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Bloomberg: WIPO Members to Discuss Whether to Discipline Patent Chief

September 30, 2016
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(Bloomberg) -- Member states of the United Nations’ intellectual-property agency WIPO will discuss next week whether to discipline Director General Francis Gurry, after a report by the UN’s top auditor called for action against him for his conduct in a contract tender.

Gurry, an Australian lawyer, acted inappropriately by intervening in the bidding for a cybersecurity contract that was awarded to an Australian supplier, the UN’s Office of Internal Oversight Services said in a report completed in March yet only sent to member nations Friday. The chairs of the World Intellectual Property Organization’s coordinating committee recommended in August that no action be taken against Gurry and the matter be closed ahead of the agency’s October general assembly in Geneva.

Gurry’s behavior was “inconsistent with the standards expected” of a WIPO staff member and the organization “should consider taking appropriate action against him, ” according to a redacted copy of the report seen by Bloomberg.

“We find no justification for any disciplinary action against Mr. Francis Gurry,” Ambassadors Gabriel Duque of Colombia and Francois Ngarambe of Rwanda said in their Aug. 5th letter, which was posted on the website of the Government Accountability Project, a Washington, DC-based whistleblower advocacy group.

Governance Shortcomings

The OIOS’s report comes as member states including the U.S. push to hold the UN to greater account and pressure the organization to become more transparent about its governance shortcomings. That office reprimanded the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in April and has criticized the UN itself over lapses in oversight, due diligence and inappropriate spending. With 1,200 employees, WIPO is one of the biggest UN agencies in Geneva, which itself is home to more UN employees than New York, the organization’s official headquarters.

“The process and subsequent handling of the OIOS report has been conducted in accordance with the relevant rules and procedures approved by WIPO’s member states,” a spokeswoman for WIPO said in a statement. “This has been an entirely member state-driven process, managed by the chairs of the general assembly and the coordination committee, on which it is not for the WIPO secretariat to comment.”

Countries including the U.S., Germany, Nigeria, Mexico and the U.K. asked that the OIOS report be added to the agenda of the agency’s general assembly.

Andy Hoffman and Hugo Miller
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