Former Hungarian Prime Minister to lead panel on UNDP work in DPR Korea
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) today announced the members of a panel, to be led by the former Prime Minister of Hungary, that will look into the agency’s activities in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
The new panel will complement the work of the UN Board of Auditors, which since January, at the request of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, has been examining UN activities in DPRK following media allegations that funds used by UN agencies to help in humanitarian efforts in the country were being channelled improperly to the Government in Pyongyang, including to its nuclear programme.
That inquiry into the operations of UNDP, UNFPA, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) is now preparing to enter its second phase after the first phase found there had been no large-scale or systematic diversion of UN funds.
But the Board of Auditors has also noted that the second phase will not cover the full range of allegations and issues raised specifically about UNDP’s work in the DPRK.
In response, the agency announced last month that it would set up an independent inquiry to examine allegations not being investigated by the Board of Auditors, and today named the members: Miklos Németh, the former Prime Minister of Hungary and a current member to the Advisory Council of Transparency International; Chander Mohan Vasudev, formerly Permanent Secretary of Public Expenditure in the Indian Ministry of Finance, and Mary Ann Wyrsch, former UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees who is also currently the Chair of UNDP’s Audit Advisory Committee.
“UNDP is determined to leave no stone unturned in getting answers to all of the allegations that have been raised about its operations in DPRK, and is confident that the combination of the UNBOA process and the external review will do so,” the agency said in a statement.
The aim is to complete a report by the end of this year, the agency said. Speaking to reporters in New York, UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis voiced hope that this deadline would be met. “We expect that that will be feasible” depending on how the work goes, he said.
Asked why UNDP maintains that the UN Ethics Office does not have jurisdiction over the agency’s staff members and whether the review would cover the complaints of three who have come forward seeking whistleblower protection, Mr. Dervis said the terms of reference will focus on the DPRK issue. “We cannot have an open-ended process that any issue that comes up will be covered by this review.”
Mr. Dervis said all staff should have measures to seek protection against retaliation and pointed out that UNDP has a hotline for this purpose, as well as an ombudsman. He added that UNDP wants to harmonize procedures across the UN system.
Another correspondent said “numerous staff” have voiced dissatisfaction with the justice system and asked why UNDP did not simply allow the Ethics Office to handle the cases “I’m not precluding anything,” Mr. Dervis replied, while stressing that further discussion is required.
“We want to be agile, we want to be efficient, we want to be focused on results and so whatever we do in terms of the overall procedures – yes to harmonization, yes to working together, yes to economy of resources but no to simply adopting Secretariat rules or to simply merging the funds and programmes into the Secretariat.”