International Relief and Development Inc., once one of the largest nonprofit contractors working for the U.S. Agency for International Development, has dismissed its board of directors and laid off 21 employees in an effort to stabilize the struggling organization, senior managers said Friday.
The managers are trying to lift a Jan. 26 suspension issued by USAID, preventing the nonprofit group from receiving federal work. The agency reported that it had found evidence of “serious misconduct” at IRD, including allegations of unchecked spending and mismanagement in humanitarian and stabilization programs, many of them in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Since 2007, IRD has received nearly $2.4 billion to administer USAID-funded programs. IRD President Roger Ervin has been reorganizing the nonprofit since his arrival in December.
Earlier this month, Ervin accepted the resignations of seven longtime managers of the organization, including its chief financial officer, chief administrative officer and general counsel. On Thursday, he dismissed nine members of IRD’s board. On Friday, he announced that 21 people had been laid off at headquarters, bringing to 100 the number of people working in Arlington, down from a peak of 150.
“We have decided to take a new direction,” Ervin said Friday. “We want to do things differently.”
After years of being one of the federal government’s go-to nonprofit contractors in war zones, IRD is fighting for survival. USAID suspended IRD after internal reviews of the nonprofit’s performance in the field and spending at headquarters. IRD also has been criticized for providing generous salaries and bonuses to its employees, including the husband-and-wife team who ran the organization, as well as their family members.
Many of the allegations were contained in a Washington Post investigation published last May.
Federal investigators are now examining the expenses of IRD’s founder and former president, Arthur B. Keys, and his wife, Jasna Basaric-Keys, IRD’s director of operations, according to people familiar with the case, who declined to be identified because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly.
The couple, who retired from IRD last summer, received $5.9 million in total compensation between 2008 and 2012. IRD allegedly used tax dollars to cover an array of questionable overhead expenses, including Redskins season tickets, personal travel and meals, and alcohol at company receptions and retreats, according to current and former government and nonprofit officials.
Several agencies are examining IRD’s spending and past performance on contracts, including the inspectors general for USAID and the State Department. Attorneys for the Keys have denied any wrongdoing. They said an auditing firm they had retained examined personal charges by the Keys and determined that they were “properly reimbursable.”