Thursday, November 21, 2013

Philippines struggles to keep aid crooks at bay

Gulf News via Reuters: As millions of dollars pour in for more than four million left homeless by a typhoon in the central Philippines, authorities are grappling with a familiar problem — how to stop fraudulent claims and prevent greedy politicians taking advantage.

Typhoon Haiyan smashed through the country on November 8, laying waste to just about everything in its path, and killing more than 4,000 people. Nearly 13 billion pesos (Dh1 billion or $298 million) in cash and relief goods have so far been pledged by countries and donor groups to an overwhelmed government that was criticised for its slow response in the first few days after disaster struck.

The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank have committed a total of more than $1 billion in grants and emergency loans to support reconstruction and relief efforts. Add to that the millions of pesos raised by the private sector, with Filipinos working across the globe gathering friends for fund-raising activities, and you have a lucrative target for scammers and unscrupulous public officials in one of the most corrupt countries in East Asia.

The Philippines comes in at 105 out of 176 countries in Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index, with the cleanest country, New Zealand, at number one. “It is a big issue in the international aid community, especially insofar as international NGOs are concerned,” said Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, when asked about bogus aid agencies and scams.

Tricare, a health care programme providing insurance to US military personnel and retirees worldwide, had received claims for damaged homes from two million people from the typhoon-devastated city of Tacloban when the population, before the storm struck, was only 220,000, said Andrea Colley-Lopez, a programme manager at International SOS Assistance Inc which provides support for groups including Tricare....

US sailors stack relief supplies on the flight deck of the U.S. Navy's USS George Washington, which will be airlifted ashore in response to Super Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda in the Philippines.

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