Five intermediary charities in the distribution of food from both the Food Bank and the Red Cross to disadvantaged families They are being investigated after an individual has alerted that they resell lots of basic necessities destined to families without resources for amounts between 3 and 10 euros. The complaint has been sent to the Ministry of Agriculture, through the Government Sub-delegation, to to carry out the corresponding inspectionn. The control unit of the Spanish Agrarian Guarantee Fund (FEGA), dependent on the aforementioned ministry, is the one that authorizes organizations for the direct distribution of food to needy people and carries out inspections to avoid fraud. In August 2019, it already detected irregularities in an NGO in Alicante and investigated the illegal sale of a ton of free food to the underprivileged. The Police, on that occasion, detained two people and investigated two more for a fraud of more than 300,000 euros reported by the Government Sub-delegation.
Now, hand in hand with the pandemic, the picaresque seems to multiply as much as the need. The Food Bank, with more than 50,000 beneficiaries in the province compared to 33,000 before the health emergency, distributes the lots through some 200 collaborating entities, of which four are being investigated. “They are being subjected to unexpected controls to see if this complaint is confirmed or not. If so, the authorization to distribute the food will be withdrawn. The investigation is ongoing, “he says. Juan Vicente Peral, director of the NGO, associated with Fesbal, the Federation of Food Banks of Spain, of which a total of 54 associates from all over Spain are part, who operate distributing food among more than 7,000 charities and one million beneficiaries.
Returning to the province, the Food Bank this week began to plan the distribution of the large collection of last November, a campaign in which some 500,000 kilos of products were stored (worth 475,000 euros) compared to 480,000 kilos last year, “which is very well in a situation like the current one, with many people affected economically. The solidarity of society has been a success.
The process has started after a complaint, which also warns that there is a charge for free diapers given to babies. “As soon as there is a single complaint, the device with its own controls of the Food Bank – in charge of a social worker – and of the Agriculture area of the Government Subdelegation, which will be the one that will dictate the sentence to draw up the minutes”. The entities subject to the complaint are being visited.
According to Peral, this picaresque is common but it is accentuated when there is a great need, such as in this time of pandemic. “They take advantage of the circumstances to try to profit. You can’t do it, and you can’t do what some people do: go to multiple charities for food simultaneously. We are crossing data with the municipalities to clean up these irregularities. The idea is to assign the families the closest entity to their home to prevent them from going to other neighborhoods for more food. “Then there is the proselytism of some confessional entities that we have detected in a specific way also subjected to surveillance,” he said in reference to the alleged partiality when giving food to those of the same confession.
“When there are these tsunamis of apparent lack of control due to the incredible increase in need, irregularities are committed,” says the director of the Food Bank, who assured that at the moment the investigation has not yielded results.
Within the framework of this procedure, controls are carried out on the distribution entities on certain dates to inspect the distribution and verify that it is actually being collected. At this time, the NGO serves 17,000 more beneficiaries with staple food than usual throughout the province.
The Food Bank makes inspection visits in phases that each cover 40% of its collaborating entities and when irregularities are detected, the Agriculture control is notified. In the case of new associations that join the network, they pass the inspection in the first phase of controls. Peral explained that in March and April, with the state of alarm, new NGOs emerged “like mushrooms” but “they have no operational capacity and they deflate like a souffle.”
The investigation into the illegal collection of basic necessities also affects a Red Cross food distribution association that is dedicated to distribution. «When there is any type of suspicion, as is this case, in which a complainant sends this information for its corresponding review, we communicate it to the Ministry of Agriculture, which has the competence in this case, to carry out the corresponding investigation or audit of this association. In the case of the Red Cross, we have evidence of an association that receives food from the distribution we do. We have transferred this information to the authorities so that they can carry out the inspections and take the measures that have to be taken according to said audit or inspection, ”said the NGO, which serves some 40,000 people in the province in each phase of distribution of food through distribution entities.
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