HL UNITED NATIONS: Report reveals mismanagement in Afghanistan relief effort
Credit: SOUTHAM NEWS
SO Ottawa Citizen (OTT)
Origin: UNITED NATIONS
LP --- UNITED NATIONS: Report reveals mismanagement in
Afghanistan relief effort ---
UNITED NATIONS -- A confidential internal audit on the UN humanitarian relief operation in Afghanistan reveals a pattern of mismanagement.
TX The audit says millions of dollars are unaccounted for. It also claims officials engaged in questionable practices, such as changing money on the black market. The preliminary report, made available by a diplomatic source, also states that in a number of instances procurement contracts were entered into without the benefit of competitive bidding. It concludes the entire operation lacked the ""commensurate"" arrangements required for administering such a large-scale operation. The revelations come at a time when western countries have criticized the management of the world body and called for reforms. The leak of the report also comes at a politically sensitive time. The UN is seeking a new secretary general and western nations have urged that whoever is named to the post be a strong administrator. The Afghanistan relief effort, known as Operation Salam, was set up in May 1988 to provide humanitarian relief to that country after 10 years of war sparked by the Soviet Union"s invasion in 1979. The operation, known by the acronym UNOCA, was headed by Prince * Sadruddin Aga Khan. ""There was a lack of control over the operations and activities of the field offices in Islamabad, Pakistan and Kabul, Afghanistan,"" the report says. ""These offices were found to be functioning independently with little or no monitoring by the UNOCA office in Geneva. ""As a result, questionable expenditures . . . remained undetected . . . (The) situation was aggravated by the fact that there was no UN staff in the field who was well versed in UN financial and administrative policies and procedural matters."" The report also notes $2.1 million in proceeds from the sale of non-monetary ""in-kind"" contributions ""were not reflected in UNOCA"s financial statements."" Another problem focused on is that UNOCA didn"t reconcile its records with those of the UN office in Geneva, Switzerland. As a result, the report notes that a contribution of $2.5 million by France was shown as outstanding, even though UNOCA"s records showed it had been fully paid. The preliminary report does not name any officials nor does it suggest fraud was a motive. However, it does cite one instance in which UNOCA, through a sister agency, changed dollars on the black market at inflated rates, while the transaction was recorded at the much lower official exchange rate. The report does not say how much money was involved in the transaction nor what happened to the additional money secured through the black market. Richard Foran, the acting UN undersecretary-general for administration and management said. however, that the report was incomplete and the final conclusions could be different once UN officials complete it. Foran said UN managers involved in Operation Salam had been asked to answer a number of questions and their replies would be included in the final document. He said preliminary reports tended to be much tougher than the final documents because they raise a lot of questions for which, at first, answers are not readily available. The final report is not expected to be ready for ""a couple of weeks,"" a UN spokeswoman said.
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