Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) Must be More Transparent and Accountable

Several partners and allies joined OpenTheGovernmnet.org in sending a letter to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew urging him to adopt policies that would increase transparency and accountability at the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC), the office tasked, in part, with granting civil society organizations licenses so that they are able to provide services to civilians in conflict zones around the world without running afoul of U.S. sanctions law. Currently, many civil society organizations working in conflict zones where terrorist groups operate, such as Somalia, Syria or Mali, have complained that OFAC takes months, or even years to issue a response to license requests, and often denies them based on arbitrary reasoning. In some cases charities cannot obtain the name and contact information for the OFAC official processing their request.

The letter specifically encourages Treasury to adopt transparency and accountability measures recently suggested by the Charity and Security Network. If adopted, the standards for approving licenses for humanitarian assistance and peace-building projects must be clearly defined and easily available to the public, and all licensing determinations describing the scope of approved work would be publicly available. Applicants would also be provided with the name and contact information for the OFAC official responsible for processing the application. Additionally, Treasury would provide Congress with an annual report concerning OFAC’s administration of license regulations.

Download the letter here.

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