The Voice of America said it intends to remove fifteen members of an African language service after an investigation found the individuals had accepted improper payments from a foreign official from West Africa.
The alleged payments were made in or near the main VOA offices in Washington, D.C. earlier this year, according to a senior VOA official.
The director of the federally funded news organization Amanda Bennett said the terminations came after simultaneous investigations by VOA staff and the Office of the Inspector General.
The investigations focused on “allegations of improper conduct by members of the service, which involved accepting improper payments from an official in the coverage area.”
“It is therefore with a very heavy heart that I must tell you that we have terminated or (in accordance with all applicable Federal laws and regulations) proposed to terminate 15 members of the Hausa Service,” Bennett said in an agency-wide email.
Individuals within VOA’s Africa Division said the investigation “produced no evidence that any programming was affected by the alleged payments.”
“A separate investigation has been launched to determine if any coverage by VOA was improperly influenced,” Bennett said.
The terminations cut the 26-member Huasa team to eleven permanent government employees and contractors to produce content for the service that reaches 20 million people each week in Nigeria, Niger, Ghana, Chad, and Cameroon.
Hausa is spoken by around 63 million people, most of them living in Nigeria and Niger.
VOA is a federal news agency that delivers news in more than 40 languages to more than 230 million people each week.
“If any other instances of improper payments are discovered in any service anywhere in VOA, we are committed to investigating them thoroughly and dealing with them promptly as well,” Bennett said.
Harry Cassin is the managing editor of the FCPA Blog.