World Health Organization (WHO) staff spent almost $192 million on travel expenses last year, including business class tickets not allowed under agency policy, according to a report from the Associated Press released Monday.
The nearly $192 million is down 4 percent from 2017, when the United Nations subsidiary pledged to rein in travel abuses following another AP investigation.
Internal documents obtained by the outlet found that in 2018 some WHO staffers were misrepresenting the reasons for their travel to exploit loopholes in the organization’s policies and flying business class.
The WHO told the AP on Monday “travel is often essential to reaching people in need” and noted that 55 percent of its travel spending went to bring outside experts and country representatives to meetings.
“When staff travel, they do a range of things, including responding to emergencies, assessing countries’ emergency preparedness, implementing vaccine and other public health campaigns, training health workers and more,” the agency said.
The overspending on travel could reportedly affect WHO’s fundraising ability as it begins its week-long annual meeting in Geneva seeking increased support to fight disease outbreaks.