U.S. foreign aid programs are plagued by a lack of effective oversight, resulting in tax dollars being squandered or disbursed to violent foreign extremist organizations, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee said today.
"In light of the significant economic challenges facing our nation and the American people, there is no more critical time to recommit ourselves to protecting taxpayer dollars from being misspent and to promote concrete reform, transparency, and accountability at the United Nations and throughout our assistance programs," Ros-Lehtinen said.
Ros-Lehtinen today introduced the Foreign Assistance Partner Vetting Act of 2009 (HR 1062), which establishes procedures to prevent U.S. taxpayer dollars from benefiting foreign extremist organizations. The bill bans disbursement of U.S. funds to compromised groups such as the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which provides assistance to Palestinian refugees and has been repeatedly accused of bias and malfeasance.
Last week, Ros-Lehtinen and 27 of her House colleagues wrote a letter to President Obama urging him to cut off U.S. funding to UNRWA due to that organization's failure to vet staff and aid recipients for ties to Palestinian extremist groups.
"Millions in taxpayer dollars are wasted annually by unmanageable foreign assistance programs, and some taxpayer money even finds its way into the hands of violent Islamist groups and others with American blood on their hands," said Ros-Lehtinen.
Ros-Lehtinen is also the author of the United Nations Transparency, Accountability and Reform Act (H.R. 557), which conditions U.S. aid to UNRWA and other UN agencies on steps taken to prevent their resources from supporting foreign extremist organizations, as well as on the implementation of concrete reforms to root out ongoing fraud, corruption, and abuse at the UN. The legislation now enjoys the support of over 50 co-sponsors.
Today, in light of reports that the UN has ordered itself to pay the legal fees of the corrupt former head of their oil-for-food program, Ros-Lehtinen introduced new legislation (H.R. 1072) which prohibits U.S. contributions to the UN from being used to pay the legal bills of UN officials and employees facing corruption charges.
"Congress and the Administration have a responsibility to the American taxpayer to make the policy changes necessary to ensure that hard-earned taxpayer dollars are spent in a transparent and accountable manner that advances U.S. interests and are not hijacked for malignant purposes."