The United Nations Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) investigates reports of mismanagement and misconduct in all UN activities under the Secretary General’s authority, including the peacekeeping missions. While OIOS has achieved important goals since its inauguration in 1994, UN observers agree that its effectiveness has been undermined by a lack of independence and a lack of access to resources and to appropriately skilled staff. Moreover, the work of investigations and audits is easily constrained by confidentiality and secrecy. Thus, the weakening of OIOS could take place without witnesses able to speak publicly about problems there. GAP helps whistleblowers disclose problems in OIOS and has monitored OIOS reform efforts.
The OIOS Investigations Division (OIOS/ID)– the unit responsible for the investigation of misconduct and whistleblower cases – has been especially troubled in recent years. A 2007 review by a UN consultant found that there appeared to be “something fundamentally awry with ID, its operating procedures and its underlying culture.” A separate assessment found similar problems and stated that: “the lack of effectiveness and high quality work of ID/OIOS is of critical importance because it affects the overall functioning of the Organization. First, it is detrimental to the Organization’s ability to manage and detect corruption, fraud and other serious offenses, which has in recent years damaged the reputation of the Organization and has engendered a sense of mistrust. Second, it impedes the ability of the Organization to combat and prevent future instances of wrongdoing.”
Sources report that many OIOS/ID investigations into significant cases of fraud are languishing. OIOS/ID has been especially reluctant to investigate whistleblower retaliation cases (para. 66).
In July 2010, Inga-Britt Ahlenius’ term as Under-Secretary-General of OIOS expired. Her end of assignment report, which was released to the media, was highly critical of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, whom she accused of trying to undermine the independence of OIOS. Ahlenius wrote that the Secretary-General also requested “a couple of times” that OIOS investigate “leaks,” a request that Ahlenius repeatedly refused, as she believed that it would “be seen as very negative on the Secretary-General, who had advocated transparency, to pursue leaks.” According to Ahlenius’ memo, “In the long run transparency is the way – and I would say the only way – to ensure a high quality and an accountable United Nations.”
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