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UN company hit with corruption allegations at local weather initiatives

The United Nations Growth Programme is dealing with a number of allegations of fraud and corruption linked to the multibillion-dollar International Atmosphere Facility, in response to paperwork seen by the Monetary Occasions.

A duplicate of a draft report by UNDP’s office of audit and investigations, dated November 2020, described “monetary misstatements” value hundreds of thousands of {dollars} throughout UNDP’s portfolio of GEF-funded initiatives world wide.

The report highlighted issues together with indicators of “fraudulent actions” at two nation places of work and “suspicions of collusion among the many numerous mission managers” at one other, with out naming the nations.

“Points recognized by the audit might critically compromise the achievement of the goals of the audited entity,” the report mentioned.

The GEF was arrange in 1991 as a part of the World Financial institution to assist combat environmental challenges corresponding to deforestation, species conservation and air pollution. It has since break up out to turn out to be an unbiased organisation and disbursed greater than $21bn in 170 nations, together with $7bn in initiatives managed by the UNDP.

The audit of the UNDP’s GEF-funded initiatives — which covers 2018 and 2019 and is the primary evaluate of its variety since 2013 — comes towards a backdrop of rising concern from some donor nations over administration and oversight points on the UNDP.

An investigation by Overseas Coverage in 2019 revealed whistleblower accounts alleging the misappropriation of hundreds of thousands of {dollars} at a UNDP-run GEF mission in Russia. Twelve donor nations — together with the US, France, Australia and Japan — have since sought an unbiased evaluate of the UNDP’s dealing with of that mission, in response to a letter seen by the FT.

“Issues of misconduct and misappropriation of funds proceed to impede sustainable growth internationally,” the donors mentioned in March within the letter to Achim Steiner, the UNDP administrator since 2017.

In a written response to the FT, the UNDP mentioned it “takes all instances of economic mismanagement and different irregularities extraordinarily critically”, including that its GEF initiatives had been a number of the organisation’s “most intently monitored”.

“The portfolio, the vast majority of which is applied by nationwide and subnational establishments, civil society organizations in addition to different UN organizations, is topic to an intricate system of standard opinions, unbiased assessments and audits,” the UNDP mentioned.

Whereas there have been “allegations of misuse of funds” at sure initiatives, such complaints affected “a tiny fraction — 1.4 per cent” of the UNDP’s GEF-funded portfolio, it added. The GEF didn’t reply to a request to remark for this text.

Different mission audits from unbiased consultants in addition to written complaints from present and former UNDP workers, all seen by the FT, recommend that issues over alleged monetary misconduct and poor oversight on the UNDP could also be widespread.

“What occurred in Russia is a Russian downside. However issues going unsuitable are quite common,” mentioned Frank Klinckenberg, a European environmental knowledgeable who has reviewed GEF programmes internationally for greater than 10 years.

An unbiased evaluate of a GEF-funded UNDP mission in Uzbekistan, seen by the FT, warned that monetary info supplied by the UNDP was not dependable and “have to be questioned”. “As an extra consequence, this [midterm review] is required, by UNDP pointers, to refer this mission for a fraud investigation,” the draft report mentioned.

In line with one other long-term exterior advisor to the UNDP, issues raised in mission opinions regularly gave the impression to be ignored by senior workers.

“I don’t perceive a number of the administration responses which have been made,” mentioned the advisor, who requested to not be named. “We’ve got an pressing local weather disaster.”

The claims of misconduct on the UNDP should not the primary allegations of impropriety linked to the UN’s local weather work and symbolize one of many many challenges dealing with the UN because it seeks to co-ordinate a worldwide response to local weather change.

The UN-backed, South Korea-based, Inexperienced Local weather Fund, the world’s largest local weather finance establishment, has confronted a latest wave of inside misconduct complaints, together with allegations of sexism and harassment within the office, the FT reported in August.

“The phrases ‘local weather’ and ‘corruption’, individuals see these as two totally different worlds, however there may be numerous overlap,” mentioned Brice Böhmer, the top of local weather governance integrity at Transparency Worldwide, the worldwide anti-corruption group.

One other individual conversant in the allegations on the UNDP mentioned there was a historical past of UNDP inside opinions avoiding “naming names”.

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“Nobody is accountable, nobody is accountable. The UNDP lets itself off the hook,” the individual mentioned, additionally asking to not be named. “These funds are supposed for the poorest of the poor . . . at what level will donors [to the GEF] determine to droop funding?”

Transparency Worldwide’s Mr Böhmer mentioned governance on the GEF had improved in recent times, however famous that the GEF had restricted authority over UNDP initiatives, that are applied in response to UNDP requirements. Mr Böhmer has not seen the audit of the UNDP’s GEF initiatives reviewed by the FT and couldn’t touch upon its particulars.

“With regards to local weather, we have to have a lot greater requirements,” he mentioned. “If it’s a mission that’s supposed to assist an affected inhabitants adapt, then that is like penalising them twice.”

The UNDP issued a public assertion in response to this text after publication. It may be seen here.

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