Ambassador Chris Lu
U.S. Representative for UN Management and Reform
New York, New York
August 29, 2022
Thank you, Madam President. In the interest of time, we will submit a longer statement for the official record.
Accountability and transparency are essential to restoring the partnership between UNOPS and its donors. That’s why it’s so troubling that almost four months after the New York Times exposé on UNOPS, the UN Secretariat still has not shared the independent investigative report with the entire executive board. Our requests to learn about what, if any, disciplinary action has been taken against wrongdoers have been ignored. And the UN has said nothing publicly about this matter for months.
This lack of public accounting hurts the UN’s credibility and is demoralizing to the honest, hardworking employees who work in this organization. And frankly, it makes it difficult for member states who are funding UNOPS to go back to our governments and our taxpayers and say that this situation is being resolved. Once again, we renew our call on the UN Secretariat to provide greater access to the independent OIOS investigative report so we can fully exercise our oversight authority.
With regard to UNOPS’ reserves, we are concerned about the new recommendation to create an $80 million reserve, of which $70 million would be used for internal, institutional investments, including digital transformation projects and capital expenditures. This recommendation is a stark departure from previous statements by UNOPS leadership about why reserves are needed.
UNOPS is a fee-based organization. All operational costs should be coming from the fees generated from projects and investment returns that UNOPS gains from those fees. Based on reports from the previous Executive Director, the Joint Inspection Unit, and the Board of Auditors, the U.S. has assumed for years that UNOPS has had the funds to invest in the organization and its people.
Moreover, the U.S. encourages UNOPS to confer with the Board of Auditors and then report to the Executive Board about writing off committed S3i funds as investment losses where there is not a high likelihood of recovering the funds. UNOPS should also report to the Board on the steps taken to recover S3i funds and why those steps were not successful.
Finally, we are pleased by today’s announcement that the outside review of UNOPS will have preliminary findings in October and final findings in November. We would strongly encourage the Executive Board to meet this fall to discuss these findings, and not wait until our next scheduled meeting in January 2023.