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August 01, 2014

Federal Auditor Hits Relief Charity's Confidentiality Rules

A U.S. inspector general said Thursday that a relief organization that received hundreds of millions of tax dollars for reconstruction work in Afghanistan and Iraq violated whistle-blower laws in requiring outgoing workers to sign strict confidentiality agreements, writes The Washington Post.

John F. Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, wrote in a letter to Arlington, Va.-based International Relief and Development (IRD) that more than half of the separation agreements signed by departing employees contain "unacceptable gag provisions," raising concerns that the charity is "acting improperly to limit the rights of potential whistle-blowers to report instances of waste, fraud, and abuse."

The agreements threatened legal action against ex-employees who disparaged the charity to funding agencies or government officials. The Post reported in May that IRD spent nearly $2-billion in funds for projects in Iraq and Afghanistan with little government oversight, and its operations and spending have been criticized by federal auditors and former staffers.

Kris Manos, IRD's interim CEO, said, "Compliance and transparency are integral attributes at IRD" and the group has "taken several steps" to enhance protections for ex-employees.