Thu, Mar 25, 2010 - Page 7 News List

UN missions broke rules: watchdog

LACK OF OVERSIGHT A UN report highlighted deficiencies in internal controls in several missions, including security precautions and preparations in Darfur

REUTERS , UNITED NATIONS

UN missions in several world troublespots neglected proper security procedures and financial controls, exposing the world body to unnecessary risks, an internal report made public on Tuesday said.

The report by the UN watchdog the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), covering last year, found fault with operations in a series of countries but focused especially on Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) and Iraq.

The report “highlights deficiencies in internal controls in a range of areas, from contract management to air operations, that expose the [UN] to unnecessary risk,” OIOS head Inga-Britt Ahlenius said in a preface.

“Lack of compliance with standard operating procedures, poor planning and inadequate management are just a few of the types of deficiencies identified,” she said.

Reports of UN mismanagement are watched closely by critics of the world body, especially in the US — the largest contributor to the UN budget — who charge that the organization is rife with waste and corruption.

In the violent western Sudanese region of Darfur, the unit found that security precautions and preparations by a joint UN and African Union peacekeeping force that now stands at 20,000 troops and police were inadequate for the risks.

The force known as UNAMID, which has lost 22 soldiers and police since the beginning of 2008, made some improvements, the 23-page report said, after OIOS recommended that “urgent measures” be taken.

The report, commissioned by the UN General Assembly, also criticized UNAMID for overpaying a fuel contractor US$4.7 million because of a failure to verify invoices properly.

Turning to the troubled peacekeeping mission in DR Congo, which has nearly 22,000 troops and police, the report charged there were “weak” physical controls over access to cashiers’ offices and vaults. The report did not mention if any losses resulted.

OIOS also probed allegations of sexual misconduct in DR Congo by UN soldiers from an unidentified country and found preliminary evidence some had sexually exploited and abused minors at several refugee camps between 2007 and last year.

It gave no further details. The UN mission, MONUC, has been dogged by claims of sexual misbehavior, including nearly 60 last year, far more than in any other country, said a UN Web site, cdu.unlb.org. The world body refers such cases to authorities in the troop-contributing country.

The report further found that maintenance of airfields in DR Congo by MONUC failed to comply with International Civil Aviation Organization standards.

In Iraq, OIOS found that the UN mission UNAMI, which is entirely civilian, had awarded a US$3 million contract for installing overhead protection in staff accommodation on the basis of a single bid. The mission refused to review why there had been no competitive bidding, the report said.

UNAMI had also violated regulations by not reviewing and updating regularly its security plan, the UN watchdog said.

In the Central African Republic, the report said failures in internal controls had put the UN mission’s resources “at risk for fraud, waste and mismanagement.”

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