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UN's recruiting practices for field missions must be improved, internal audit finds

UN's recruiting practices for field missions must be improved, internal audit finds

Recruiting practices for United Nations peacekeeping operations have often been improvised in the absence of written guidelines, raising doubts that the best-qualified candidates are selected, according to the results of an internal audit released at UN Headquarters in New York.

The report by the Office of Internal Oversight Services reviewing the policies of the Department for Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) says that the selection process for the UN's 45 worldwide missions frequently did not ensure that candidates were chosen competitively. Inconsistencies were found in determining salary levels and reference checks were seldom conducted, resulting in staff with low morale or candidates hired for jobs for which they were ill-suited.

The Department also lacked benchmarks for evaluating the efficiency and effectiveness of its recruitment activities and failed to properly analyze the workloads of its staff, which increased dramatically with the emergence of large and complex new missions during the period from January 1999 to October 2000 covered by the report.

With a recent independent expert panel recommending that field missions be allowed to do their own recruiting, the report highlights the critical need for published guidelines. "The absence of written procedures exposes the recruitment process to inconsistency and arbitrariness and raises doubts about whether it is geared towards selecting the best available candidates in a fair and transparent manner."

To strengthen the process and enhance transparency, the report makes a number of recommendations, such as implementing a monitoring mechanism to ensure that the Department follows the UN's personnel policies. DPKO should also establish a roster of qualified, pre-screened candidates; develop standard job descriptions; apply grading criteria consistently, and conduct reference checks before staff is hired.

Other suggested improvements include setting up written procedures for recruiting international civilian staff as well as deploying qualified human resources specialists and providing training to existing staff before allowing field missions to do their own recruiting.