the investigation in February 2019.
The findings include that World Vision wasn’t aware that the US sanctioned ISRA since 2004 when it funneled about $5 million to the predecessor to Al-Qaeda controlled by Osama Bid Laden, Maktab al-Khidamat.
Reports say the World Vision’s ignorance was due to insufficient vetting practices.
“World Vision works to help people in need across the world, and that work is admirable,” stated Grassley.
“Though it may not have known that ISRA was on the sanctions list or that it was listed because of its affiliation with terrorism, it should have. Ignorance can’t suffice as an excuse. World Vision’s changes in vetting practices are a good first step, and I look forward to its continued progress,” continued the senator.
A July 2018 National Review article sparked the investigation. In the article, Middle East Forum’s Islamist Watch director Sam Westrop detailed MEF’s findings that the Obama administration approved a “$200,000 grant of taxpayer money to ISRA.”
What’s even more suspicious is that government officials authorized the release of at least $115,000 even after learning that ISRA was a designated terror organization.
The Senate report added that World Vision applied for a grant to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for its Blue Nile Recovery Program on January 21, 2014. USAID awarded a $723,405 grant for the program.
However, ISRA agreed with World Vision to provide humanitarian services to some parts of the Blue Nile Region. The two organizations collaborated on various projects in 2013 and 2014.
World Vision only learned that ISRA was sanctioned after discussing a partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on a separate Sudan humanitarian project.
While carrying out a routine vetting of World Vision and its partners, IOM found out about ISRA’s sanctioned status and immediately confirmed to the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) Compliance Team.
According to the report, IOM rejected World Vision’s offer to collaborate when OFAC confirmed ISRA’s status.
World Vision’s legal team was then notified of ISRA’s status as a sanctioned entity in September 2014. The organization immediately halted all payments while investigations are underway.
On November 19, 2014, the non-profit asked for clarification to OFAC on ISRA’s status thru a letter and requested a temporary license to finish the organization’s existing contract.
OFAC Treasury responded two months later to confirm that ISRA is sanctioned and denied the license request to work with the organization since it is “inconsistent with OFAC policy.”
A month later, the non-profit again submitted a license request to transact with ISRA to pay $125,000 for the rendered services. Unbelievably, the Obama administration’s State Department intervened and recommended OFAC to grant World Vision’s license request on May 4, 2015.
OFAC granted the license the next day and later sent World Vision a “cautionary letter” that its collaboration with ISRA violated the Global Terrorism Sanction Regulations.
The Senate report said the investigation “did not find any evidence that World Vision intentionally sought to circumvent U.S. sanctions by partnering with ISRA.”
“We also found no evidence that World Vision knew that ISRA was a sanctioned entity before receiving notice from Treasury,” added the report.
“However, based on the evidence presented, we conclude that World Vision had access to the appropriate public information and should have known how, but failed to, properly vet ISRA as a sub-grantee, resulting in the transfer of U.S. taxpayer dollars to an organization with an extensive history of supporting terrorist organization [sic] and terrorists, including Osama Bin Laden.”
The Senate report then calls World Vision’s procedure for vetting prospective sub-grantees “borderline negligent,” and the organization “ignored elementary level investigative procedures.”
Despite spending weeks investigating the claim, World Vision failed to conclude “what could only be described as flawed logic,” said the report.
The Senate report also accuses the non-profit of attempting to avoid blame. It notes the IOM quickly vetted ISRA and determined their status as a sanctioned entity. World Vision should employ the same due diligence, and the taxpayer dollars wouldn’t have reached an organization known to fund terrorist organizations.
World Vision released a statement that claimed it takes its compliance obligations seriously and shares Senator Grassley and the Senate Committee Finance staff’s objective for good stewardship.
The non-profit said it appreciates that the committee staff report that it didn’t find any evidence that World Vision was aware that ISRA was a sanctioned entity before receiving notice from the Treasury.
“Terrorism runs counter to everything World Vision stands for as an organization, and we strongly condemn any act of terrorism or support for such activities,” World Vision added.
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