UN Report on Sexual Abuse, Fuel Theft at Missions
UN WATCHDOG REPORT DEALS WITH SEXUAL ABUSE, FUEL THEFT AT MISSIONS, CORRUPTION
New York, Oct 18 2005 5:00PM
A sharp increase in reported cases of sexual exploitation by peacekeeping and other personnel, systemic corruption by publicly-owned enterprises in United Nations-administered Kosovo, and fuel theft at various peacekeeping missions are among issues addressed by the world body's internal watchdog office in its latest report.
"The Office is entrusted with critical responsibilities in enhancing the effectiveness of United Nations programmes through the continuous improvement of internal control mechanisms in the Organization," the head the Office for Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), Inga-Britt Ahlenius, said in a preface to the report to the General Assembly. She presented it to the Assembly's Administrative and Budgetary (Fifth) Committee and briefed correspondents on the main findings today.
The increase in the number of reports of sexual exploitation and abuse at peacekeeping missions and duty stations has led to new procedures and additional resources to conduct investigations, detect cases, and train personnel.
"Owing to the above-mentioned sharp increase in reported cases of serious misconduct, in particular cases of sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeeping personnel, it is evident that the discipline of peacekeeping and other personnel has become one of the main issues that the Organization needs to address," the report says.
A survey at 19 peacekeeping operations shows that although in general staff have a positive perception of discipline at individual missions, a significant number believes misconduct is occurring – but going undetected and unpunished.
"Auditors noted that training was insufficient and that, except for sexual abuse cases, complaints were not properly recorded or filed. There were also no clear procedures in missions for personnel to make complaints and, in many instances, inadequate systems to follow up on complaints," the report says.
With regard to Kosovo, OIOS has provided staff and resources to the ongoing work of the Investigations Task Force at the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) that is focusing on systemic corruption in the publicly-owned enterprises.
Investigators have spent approximately 18 months looking into the most significant charges of corruption concerning Pristina airport and have highlighted several criminal referrals and numerous reports on administrative violations. The Investigations Task Force is currently undertaking investigations into the energy sector, principally involving the Kosovo energy company, Korporata Energjetike e Kosovës.
In a case involving an unnamed mission, OIOS investigated and reported on a serious case of discrimination and abuse of authority by a manager, which highlighted problems facing local employees in peacekeeping missions, including being forced to pay "kickbacks" for securing employment.
The report says thefts of large amounts of fuel at peacekeeping missions by staff in collusion with local nationals have been identified, including the recent involvement of troop contingents in such theft along with breakdowns in the application of control systems. As a result of the investigations into this problem, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations has now sought the support of OIOS.
Calling procurement "one of the most significant risks to the Organization in terms of the potential for inefficiency, uneconomical contracting, fraud, corruption and abuse," the report says investigations continued to deal with allegations of corrupt behaviour by UN staff.
OIOS issued recommendations relating to: accountability for theft of UN property; collusion between UN staff and vendors, especially relating to the favouritism shown to certain vendors; misuse of UN equipment; and waste.
With regard to last December's Indian Ocean tsunami relief effort, coordinated by the UN, OIOS has recommended improved coordination and administration relating to finance, human resources, property, security and information management.
In April, OIOS investigators issued a report to the Secretary-General describing the risks and opportunities for corruption and waste associated with weak coordination, rushed procurement and recruitment decisions and the magnitude of the funding.
Meanwhile, as part of a continuing effort to increase accountability of UN staff and ascertain potential conflict of interest, new rules were published today calling for financial disclosure forms to be completed by any one at the Director level and above.
The rules clarify that sexual abuse and sexual exploitation constitute serious misconduct. The current rules specify that the Secretary-General may summarily dismiss any staff member found to have committed serious misconduct, but does not specifically mention sexual exploitation or abuse. The changes need to be considered and approved by the General Assembly so that they can come into force on January 1.