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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A government contractor that has received more than $2.5 billion for humanitarian and infrastructure work in Iraq and Afghanistan has been suspended from receiving federal funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) due to “serious misconduct.”

The USAID announced the suspension on Monday, less than a week after awarding a $10.5 million contract to International Relief and Development (IRD), a nonprofit based in Arlington, Virginia, for infrastructure and sanitation projects in Afghanistan.
“Today, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) suspended the contractor International Relief and Development (IRD) from receiving U.S. Government awards,” the statement read. “The Agency’s review revealed serious misconduct in IRD’s performance, management, internal controls and present responsibility.”

“USAID has a zero tolerance policy for mismanagement of American taxpayer funds and will take every measure at our disposal to recover these funds,” it said.

IRD has been under scrutiny for a contract it received in November 2013 to build seven health centers in Ethiopia.

The USAID cancelled construction of two of the clinics “due to non-performance of the contractor” last September. The agency also warned the IRD that the group would owe the government $300 per site for each day construction was delayed.

The contract is part of $60 million IRD received to build and renovate nearly 400 HIV care and treatment centers in Ethiopia, originally awarded in 2011.

An audit by the USAID’s Office of the Inspector General last May found that mismanagement at IRD was delaying construction of five health centers. The OIG recommended that USAID determine whether the organization should reimburse the government.

Controversy has also surrounded IRD’s lavish salaries and bonuses for its executives, as well as its practice of hiring away former USAID officials, the Washington Post reported.

Despite concerns about some of IRD’s work, the nonprofit received a $10.5 million contract on Jan. 20 for transportation, energy, water, and sanitation projects in Afghanistan.

IRD has received $2,527,967,187 in federal grants and contracts since 2001, mainly from the USAID. Aside from water projects and education initiatives in the Middle East, the group has also received federal funding to put on plays for Iraqi farmers.

The State Department paid IRD $500,000 in August 2013 for “Grassroots Theater for Peaceful Transition” in Afghanistan. Through the medium of the theater, the IRD worked to train farmers in Kandahar Province on “organic pest control and how to treat disease in sheep and goats.”

The performances appeared on Afghan TV, “bringing laughs and learning to tens of thousands more,” IRD said.

Another State Department project funded children’s artwork about peace in Iraq. Other IRD “peace initiatives” include the “theater of the oppressed,” where Palestinian actor and drama trainer Edward Muallem trains Iraqis to “express their emotions and free their bodies and minds to explore the drama and comedy of Iraq.”

IRD has also conducted early breast cancer screenings in Jordan and delivered Crocs to the West Bank.

The group received $300 million in 2008 to build roads, schools, and water systems in the West Bank and Gaza.

The group’s website does not mention the health center project in Ethiopia.

IRD has not admitted to any wrongdoing and said they are cooperating with the USAID.
“According to the notification, USAID is taking this action principally due to specific instances of, and failure to detect, alleged mischarging of unallowable expenses by a former IRD officer, and inadequate financial management controls,” the group said in a statement Tuesday. “This suspension does not affect performance under current contracts with the agency.”

“IRD is cooperating fully with USAID, remains in close and continuous dialogue with the agency regarding these issues, and is committed to addressing them comprehensively,” they said.

When asked for more details regarding IRD’s “serious misconduct,” the USAID said they could not comment on an ongoing investigation.

- See more at: http://freebeacon.com/issues/usaid-suspends-new-contracts-to-nonprofit-for-serious-misconduct/#sthash.11gmLl4r.dpuf