21 June 2007 | Paul Snell
United Nations procurement needs a "major overhaul", according to one of the organisation's top executives.
Inga-Britt Ahlenius, under-secretary-general for the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), said the UN needed to improve its purchasing policies, checks and balances and processes for dealing with corrupt suppliers. She revealed the OIOS is investigating around $1 billion (£500 million) of contracts, out of a total purchasing budget of just under $2 billion (£1 billion).
Speaking after the conviction of the former UN purchaser Sanjaya Bahel this month on fraud and corruption charges (Web news, 8 June)
, Ahlenius said there was an urgent need to establish a robust structure to act swiftly and resolutely against corrupt vendors. She added a proper framework of internal controls was needed for procurement. She said the high number of cases of possible wrongdoing being investigated - around 140 - showed it was difficult to rely on the current controls.
Ahlenius added there was not a "witch-hunt" taking place in procurement, but that the task force, set up to investigate allegations of wrongdoing, was pursuing the cases handed to them.
Robert Appleton, head of the procurement task force, said it would issue a mid-year report into its investigations next month, and expected them to be concluded by the end of the year.
UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon repeated his commitment to pursuing fraud and wrongdoing in the organisation, and said justice had been done in the Bahel case.