UNRWA Gaza Headquarters (AP /Khalil Hamra) AP /Khalil Hamra
UNRWA Gaza Headquarters

“We urge a full and transparent investigation by the U.N.,” said U.S. Middle East peace envoy Jason Greenblatt.

By United With Israel Staff 

“The Swiss foreign ministry has decided to temporarily stop payments to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) amid claims of misconduct among its top management,” reports swissinfo.ch (SWI).

A report issued by UNRWA’s ethics committee includes accusations of acts of  “nepotism, discrimination and sexual misconduct,” according to the Swiss news outlet.

The report also alleges that the agency’s commissioner-general, Pierre Krähenbühl, “claimed daily allowances despite being away from UNRWA headquarters in Jerusalem,” says SWI, which also cites SRF public radio as a source.

Krähenbühl is a Swiss national. According to the media report, he has pledged to fully cooperate with the investigating authorities.

Following an earlier Al Jazeera report on Monday that the Ethics Department of UNRWA had accused Krähenbühl of corruption, U.S. Middle East peace envoy Jason Greenblatt called for a full probe into the agency.

“We’re extremely concerned about UNRWA allegations,” Greenblatt tweeted on Monday. “We urge a full and transparent investigation by the U.N. UNRWA’s model is broken/unsustainable and based on an endless expanding number of beneficiaries. Palestinians residing in refugee camps deserve much better.”

According to the report, soon after Krähenbühl’s appointment as UNRWA chief in 2014, he began taking trips to the Gulf with agency official Maria Mohammedi, and their relationship went “beyond the professional.” He then appointed her as his senior adviser and used his authority to enable her to travel with him at the agency’s expense, according to the report

UNRWA Deputy Commissioner-General Sandra Mitchell and Chief of Staff Hakam Shahwan are also reportedly involved in the corruption allegations.

The United States announced nearly a year ago that it would no longer contribute to UNRWA, calling it an “irredeemably flawed operation.”

The agency has an annual budget of $1.2 billion to support more than five million Palestinian refugees in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Gaza, and the West Bank, reports SWI.