After Helen Clark lost the 2008 election, she became the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme She is also the Chair of the United Nations Development Group, a committee consisting of the heads of all UN funds, programmes and departments working on development issues.
This week, the Associated Press and other news sources reported that development programs partly supervised by the UNDP have been exposed as allowing massive fraud and corruption and have failed to meet objectives. Billions of dollars have been channeled into the hands of criminals and fraudsters and programs undertaken have achieved nothing.
The Global Fund is the main collector and distributor of the funds in question, and much of its own work is dogged by corruption. Some of those funds are shared with the UNDP who administers their expenditure on programs in designated regions. This work is typified by similar or perhaps even worse corruption. The buck for this poor management by the UNDP stops with Helen Clark.
The Global Fund’s Inspector General, John Parsons, pointed out that the United Nations Development Program refuses to open its books to investigators. Among the corruption uncovered by Parsons’ task force:
—Last month, the fund announced it had halted grants to Mali worth $22.6 million, after the fund’s investigative unit found that $4 million was misappropriated. Half of Mali’s TB and malaria grant money went to supposed “training events,” and signatures were forged on receipts for per diem payments, lodging and travel expense claims. The fund says Mali has arrested 15 people suspected of committing fraud, and its health minister resigned without explanation two days before the audit was made public.
—Mauritania had “pervasive fraud,” investigators say, with $4.1 million — 67 percent of an anti-HIV grant — lost to faked documents and other fraud. Similarly, 67 percent of $3.5 million in TB and malaria grant money that investigators examined was eaten up by faked invoices and other requests for payment.
—Investigators reviewed more than four-fifths of Djibouti’s $20 million in grants, and found about 30 percent of what they examined was lost, unaccounted for or misused. About three-fifths of the almost $5.3 million in misappropriated money went to buy cars, motorcycles and other items without receipts. Almost $750,000 was transferred out of the account with no explanation.
U.N. officials won’t release internal audits of their programs to the Global Funds investigators. Parsons said that has blocked him from investigating programs in the more than two dozen nations, including some of the most corruption-prone. UNDP spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Sunday that the program’s policy bars it from sharing internal audit reports with the Global Fund, but that it is reassessing that policy.
Update 1- An AP investigation last year found the United Nations cut back severely on investigations into corruption and fraud within its ranks, shelving cases involving the possible theft or misuse of millions of dollars. That happened after the U.N. dismantled its anti-corruption Procurement Task Force at the end of 2008. (2008? Do readers think there is anything meaningful about that date?)
Update 2- Research largely funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation also has revealed some U.N. health programs have been useless or riddled with corruption. When officials studied the effectiveness of a major U.N. child health strategy used in more than 100 countries, they found no difference between the health of kids who were included in the strategy and those who weren’t.
A similar study found that a $27 million UNICEF program designed to save children in West Africa also failed, as children who weren’t included actually had a better chance of survival than those enrolled in U.N. programs.
And in 2008, Gates-funded research showed dozens of countries exaggerated figures on how many children were vaccinated against deadly diseases, which allowed them to get more money from U.N.-sponsored programs. After the research was published, the agency involved and its donors scrambled to cut off all payments until countries could explain what happened.
Sounds like Clark is doing just as good a job at the UN as she did as PM of NZ.