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Head of UNRWA Replaced Pending Misconduct Inquiry

Head of UNRWA Replaced Pending Misconduct Inquiry

Wednesday, 6 November, 2019 - 12:15
FILE PHOTO: Pierre Krahenbuhl, Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), attends a news conference in Geneva, Switzerland January 29, 2019. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo

The head of the UN agency that aids Palestinian refugees has stepped aside until the end of an investigation into misconduct allegations, the agency said on Wednesday.

Commissioner General Pierre Krahenbuhl stepped aside until a review of “management-related matters” at the agency was completed, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) said in a statement.

It gave no details of the substance of the allegation, Reuters reported.

UNRWA provides education, health, housing and relief services to more than 5 million registered refugees in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, as well as in neighboring countries Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

The UN Secretary General appointed Christian Saunders as Officer-In-Charge for the interim period. Saunders previously served as the agency’s acting deputy commissioner general.

“Over the last few months, UNRWA has initiated an internal review of its governance, management and accountability functions, so as to ensure it practices the highest standards of professionalism, transparency and efficiency,” the UNRWA statement said.

Krahenbuhl was notified in March that an investigation was underway by the UN Secretariat in New York “based on allegations received against UNRWA personnel relating to unsatisfactory conduct”.

The substance of the allegations has not been made public in detail.

According to Reuters, UNRWA has faced budgetary difficulties since last year, when the US, its biggest donor, halted its aid of $360 million per year.

Washington says some UNRWA activities are anti-Israeli.

Switzerland, the Netherlands and Belgium have separately suspended payments to UNRWA over the management issues that are now under investigation.

لإhe agency’s spokeswoman said it still needs $89 million to keep operating until the end of this year.

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