When a non-profit agency was caught funneling tax dollars to a suspected terrorist organization, the Obama administration stepped in to make sure the money was paid, according to a new Senate report.
The report scolds World Vision, a humanitarian organization, that in 2014 partnered with the Islamic Relief Agency in a project aimed at addressing hunger and other issues in Sudan, saying to did not put much effort into seeing whom it was funding with U.S. dollars.
At the time grant money was sent to World Vision from the United States Agency for International Development, money that would later be shared with the Islamic Relief Agency, known as ISRA.
ISRA had been sanctioned by the Treasury Department since 2004 for its links to al-Qadea and Osama bin Laden, according to a Dec. 23 statement on the website of Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
“The United States government placed sanctions on ISRA in 2004 after they had funneled approximately $5 million to Maktab Al-Khidamat, the predecessor to Al- Qaeda controlled by Osama Bin Laden. ISRA’s leadership also engaged in discussions to help relocate Bin Laden to secure safe harbor for him In the mid-2000’s, ISRA was responsible for moving funds to support a Palestinian terrorist,” the report from the Finance Committee’s Oversight and Investigations Unit stated.
ISRA was not in the picture in January 2014 when USAID gave World Vision a $723,405 grant to address needs in the Blue Nile region of Sudan. However, within days of getting the money, World Vision agreed to sub-contract with ISRA.
The report, and Grassley, said the agency should have known better.
“World Vision works to help people in need across the world, and that work is admirable. 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,” Grassley said.
In fact, World Vision claimed it had no idea it was dealing with a sanctioned group until, as Grassley’s statement said, “another non-profit aid group declined to work with them after doing their own due diligence and finding the affiliation between World Vision and the sanctioned ISRA.”
The report notes that even after World Vision knew ISRA was on the sanctions list, it wanted to keep working with the group, and finally asked the Treasury Department for approval to pay out $125,000 for services it claimed ISRA had already provided.
The report said that in January 2015, World Vision said it planned to resume work with ISRA, prompting the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control to warn the group that it was banned from doing so.
The humanitarian group persisted, the report said.
“On February 19, 2015, World Vision again requested a license to transact with ISRA in order to pay them $125,000 for services rendered. In its request, World Vision stressed that it could face severe legal consequences and even expulsion from Sudan if it did not pay ISRA the monies owed,” the report said.
Eventually, the Obama administration came to the rescue.
“On May 4, 2015, the Obama Administration’s State Department recommended OFAC grant World Vision’s request for a license to pay ISRA $125,000 in monies owed,” the report said.
The report said investigators “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 prior to receiving notice from Treasury,” the report stated. “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 and terrorists, including Osama Bin Laden.”
The report calls World Vision’s system for vetting prospective sub-grantees “borderline negligent” and says the organization “ignored elementary level investigative procedures.”