• International Relief Agency Official Indicted For Corruption In Afghanistan

    A non-profit executive from an organization with a large presence in Iraq and Afghanistan has just been indicted on federal bribery charges for corrupting the contracting process, The Washington Post reports.

    The organization, called International Relief and Development (IRD), is one of the largest organizations tasked with carrying out governance and administering programs on behalf of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Although 57-year-old executive George E. Green only worked for IRD from December 2011 to May 2012, that short time frame didn’t stop him from quickly moving to accept bribes from an Afghan subcontractor.

    As a recipient of $2.4 billion dollars from the federal government, IRD has been the subject of much criticism over the years for alleged mismanagement and waste in war zones. IRD currently receives 80 percent of its budget from USAID. In the past, Afghan construction companies have claimed that IRD refused to pay millions of dollars for completed road work, and USAID at the time had no real idea where the money trail ended, preferring instead to just cancel the program.

    Meanwhile, IRD continues to attract more and more employees from USAID through promises of higher annual salaries and bonuses, raising questions about whether IRD is taking seriously its mandate as a non-profit organization.

    Yet, despite scandals, USAID has continued to pour funds into IRD to engage in community programs in Iraq and Afghanistan. The goal has been to encourage local communities to switch loyalties away from the Taliban. Other community engagement programs were halted after USAID discovered IRD employees lying in reports about the effectiveness of areas like “flower literacy” grants, in which Afghan women were taught how to arrange flowers.

    In an effort to shed itself of a noxious reputation, IRD voluntarily reported the executive to the FBI after the organization became suspicious of Green’s activities. The inspectors general for Afghanistan Reconstruction and USAID immediately joined the FBI’s investigation. Green allegedly received $60,000 from the subcontractor in exchange for rigging the procurement process. Even after leaving IRD, Green still managed to obtain additional bribe money, claiming he still had the ability to influence the contracting process.

    Green structured payments cleverly to avoid federal currency reporting requirements by moving money through Italy and hiding funds through a combination of credit card accounts, but in the end, it wasn’t enough to avoid the wrong kind of attention. He now faces 55 years in prison after receiving the indictment from a grand jury in Texas.

    “This indictment should serve as fair warning to anyone trying to rob the American taxpayer of their hard earned money,” said John F. Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan. “Bribery involving U.S. contracts will not be tolerated.”

    Follow Jonah Bennett on Twitter

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