Preventing Corruption in Humanitarian Aid Assistance

Emergency relief being delivered
Emergency relief being delivered

AFTER CYCLONE PAM hit Vanuatu, international aid have been flowing into the country to support people who have been affected by the category 5 storm. Transparency International Vanuatu is concerned about the way humanitarian assistance are being distributed to the people of Vanuatu and the fact that corruption may be involved in some cases.

Humanitarian Assistance Aid can encounter many different corruption risks throughout the program cycle of the aid distribution, it is important to be aware of corruption risks in the process and prevent them from occurring.

Local Intermediaries

Partners and Local Intermediaries is one of the first things to be considered at the beginning of Humanitarian Assistance Aids operations. Humanitarian Aids Assistance has to create relationships with other organizations or appoint someone or a group within a community to help them with the progress of work on the ground.

In Vanuatu, there are local relief committees in each committee. Local relief or camp committees or volunteer groups often play an important role in planning and implementing humanitarian aid projects. Their decisions and actions are key to equitable programmes free from corruption and bias. But, when there is a biased relief committee, reports will be biased thus aid relief will also be biased.

Seafront littered with stones
Seafront littered with stones

A biased committee may divert aid from those who most need it towards their families, friends, ethnic or regional group, or those able to pay. To prevent a biased relief committee, it is recommended that committees or volunteers are not given total discretionary power.

It is important for observers and other relevant authorities to make random, surprise visits to observe committees or volunteers in action. It is also important to try to ensure strong female representation on a committee, and that women and minorities are not just present, but that they have a say in decision making.

Targeting Criteria

Consequently when there is a bias in relief committee there will be a bias in the targeting criteria. Thus, aid is effectively wasted as it does not get to the real emergency victims but is diverted to other groups who may have influenced the local relief committee.

Biased staff or local committee relief may deliberately set criteria that are very complex, making it harder for beneficiaries to hold an organization accountable and increasing the opportunities for corruption. To prevent this from happening it is important to use both geographic and administrative criteria.

False Exaggerated or Incomplete Reports

False exaggerated or incomplete reports are likely to be produced by biased staffs or local relief committees. It is very important that all assessment reports be accurate and independent, not biased. This is because the distributions depend on what is written on assessment reports. Thus to prevent false exaggerated or incomplete reports, it is recommended that reports are widely disseminated amongst key people in the organizations and committees to verify accuracy of information. Suspicious reports must be followed up.

Food Aid Kit     

The large volumes and high values involved make emergency food aid highly vulnerable to corruption; bulk foods are hard to identify if diverted corruptly. Throughout the supply chain, staff or partners may divert food for personal use or sale. Poor quality or adulterated food may be delivered by corrupt suppliers, or smaller amounts than contracted for may be supplied. Emergency victims will not receive the right amount of food aid kit they should receive if biased relief committees produce biased reports.

Inventory documents may be falsified and food smuggled out of warehouses or siphoned off during repackaging or

Relief supplies for 15 days
Relief supplies for 15 days

transportation. Local public officials may divert food, forcefully or with staff collusion. Food may be diverted during targeting or registration, through inflation of population figures. Distributors may reduce entitlements, skim food off for later sale, give more than the standard ration and later collect their share, or show bias to certain recipients.

Surpluses may be ‘ordered’ and sold by community leaders. Such practices must not be encouraged as the distribution of aid is progressing in Vanuatu.

Emergency victims deserve to receive the right amount of aid they are entitled to -, not more, not less. So, to prevent such corrupt practices there must be strict procurement policies, implemented by specialist staff. Follow strict prequalification and bid procedures when selecting suppliers; monitor the implementation of contracts to ensure deliveries are not undersized or adulterated. Additionally, humanitarian aid assistance organizations must ensure secure, safe storage and transport of food items, for instance, using formal procedures for arrival and dispatch.


Moreover, carrying out needs assessment and targeting based on community participation is essential. It is vital to ensure you are reaching intended recipients only and that you publish information transparently. Furthermore, Design and monitor distribution carefully, in collaboration with recipients. Identify secure distribution sites, easily accessed by recipients.

Have signed agreements with staff and partners that food won’t be traded or sold. Encourage use of your complaint mechanism if entitlements aren’t received; investigate all missing goods. Consult the community over likely post-distribution events; tailor food delivery accordingly. And finally, monitor and evaluate your entire supply chain regularly counts as well in the prevention of corruption in distributing food aid kit.

Include spot-checks of storage, transport and distribution in all M&E reports. Make surprise site visits during transit and distributions, examine ration receipts or attendance lists, and verify with recipients that rations received match entitlements. Carry out ‘food basket verification’ and ensure containers are completely empty post-distribution.

Corruption poses a greater risk during situations like this, it is important that, among all the rush to meeting deadlines and ensuring that reliefs are dispatched, the monitoring and fairness of relief efforts must be maintained, and practically sustained throughout the entire relief and rehabilitation timeframe.

A copy of the Publication on : Preventing Corruption in Humanitarian Assistance, can be downloaded here.

Source: Transparency International, 2014, “Preventing Corruption in Humanitarian Aid Assistance”, Humanitarian Assistance, 


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