Joint Statement on GEF Accountability at the UNDP Executive Board Meeting (via VTC)

Greg Garramone
Senior Management and Reform Advisor
Office of Management Policy and Resources
Bureau of International Organization Affairs
U.S. Department of State
February 1, 2021


Thank you, Mr. President. I am delivering this statement on behalf of Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Republic of Moldova, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, and my own country, the United States of America.

We thank the Board of Auditors for these reports and the management of UNDP, UNFPA, and UNOPS for managements’ responses. We commend UNDP for a fifteenth consecutive clean audit. We strongly support the Board’s recommendation for swift implementation of all BoA recommendations, especially outstanding Board recommendations.

Regarding the UNDP audit, while the BoA report does not address UNDP and Global Environment Facility (GEF) project implementation issues directly, it is clear to us that timely implementation of outstanding recommendations regarding risk management, procurement, vendor oversight, and internal controls might have mitigated some of the challenges UNDP and GEF are currently working to resolve.

We are encouraged by robust efforts on the part of UNDP management to resolve issues related to UNDP governance of GEF-funded projects through the Management Action Plan shared with Member States in December. We look forward to the next steps as UNDP management addresses the concerns of Member States.

We believe swift implementation of actions as enumerated in the Plan, followed by firm and sustained compliance, monitored and evaluated, to those commitments will address many of the shortcomings in governance and oversight we have seen to date.

That said, we wish to reiterate a number of indicators that will demonstrate to us as Member States that change has taken root.

We are mindful of recent actions on the part of UNDP to communicate with GEF Member States on progress with the Action Plan, whether through timely briefings or the public transparency website. To strengthen this commitment, we request a dedicated informal to discuss UNDP governance of GEF-funded projects and update progress on the Plan at future Executive Board meetings until the Action Plan is fulfilled. This is in line with the monthly reporting that was requested by the GEF Council.

We note that UNDP has taken measures to address capacity issues that were at the heart of a number of consistent breaks with policy that led to lapses in oversight and accountability. We expect continued monitoring and reporting as these measures are implemented and capacity challenges are resolved.

We reiterate, however, that even the most robust policies have no value without sustained and accountable compliance with those policies, as well as a conflict-of-interest free management structure with appropriate division of labor for programming and oversight. This will require fundamental changes in culture and management accountability lines, which UNDP has committed to establish and we will expect to see going forward. We hope and expect that UNDP will pronounce a clear strategy on how to take institutional challenges forward.

We believe that essential to cultural change is decisive and appropriate actions from management accountability for substantial mismanagement, misconduct, and failures of leadership dictates. Consequence neutrality is detrimental to behavioral change. High ethics and speaking up need to pay off on the carrier ladder. Lack of judgment, misconduct, or failure to disclose misconduct has to be disincentivized. To this end, we will look to the results of the Management Accountability Review Panel and actions to be taken.

Finally, we look to consistent reporting from the office of the Administrator regarding the work of the Strategic Controlling Unit, work that we expect will demonstrate and fulfill UNDP management’s sustained commitment to oversight and a change in culture that will enable true management and oversight reform.

As we have noted, Mr. Chair, we are in this together. We look forward to working with and supporting all parties in this endeavor, which underpins the great and necessary work on environment, climate, and energy generated by this important partnership.

Thank you, Chair.