WASHINGTON: The United States has cancelled funding for Pakistan's version of the children's television series "Sesame Street," saying on Tuesday it had received credible allegations of fraud and corruption in the production of the popular Muppet program.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the US Agency for International Development (USAID), which had contracted with Pakistan's Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop to produce the local version of "Sesame Street," had been notified of the corruption charges through an anti-fraud hotline.
"We did launch an investigation into the allegations. We also sent the theater workshop a letter that terminates the project agreement," Toner told a news briefing.
"No one is questioning, obviously, the value and positive impact of this kind of programming for children. But this is about allegations of corruption," he said.
The US decision to cancel funding for the program comes amid unrelenting tension between Islamabad and Washington, which are locked in a cycle of deepening mistrust over US drone strikes, Pakistan's closure of NATO supply lines into Afghanistan and other disputes.
Toner said USAID had originally allocated $20 million to produce the show - which premiered in late 2011 and is known as "Sim Sim Hamara" in Pakistan - and that about $6.7 million of this had already been spent. The rest of the money has been terminated even though the investigation is still under way, Toner said.
"We deemed that the allegations were serious enough that we wanted to suspend or cut off the program until we were able to complete this investigation because we take misuse and misspending of US taxpayer dollars very seriously," he said.
Sesame Workshop, the non-profit that has brought "Sesame Street" and other children's programs to more than 150 countries around the world, said it was "surprised and dismayed" by the allegations against the Rafi Peer Theater Workshop.
"We trust that the facts will be fairly and fully assessed, and we will wait for the full report," Sesame Workshop said in a statement on its web site.
"It is our hope that the achievements of "Sim Sim Hamara", and the gains we have made in the lives of children in Pakistan, will carry on."
"Sim Sim Hamara" has aired weekly on Pakistan television in Urdu along with editions in four additional languages for regional broadcast. The project has also involved radio episodes, school fairs, and puppet shows and mobile screenings around the country, according to Sesame Workshop. Sesame Workshop says the program was envisioned as an important educational tool for a country which has some 65 million children under the age of 15.
Faizaan Peerzada of Pakistan Children's Television, which was tasked with implementing the "Sim Sim Hamara" project, said the USAID portion had been due to end in September.
"After this, Rafi Peer will continue to run it with its own resources. And the spiced up story is a lie," Peerzada told Reuters, referring to reports of the corruption allegations.
The Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop, in its own statement, said the joint project was drawing to a close "with mutual consent" and that it was confident it could find alternate sources of funding to keep the program running. Pakistan is not the only place where the Muppets have run into trouble. The Palestinian version of "Sesame Street" was hit this year after the US Congress froze USAID assistance programs to the Palestinians following their unilateral efforts to gain admission to the United Nations.
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Why the Peerzada Family in all their videos and interviews to CNN are not coming to the irregularity carried out in procurement.
They know the difference between puppets and red chilli wine very well.
Please watch this. A discussion by Juggan Kazim and Usmaan Peerzada at a morning show.
Please spread it guys. We should not take any crap from stupid and fake allegations any-more. It's the time to open our eyes and see what (so-called) "they" don't want us to see. Tell them we're grown ups now and refuse to accept these allegations without evidence. I think it's more of a jealousy factor that Sim Sim Hamara (A Pakistani version of Sesame Street) appeared to be a huge success and seemed to be an amazing quality program for the children of Pakistan for the first time that it was nearly impossible to match the standards so it's a way to defame not only Peerzada (who have not only done great things for arts and culture in Pakistan for Pakistan but for the children and artists all over the Pakistan) but also Pakistan. Everybody should ask for evidences guys and that's the most sensible way to take it up.
Also find below the discussion by Hasb-e-Haal on Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop. Shows how articles like the one above are a perfect example of framing organizations into false, baseless allegation which lack evidence.
Here’s the press conference which came out after the allegations and Peerzadas have asked for the same evidence people have been asking all over these comments.
Watch this. A discussion by Hasb-e-Haal on Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop. Shows how articles like the one above are a perfect example of framing organizations into false, baseless allegation which lack evidence. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5q2ZpOII1E&feature=youtu.be
So this isn't the first time U.S. has done this? Palestinians became the target of this due to political reason. What is to say it is any different this time when Pak-US relations are in tatters?
It is sad when ventures like this, meant to alleviate problems our government or the private sector can't do, go bust. I'm not surprised that the Peerzada's turned out to be thoroughly corrupt. Shame on these people.
@ Every One,
I don't know why they are issuing legal notices to newspapers , where they issued the procurement advertisements during eid holidays so that no one can bid..... Smart People but not smarter than JUSTICE.
Here's the press conference which came out after the allegations
They have asked for the same evidence people have been asking all over these comments.
Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop is a very well reputed company and I've grown up seeing Rafi Peer Festivals and other puppet activities and I thoroughly admire their work and efforts towards arts, and culture towards our country. In 30 years there has been no allegations how come suddenly some thing came up out of no where? We shouldn't see just one side of the picture. There is other side too which I'm sure is good and clean. I definitely show my support for Peerzadas and their work and would love to see them clean soon and expect more great work from them. But they should definitely be given a chance to prove and say what they have. Peace!
@S. Qureshi: Yes, God forbid children of Pakistan grow up with an open mind about secularism and other aspects of life. Better they continue to be brainwashed by monsters masquerading as mullahs around the country. Phew, so glad this was nipped in the bud before the children became too open minded or educated!
With my hate or your love for rafi peer group the project was not initiated or not stopped. I have given the proofs where they were required and got the result, you have all the courts of US and Pakistan to make them invalid. Good luck Buddy.
@ Mr. kashif its very obvious from ur all comments and statements just depicting ur personal hatred n jealousy for Rafi Peer .. if u r rite .... paste all so called evidences here ...
I can't believe that this so incredible that they are STILL reporting fake news. USAID has still not provided RPTW with any evidence of fraud, corruption or mismanagement. In fact they have changed their views over the the course of 24 hours as is evident by this statement. “A while back we received a phone call on our anti-fraud hotline and the person reported discrepancy in the “Sim Sim Hamara” project with credible evidence, as a result of which we started an investigation into the matter,” said Robert Raines, the spokesperson for USAID in Pakistan.”Since the matter is still under investigation we can’t conclude whether it is a fraud case or not and something substantial can only be said after the completion of the investigation,” the spokesperson said. It is clear that USAID has not concluded whether fraud has taken place but obviously Pakistan today has. Your comments is laughable but kudos to you for keeping your head up and carrying on with such ststements
some facts n figrs
USAID .. gave 3 different statements till now .. wASHINGTON ....corruption case still investigating ...hmm okay ISB Usaid .... got call on fraud help line .. still investigation .. hmmm okay USAID Lahore.... any thing happened wat... we dont know anything hmmm wait.... Rafi peer dint get any notification yet .... Sasame blog...... they want to work with rafi peer Us suspended 33 million dollar american grant to Pakistan last month Nato thing / Funds are moving towards Afghanistan..... Sim Sim Hamra Project audit was 95 % in december .... plz dont criticize ur people use ur H.E.A.D to analyze things its global thing / another plot
Kids and you who both love Rafi Peer work, are ignorant of corruption done at the project. Good to know you grew up with participation in their youth festivals, now accept and face the truth.
This is hilarious .. without evidence insulting legends i mean Rafi Peer is doing excellent work I grw up participating in rafi peer youth festivals we all being students wait whole year to express our talents in rafi peer competitions and in festivals and now my Kids luv to watch Sim Sim Hamara thay lov to go puppet museum every sunday ..
@Analyzer: Why do you want to go into the facts. In this country every aspect of life is filled with corruption which is totally the opposite of Islamic doctorine. The government and the politicians, the army and the generals, the police law and order, the mullahs and their personal gains, the chief justice and judicial system all consider themselves as muslims but 90% are surely not having a single drop of fear for the wrath of here after. Good or bad it is their (US) money. Having said that I say Rafi Peer must be the wrong doer. When was the last time pak govt thought of children's future, conversely how many children have lost their future due to this corruption establishment since the 1950s.
Good it ended. I was sceptical of USAID's intentions. This was an attempt to brainwash Pakistani children into becoming secular pro-West liberal extremists.
Peerzada family is not beyond reach. ET should take their stance on that issue as well.
If these allegations are true, then Peerzada group should be taken to task. I mean due to embezzlements like these other international NGOs get highly discouraged an.d sceptic in giving money even when the cause is grave. The international aid in the last flooding is a clear evidence. And what disappoints me most is the lawlessness.
I have all the evidences shared with USAID pakistan office, provide me your e-mail address if you want a copy..
corruption at its best
I am not surprised as the credibility of the Peerzada family is poor! They are a bunch of arrogant frauds and cheats!
Here is a copy of a sensible post:
"...I feel that this article is pointless. It keeps referring to fraud and abuse but never explains exactly what happened. How can I have any opinion either way if I’m not given the relevant information? Why publish an article where the most important part of the story is missing?
Okay, now to be better informed, can we have the evidence.
We don't want to jump all over someone without any shred of evidence presented. Let us avoid speculation based on allegations only!!
Whatever the case maybe, it is the children who will end up suffering!
That's what happens when you choose a company and give them all the money instead of passing it through an open and transparent tender.
I have told you the story. What else you want.
Its true, the family was distributing the $10 million mostly among themselves.
We are not aware of the minute details of the allegations but making these allegations public even before the proper investigations is not warranted in any case...Rafi Peer is doing wonderful work and i sincerely hope they will keep on producing wonderful programs without any foreign financial assistance..and at the same time they make their accounts more transparent...
During the flood is Sindh, Pirbhat Women Development Organisation was black listed by OXFAM but many other Donors are still funding it including UNDP pakistan...
Please have a detail forensic audit carried out of the alleged fraud and breach of procurement policy.If found guilty recover the money
I am very disappointed at Rafi Peer Theatre gang
we do not know the specific details of these allegations. We trust that the facts will be fairly and fully assessed, and we will wait for the full report. RP is not the small name they have done allot of projects with GOV just Good wishes for the RP and bad wishes for Corruptions
While it's not exactly anything I would have expected to be a project of the aid, it still goes to show that the aid does have the intentions of helping the citizens of Pakistan with proof of action. But, I'm sure the most common response to my saying that would involve some kind of topic change.
Sim Sim Hamara is a wonderful program aired on state run television and millions of children watch this in villages and small towns. How can you stop this program and deprive million of Pakistani children on merely a spicy press story? I mean there are organizations carrying out audit and monitoring the progress of such like ventures. Let those organization give there expert opinion. I am totally appalled and disappointed on depriving Pakistan from an educational venture only on media reports.
Corruption of all sorts pervades every aspect of life in "the land of the pure"
What a pity.
Thanks God for corruption, even the US Aid can't fulfill its designs in Pakistan.
I feel that this article is pointless. It keeps referring to fraud and abuse but never explains exactly what happened. How can I have any opinion either way if I'm not given the relevant information? Why publish an article where the most important part of the story is missing?
There was a clear procurment rules misappropriation by Rafi Peer Group. Our dubai based partners at Media City Dubai were very furious since they wanted to bid. We filed a complaint at Transperency International , and after that today are thankful to US State Department for listening to us along with USAID Pakistan office and Transparency International.
Rafi Peer Theatre has a interesting history of loose financial integrity A detail forensic audit should be carried out and if found guilty they should be taken to task and money recovered.