Hot tip for any reporters interested in newly disclosed documents on waste, fraud and abuse at the United Nations:
Just days after I queried the U.S. Mission to the UN about its commitment to UN transparency (Paging Ambassador Susan Rice), the Mission finally posted on its web site more than 130 previously secret UN internal audit reports. The UN, for all its endless promises about transparency and its ample enjoyment of other people’s money, does not release these reports to the public. It is only thanks to the U.S. that they are now seeing daylight at all — though it takes some trolling through the Mission’s web site to find them.
For anyone who cares about even minimal integrity in UN management and handling of taxpayer money, there’s a trove of bombshell material here. Together, the reports total hundreds of pages, but the typical report runs about 10-20 pages. They date from October, 2008 through August, 2009.
Here’s a link to the U.S. Mission’s web page on UN Oversight and Transparency with the main links, and here are direct links to the newly posted and until-now confidential internal audit reports from 2008 and 2009.
Pick your subject and dive in, whether it’s a summary of the “higher risks” due to “the lack of an appropriate structure” for the UN’s own Ethics Office, or a report on the dire derelictions of reporting and accountability dogging the plump trust funds of the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Specifically set up to better coordinate aid, OCHA features in a Nov. 2008 audit report as handling trust funds with a throughput of hundreds of millions of dollars, but not bothering to produce any consolidated statement of cash flow. OCHA also had “little discernible linkage” between strategic planning and “the measurement and reporting of actual performance.”
For those interested in the UN’s climate bureaucracy, check out the July, 2009 report on the slop of the UNFCCC Secretariat’s conference management, with its multi-year delays in accounting for funds. Or delve into the Dec., 2008 report on the UNFCCC’s Clean Development Mechanism, where the governance was found “not adequate to mitigate reputational and other risks,” and the executive board “due to lack of time” had neglected to adopt any code of conduct whatsoever to address such corrosive problems as conflicts of interest.
Or, in the realms of UN peacekeeping, with its more than $8 billion annual budget, for which U.S. taxpayers alone fork out roughly $2 billion per year, check out the UN’s nearly $1 billion annual program for peacekeeping air operations. In an August, 2009 report, the UN’s own internal auditors noted that participation by senior management was “inadequate,” current staffing levels were “insufficient,” time of effective bidding on air charter services was “insufficient,” provisions in air charter agreements were “unclear” and some vendor registration was “improper.”
It takes a certain amount of determination to slog through the UN jargon, in which an executive summary of ”not adequate” is often code for outright abuse or screaming failure, if you slog on to the details of the report. But in these reports, which cover only a sampling of the UN’s sprawling global system, the problems roll on and on. In corners that rarely receive attention from the media, they range from poorly documented lump-sum handling of noncompetitively-sourced travel arrangements for the UN mission in East Timor (UNMIT), to the UN’s disregard of its own rules in choosing a director for the UN Centre for Regional Development (UNCRD), headquartered in Japan.