U.N. Agency for Palestinian Refugees Faces Accusations of Misconduct


JERUSALEM — The United Nations agency responsible for the welfare of Palestinian refugees, already struggling with funding cuts, is bracing for fallout after a highly critical internal ethics report was leaked to international news outlets this week detailing claims of serious mismanagement and misconduct.

The confidential report by the agency’s ethics office, based in Amman, Jordan, alleged that members of an “inner circle” in the top management of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency engaged in “abuses of authority for personal gain, to suppress legitimate dissent and to otherwise achieve their personal objectives,” according to Al Jazeera, which first exposed the report on Monday.

Israel and Trump administration officials have previously accused the agency of wastefulness and of perpetuating the plight of Palestinian refugees, and have called for it to be shut it down.

The ethics office report is also said to have raised accusations of nepotism and retaliation. And it claimed that there was an inappropriate relationship between the agency’s commissioner-general, Pierre Krähenbühl, a Swiss native who has held the position since 2014, and a senior staff member.

The employee was reportedly appointed in 2015 to a newly created role as a senior adviser to Mr. Krähenbühl after an “extreme fast-track” process, according to Agence France-Presse, which also obtained a copy of the report.

Mr. Krähenbühl was accused, among other things, of excessive travel away from his duty station in Jerusalem, claiming an allowance for travel for up to 29 days per month.

The report was submitted to the United Nations secretary-general’s office about six months ago, according to a United Nations official. A spokesman for the office said on Tuesday that the secretary-general, António Guterres, “continues to consider the work undertaken by U.N.R.W.A. as absolutely essential to Palestinian refugees.”

The agency said in a statement that Mr. Krähenbühl had been notified that the accusations were being investigated by the United Nations’ oversight office in New York, and that he had instructed all employees to fully cooperate. The agency added that it could not comment on a continuing investigation.

“Everything circulating now, including in the media, is ‘allegations’ and not findings,” said the statement, sent by an agency spokeswoman, Tamara Alrifai. It added, “If the current investigation — once it is completed — were to present findings that require corrective measures or other management actions, we will not hesitate to take them.”



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