UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Saturday demanded the resignation of a senior official at the UN agency, shortly after The New York Times published it. an article The agency described how it disbursed $61 million in loans and grants to a British family, according to a senior UN official.
UNOPS, a little-known operating projects agency, ventured into territory no other UN agency had done: partnering with the private sector in 2015 to generate profits by operating like an investment bank. Now it could lose as much as $22 million in bad debt, according to United Nations auditors.
The scandal was a shock and embarrassment to the United Nations, which was calling on donor countries to provide millions of dollars in aid for the war in Ukraine and other crises, according to several diplomats and staff. An internal investigation into the deals was completed Thursday, but the findings have not been released publicly.
The United States, which sits on the UN agency’s executive committee, said its leadership needed to address the allegations and take responsibility.in a series of tweets On Sunday, Chris Lew, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations for governance and reform, called for a comprehensive review of the agency’s “business model, governance structure and people.”
“At the very least, we believe that UNOPS leadership has missed clear warning signs, failed to provide the necessary oversight, and took unacceptable risks in terms of funding,” Mr Lu tweetedusing the acronym for Office for Project Services.
official statement Mr. Guterres said on Sunday that he had accepted the resignation of Grete Faremo, a former Norwegian minister and executive director of the agency, who personally approved the loans. Ms Faremo entrusted him with tens of millions of dollars after meeting British businessman David Kendrick at a party in New York City in 2015. Ms. Faremo’s agency also donated $3 million to a group run by Mr. Kendrick’s 22-year-old team. – Daughter Daisy, 28, to raise awareness of threats to the world’s oceans.
Ms Faremo, in a letter to her staff on Sunday morning, obtained by The Times, offered a different account of her resignation. She said she submitted her resignation on Friday because “this happened to my watch without knowing the full circumstances.”
“I acknowledged my responsibility and decided to step down,” she said.
Ms Faremo appeared to lay the blame on her deputy, Vitaly Vanshelboim, who was placed on administrative leave in December over a UN investigation into the deals. Referring to the investigation and Mr Vanshelboim, Ms Faremo said, “The shocking breach of trust is hurtful and it profoundly shakes the organisation.”
But a senior UN official, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak publicly, said Ms Faremo was told to resign. The official said Mr. Guterres decided to move quickly after the New York Times article in an attempt to restore donor countries’ trust in the organization.
Amal Mudalali, UN Ambassador to Lebanon, tweet: “Defying the sky!! Who hired these UN officials? Why no supervision!!”, with link to Times article.
In fact, both Ms. Faremo and Mr. Van Shelboim are the highest-ranking officials at the United Nations, both appointed by Mr. Guterres.
In his statement, Mr. Guterres said he thanked Ms. Faremo for her commitment and dedication to the organization. Her resignation took effect Sunday. Mr. Guterres appointed an interim director, Jens Wander, while he was looking for a replacement, the statement said.
The UN deputy spokesman, Farhan Haq, said Mr Wander had “a clear track record on UN reform”. Special adviser on reform to Mr. Guterres.
It is unclear whether Mr Wander will have the mandate to initiate meaningful reforms in his interim role. A senior U.N. official said any reform or restructuring of the agency would be at the discretion of its executive committee, which is made up of a group of member states including the United States.
Mr Lu said on Sunday that the executive committee had requested a full briefing with the agency, which would be held soon.
A spokesman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations said the board was preparing for a briefing on May 16 ahead of Ms. Faremo’s resignation on Sunday, pending further notice.
In a separate statement on Sunday, the UN agency said it had no access to an internal UN investigation report and was eagerly awaiting its findings. It said “continuity plans are already in place to ensure Ms Faremo’s departure does not affect regular project activities.”