Buyers unwilling to enter war zones

16 March 2006
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16 March 2006 | Anusha Bradley

A lack of purchasers willing to work in war-torn countries, together with the harsh conditions of many in-country posts, are factors in alleged procurement fraud at the United Nations, according to an internal report.

Briton Mark Malloch Brown, who will be deputy secretary-general from 1 April, presented the findings to the UN security council this month.

He said the research revealed three "distinct sources of risk" that could lead to fraudulent activity. Procurement rules were "ill suited" to field operations. Field operations were also dangerous and demanding, he said. Lastly, 50 per cent of peacekeeping procurement field positions were vacant, because employees with suitable skills "were not willing to serve in the demanding environment under current conditions".

Staff were given only six-month contracts, little training and were "disadvantaged" compared with colleagues in New York, he said.

A former peacekeeping purchaser told SM that procurement officers were often "given no support" in the field. They had to find their own accommodation and work seven days a week in a dangerous environment. In some cases, female staff hired bodyguards because they felt unsafe.

The UN Office for International Oversight (OIOS) published a report in January into procurement fraud in its peacekeeping operations. The UN then established a Procurement Fraud Task Force, which is now investigating 200 allegations.

* There will be a feature on the UN in SM on 30 March


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