Joint Nordic Statement at the Annual Session of the Executive Board of UNDP, UNFPA, and UNOPS on 6th June, 2022
Read the Joint Nordic Statement delivered by H. E. Ms. Titta Maja, Director General for Development Policy for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland, at the Annual Session of the Executive Boards of UNDP, UNFPA, and UNOPS on 6th June, 2022.
Thank you, Chair,
I am delivering this statement on behalf of Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and my own country, Finland.
President, Executive Director, Dear Colleagues,
We thank UNOPS for its annual report of the Executive Director and recognize its contributions towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. We welcome UNOPS’ solid strategy to improve gender balance and the achievement of gender parity in its overall workforce. We encourage UNOPS to continue its efforts in mainstreaming gender equality in all its activities.
However, we express our serious concern that the reported irregularities related to S3i, including the investigations, the high-risk exposure, ongoing challenges, and potential financial losses linked to the investments, were not transparently reflected in the Executive Board documents presented by UNOPS.
We expect the relationship between UNOPS and the Executive Board to be based on trust, transparency and mutual accountability. We call on UNOPS to fulfil its responsibilities and act with urgency towards restoring trust and credibility. This includes proactive information sharing to the Board that will enable it to execute its oversight function.
Speaking here today, we do not have all the information available. We reiterate our request to release the findings and recommendations of the OIOS report.
We are extremely concerned about the issues raised in the forensic audit reports by the Internal Audit and Investigation Group on Sustainable Housing Solutions Holdings and We are the Oceans. These reports indicate serious failures in internal controls concerning investment decisions, due diligence, risk management, integrity and leadership.
Several red flags were identified along the way, but they were bypassed. Furthermore, the reports also highlight some fundamental shortcomings in terms of checks and balances and point out an almost complete lack of segregation at UNOPS.
Given that the decisions regarding investments and partnerships now under investigation were subject in each case to the advice of the UNOPS Engagement Acceptance Committee, all those involved in these decisions, including the whole UNOPS senior management, must be held fully accountable for any wrongdoing that may have occurred, regardless of their status in the organization.
Restoring trust in UNOPS will require a thorough scrutiny of its operating models. We welcome an independent assessment of the wider UNOPS business model and internal control structures at UNOPS and independent audit of S3i investments.
It is of utmost importance that all details of this matter are examined to the fullest extent. We underline the urgency of these assessments and audits as time is of the essence here. We are already seeing signs of spillovers in terms of eroding confidence in the broader UN system. This can also have damaging consequences in many donor countries.
We stress the importance of establishing a transparent, accountable and healthy organizational culture at UNOPS, including the further strengthening of oversight, audit, ethics, advisory and investigation practices as well as an effective and accessible whistle-blower system. The full independence as well as capacity building of UNOPS’ Independent Audit and Investigation Group and the Ethics and Compliance Office must be ensured, and these entities should report directly and regularly to the Executive Board.
We would like to recall that the S3i initiative forms an integral part of UNOPS Strategic Plan 2022-2025 as one of its three pillars. Supporting countries in attracting new sources of financing for sustainable investments in infrastructure and innovation through initiatives, such as S3i, continue to be relevant and required to achieve the Agenda 2030.
Thus, we should not jump to premature conclusions over the future of S3i as we lack crucial information and a clear vision what can be feasibly achieved with S3i. Any efforts to recalibrate how UNOPS, along with S3i, operates and delivers must happen in close consultation with the Executive Board, in due time and be based on sound analysis after the independent audits have been completed.
Thank you for your attention.