The documents show how the project became a cash cow for at least 21 Houthi officials in Hajjah

Leaked documents: Houthi officials pocketed cash from Danish Refugee Council aid project for sanitation workers 

Leaked documents reveal a corruption case involving the Houthis’ new humanitarian oversight body and an international humanitarian organization in the Mahbisha district of Hajjah governorate in northwest Yemen. 

The case sheds light on the inner workings of an aid project overseen by the Supreme Council for the Management and Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (SCMCHA), which the Houthis formed in early November to monitor all humanitarian projects in the country. 

The project, implemented by the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), aimed to benefit 13 employees in the local public sanitation office who are part of marginalized social groups. Documents reveal that the project ultimately became a cash cow for at least 21 Houthi officials in the governorate.

The DRC allocated $31,117 to the project, but that the majority of the funds went directly to Houthi officials and other authorities, including Houthi-affiliated security and tribal figures. 

Documents show that the director of Hajjah’s Cleaning and Improvement Fund, Mohammed Al-Kohlani, sent a payroll request listing the names to the Hajjah office of the SCMCHA. In turn, Alan Ali Fadhil, director of the SCMCHA’s Hajjah branch, sent a memo to the DRC detailing the case and those involved. 

The DRC disbursed funds for the project to those named in the leaked documents, according to an official in the Hajjah government. The documents show that only 12 of the original beneficiaries were actually working. They received $630 each for the duration of the project from November 2019 to March 2020. The Houthi officials who have done no work on the project received between $512 and $630 each for the duration of the project. 

While the budget of the DRC project is a fraction of the billions of dollars in aid money flowing into Yemen, the large portion of budget diverted to Houthi officials and their local allies undercuts the goals of the project to help marginalized sanitation workers. Further, while this type of corruption targeting humanitarian agency’s in Yemen is nothing new to Yemen, the scale of the graft since Houthis came to power in 2015 is unprecedented.  

The Houthis established the SCMCHA last month to manage international aid programs being implemented in areas under their control. The decree that formed the council stipulated, among other things, that each humanitarian organization must have a member of Houthi national security on its board of directors; each humanitarian project must pay 2 percent of its program costs to the Houthi council; and the council will define all humanitarian assistance priorities control each aid project from start to finish. 

Almasdar Online was unable to reach the DRC for comment. 

Mahabisha district is economically important for the Houthis, allowing them to generate large amounts of money through taxes on the cultivation and sale of Qat. Located near frontline fighting between the Houthis and forces loyal to the internationally recognized government, the district is also politically important. Paying off local leaders is a common tool to ensure loyalty, but taking those funds from aid projects undermines locals’ view of the Houthi authorities.




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