May 3, 2006 - Issue: Vol. 152, No. 51 — Daily Edition109th Congress (2005 - 2006) - 2nd Session
INTRODUCTION OF UNRWA INTEGRITY ACT; Congressional Record Vol. 152, No. 51
(Extensions of Remarks - May 03, 2006)
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[Extensions of Remarks] [Pages E712-E713] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] INTRODUCTION OF UNRWA INTEGRITY ACT ______ HON. MARK STEVEN KIRK of illinois in the house of representatives Wednesday, May 3, 2006 Mr. KIRK. Mr. Speaker, I am introducing the UNRWA Integrity Act of 2006 with Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA). This bill ensures that American taxpayers are not funding terrorism through contributions to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). UNRWA was created in 1949 as a temporary agency to provide relief services to Palestinian refugees. It is the only United Nations agency dedicated to one specific group of refugees. The United States is the UNRWA's largest donor, contributing more than $2 billion since 1950. In 2005 alone, the United States donated $108 million, constituting nearly a fourth of UNRWA's annual budget. Yet, there is a startling lack of accountability over UNRWA's financial activities. An analysis of UNRWA's most recent internal audit performed by the United Nations Board of Auditors finds vague summary totals. Account after account in this audit describe line items as ``Cash Assistance'' or ``Unearmarked Contribution.'' At least $43 million of UNRWA's budget is undefined. As American taxpayers, we are entitled to better accounting standards. With Hamas' rise to leadership of the Palestinian Authority, we must ensure that contributions to UNRWA do not end up in the hands of terrorists. This is no idle concern. UNRWA was suspected in terrorist activity involving terrorists using UNRWA ambulances to transport weapons. Furthermore, UNRWA employees use their posts to run for office on Hamas' ticket. When questioned on Hamas candidates working for UNRWA, the Commissioner General refused to comment. The UNRWA Integrity Act ensures money designated for humanitarian assistance does not fall into the hands of terrorists. The bill requires the President must certify to Congress that UNRWA is subject to comprehensive financial audits by an internationally recognized, independent auditing firm; does not knowingly provide employment, refuge, assistance or support of any kind to members of foreign terrorist organizations; and is not an impediment to finding a lasting solution for Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza. The bill [[Page E713]] also calls upon the State Department to assess the prospect of phasing out services provided by UNRWA, and examine anti-Semitic bias in UNRWA's educational material. Tying future U.S. assistance to UNRWA to an independent, internationally recognized expenditure audit will ensure U.S. taxpayer money does not support terrorist organizations like Hamas. I want to thank my good friend Congressman Tom Lantos for being the lead co- sponsor of this legislation. I look forward to working with him and my other colleagues on this bill to bring accountability to UNRWA. By doing so, we can take positive steps towards solving the refugee problem without allowing U.S. dollars to fall into the hands of terrorists. ____________________