21 September 2006 | Helen Gilbert & Rebecca Ellinor
The United Nations has appointed Paul Buades as its permanent chief of the procurement department. Buades, a Belgian with more than 20 years' experience with NATO, is now the organisation's most senior purchaser. He reports to the Department of Management, headed by Under-Secretary-General Christopher Burnham.
He joins the UN as it continues to investigate claims of purchasing fraud.
Buades is the successor to previous procurement chief, Briton Christian Saunders.
As reported in SM
(News, 16 February), Saunders was one of eight officials placed on special leave with full pay as part of the probe into purchasing fraud.
In an interview with SM
, Saunders, who spent 17 years with the UN in Gaza, the West Bank, Rwanda and Sarajevo, said he improved transparency during his four-year tenure as chief.
The UN investigation has so far exonerated two people, who are back at work, and led to the suspension of one member of staff.
The Procurement Task Force, set up to examine claims of fraud, has completed five investigations since it was established in January. The UN would not name the employees.
A further two are back at work but have been asked to respond to allegations of mismanagement. Three remain on special leave with pay, pending completion of the investigations and decisions on action.
A UN spokesperson said one member of staff had been charged with misconduct and suspended without pay. Associated Press has reported that Sanjaya Bahel, a field procurement section chief with the United Nations Procurement Service, confirmed he had been suspended but said the allegations were "not correct".
The UN spokesperson added: "He [Bahel] is now being given an opportunity to respond, which is an essential element in the UN's system of internal justice."