Criticism of UN spend

16 March 2009

16 March 2009 | Jake Kanter

The United Nations (UN) procurement of consultancy services is disorganised and lacks compliance, a leaked audit report claims.

The Joint Inspection Unit (JIU), the external oversight body for the UN, studied 156 consultancy purchases between 2002 and 2006 and found 59.6 per cent were agreed without competitive tendering, thereby breaking procurement procedures.

Each of the deals was worth more than $30,000 (£21,765).

A UN spokesman responded to the highly critical report at a press briefing this month by saying that consultancy was a "highly specialised" element of procurement. He said the UN would adopt some of the JIU's recommendations but would not answer other questions in relation to the report.

The JIU study said the high level of "waivers" - where a contract is awarded on a non-competitive basis - was caused by rules not being adequately applied, and ambiguity in existing procedures.Poor documentation gave an impression that justification for waivers was "not taken seriously", it said.

The auditor added that reasons for not contracting competitively frequently included the supplier having "extensive experience" and that the need was so urgent, there was no time for a thorough procurement procedure.

The JIU said a high level of uncompetitive tendering cut efficiency and created irregularities. Inspectors lambasted contract documents as "uneven and mostly poor quality" and claimed the UN lacked contract management expertise.

The study recommended senior UN officials develop effective monitoring and reporting systems for waivers. The JIU urged UN buyers to use document guidelines and introduce an electronic contract management system to combat the shortfalls.


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