24 February 2006 | Anusha Bradley
A lack of qualified purchasers willing to work in dangerous war-torn countries is a contributing factor to alleged peacekeeping procurement fraud at the United Nations.
The UN's Office for International Oversight (OIOS) published a report in January into procurement fraud in its peacekeeping operations. Following publication, the UN established a Procurement Fraud Task Force, which is now investigating 200 allegations of fraud.
Mark Malloch Brown, secretary-general Kofi Annan's chief of staff, presented the findings of the OIOS to the UN's security council this week.
Brown said the report identified three "distinct sources of risk" leading to fraudulent activity. The first is that procurement rules developed by headquarters were "ill suited" to field operations. In addition, he said, field operations are dangerous, demanding and unpredictable. The final risk, he said, is that 50 per cent of peacekeeping procurement field positions were currently vacant, because potential employees with suitable skills "were not willing to serve in the demanding environment under current conditions".
Martin Buxey, a retired UN chief procurement officer who formerly worked on peacekeeping missions in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Kosovo, told supplymanagement.com
it was difficult to recruit staff to work in the field.
He said such personnel required "completely different" skills sets to those working in headquarters, and there was a lack of resources to train staff for both.