Overseas Civilian Contractors

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U.N. missions in some countries broke rules: watchdog

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – U.N. missions in several world troublespots neglected proper security procedures and financial controls, exposing the world body to unnecessary risks, according to an internal report made public on Tuesday.

The report by the U.N. watchdog the Office of Internal Oversight Services, or OIOS, covering 2009, found fault with operations in a series of countries but focused especially on Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Iraq.

The report “highlights deficiencies in internal controls in a range of areas, from contract management to air operations, that expose the (United Nations) 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.”

Reports of U.N. mismanagement are watched closely by critics of the world body, especially in the United States — the largest contributor to the U.N. 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 U.N. 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 U.N. General Assembly, also criticized UNAMID for overpaying a fuel contractor $4.7 million because of a failure to verify invoices properly.

POOR CONTROLS

Turning to the troubled peacekeeping mission in 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 Congo by U.N. soldiers from an unidentified country and found preliminary evidence some had sexually exploited and abused minors at several refugee camps between 2007 and 2009.

It gave no further details. The U.N. mission, MONUC, has been dogged by claims of sexual misbehavior, including nearly 60 last year, far more than in any other country, according to a U.N. website, http://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 Congo by MONUC failed to comply with International Civil Aviation Organization standards.

In Iraq, OIOS found that the U.N. mission UNAMI, which is entirely civilian, had awarded a $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 U.N. watchdog said.

In the Central African Republic, the report said failures in internal controls had put the U.N. mission’s resources “at risk for fraud, waste and mismanagement” and led to erroneous payroll payments and unreconciled bank statements.

Original Story at Rueters

March 23, 2010 - Posted by | United Nations | , , , , , , , , , , ,

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