Behind the Bins: Congresswoman Requests Investigation of Planet Aid

A congresswoman is asking questions about where your tax dollars really went following a News4 I-Team/Reveal investigation into the charity Planet Aid.

Most will recognize the charity because of its bright yellow bins asking for your clothing donations. But in May, the I-Team and Reveal at the Center for Investigative Reporting did a series of reports on how the U.S. Department of Agriculture also has allocated more than $130 million to the controversial charity to feed, educate and improve farming practices in Africa. But when Reveal reporters went to Malawi, they told the I-Team they were unable to find many of the improvements the charity claimed it accomplished in its progress reports to the USDA, like installing hundreds of water pumps and distributing thousands of pigs and goats.

Wednesday, Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) sent letters to the Government Accountability Office and the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Agriculture requesting they “begin an immediate and thorough investigation into Planet Aid” and “it’s possible misuse of federal funds” after “journalists have found evidence that suggested Planet Aid may have failed to fulfill its contractual obligations.”

She added it was of particular import because “the contracts being performed are intended to meet the food security needs of some of the poorest people on earth.”

In response to McCollum’s letters, Planet Aid said in a statement the reporting was inaccurate and the charity is “confident that an investigation will reveal these allegations to be false.” The statement also said, “Planet Aid takes its fiduciary responsibilities very seriously. As recipients of U.S. government grants Planet Aid is subject to regular oversight by its donor organizations and always cooperates fully with that process. We follow strict compliance measures to ensure that our finances meet or exceed those high standards. Over decades of working with the U.S. government we have never had any problems."

The USDA's Foreign Agriculture Service also sent a statement saying, "While our own oversight did not identify any major issues with Planet Aid’s implementation of the FAS-funded project in Malawi, we take these allegations of illegal activity very seriously."

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