Deep in the thankless swamp of Washington, D.C., free-market think tanks and advocacy groups fight against overspending and taxation every day. As the ground zero of government malfeasance, limited-government organizations focus their attention on the nation’s capital. And while these groups are right to zero in on Congress and the administration, there exists harmful taxpayer-funded bureaucracies at an even higher level than the U.S. federal government. Enter International Governmental Organizations (IGOs), which comprise of organizations such as the United Nations (UN) and the World Bank.
These entities have received billions of dollars in American (and global) taxpayer funding but operate with astonishingly little oversight. The lack of scrutiny, coupled with countless instances of waste and abuse, has led the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) to establish IGO Watch, an international collaborative effort to hold these bureaucracies accountable. By keeping up the pressure on IGOs to live within their means, govern fairly, and be transparent about their spending and activities, IGO Watch will be an international taxpayer watchdog.
Organizations such as the UN spend billions of taxpayer dollars sans accountability while pushing dubious agendas that run contrary to American interests. Take, for instance, the World Health Organization (WHO), a specialized agency within the UN to “direct international health within the United Nations’ system and to lead partners in global health responses.” In 2016, WHO travel expenses exceeded $200 million for just over 7,000 staff employees. Astonishingly, travel expenses surpassed the combined total that the WHO spent on fighting AIDS and hepatitis ($70.5 million), malaria ($61 million), and tuberculosis ($59 million) during that year.
And when it comes to fighting these deadly diseases, there’s a sobering disparity between dollars allocated and help on the ground. At the height of the Ebola crisis, former Director-General Margaret Chan doled out tens of thousands of dollars in taxpayer funds for a luxurious presidential suite at the Oceanside Palm Camayenne Hotel. As this official, and others in a similarly high position, enjoyed top-tier accommodations, the first responders on the ground lacked the resources and manpower to effectively help disease victims.
Even if top brass had a valid excuse to squander taxpayer funds on Jacuzzis and room service, there’s no denying a broader pattern of fiscal malfeasance. When the Government Accountability Office released a report detailing $380 million in unanticipated costs for the renovation of UN headquarters in New York City, few blinked an eye or rushed to justify the culture of waste at the IGO. Any explanation simply would not matter, due to the systematic underreporting of waste and corruption in global bureaucracies.
And if reporters attempt to make light of IGO proceedings, they’re in for a rude awakening. Press members can look forward to having their credentials revoked at “public” U.N. meetings, and being shown the door by bodyguards. TPA found this out the hard way, when our very own Drew Johnson was forcibly removed from a tobacco control meeting in India.
For these, and other abuses, TPA formed IGO Watch. The website, IGOWatch.org, which went live in early April, will educate global taxpayers about prominent IGOs and showcase the repeated wasteful spending and undemocratic norms that persist in these bureaucracies.
The Trump Administration and Congress have shown a willingness to scrutinize and cap IGO funding, but more work is sorely needed. If taxpayers knew exactly where their tens of billions of dollars were being spent, the carte blanche enjoyed by these organizations would swiftly come to an end. In time, IGO Watch and like-minded groups can, and must, hold lawmakers feet to the fire in demanding restraint and accountability.