Finland suspended tens of millions of euros in funding from several UN development agencies – most of its UN development funding – as a result of suspected abuses of the UN program in Helsinki.
Yle’s report earlier in June covered extensively how the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) Program for Sustainable Infrastructure and Innovation (S3i) risked tens of millions of dollars in trying to build affordable housing in developing countries.
The UN is now investigating how its internal controls could have failed. However, Finland does not consider this sufficient and wants to prevent similar abuses in the future. The country is now demanding justifications for its risk management protocols from all UN development organizations receiving funding from Finland.
Finland’s largest funder of UN Women
Titta MajaThe head of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs’ development policy department told Yle that Finland’s payments were suspended last week to the UN Population Fund, UN Women, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), UNICEF and a number of smaller UN organizations. .
Maja estimates that no general support of around EUR 60-70 million will be paid to the above-mentioned UN organizations this year.
Funding will be suspended until each organization has clarified its risk management methods and passed the evaluation.
The risk management reports examine, among other things, whether each development organization has its own independent control system and whether employees have a genuine opportunity to report internal misconduct.
The decision is significant, as most of Finland’s development for the UN is general support, which goes directly to the organisation’s activities. Finland is the largest donor to UN Women and the fifth largest donor to the UN Population Fund.
"The discussion of both the UN Population Fund and UN Women is coming soon, as Finland wants the organizations to be able to continue the necessary and good work they have done." Maja told Yle.
According to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Finland is so far the only country to have taken such extensive measures. Maja claimed that the reason was that Finland had been at the center of a scandal involving the management of the Helsinki S3i program office.
"Before further decisions are made, it is important that systemic problems are not revealed from other UN development agencies we fund. We may end up in a similar situation as a financier," Maja said.
Maja added that the organizations have reacted to Finland’s decision "in a spirit of cooperation". Decisions to continue funding will be made in the coming months.
"This is always a business where anything can happen to fragile states, but none of these organizations can take control of such systemic corruption. It undermines the credibility of the entire UN development system," The house clarified.
Member countries expect swift action
The abuse scandal was discussed last week at a UNOPS board meeting – Finland is a member of the board – at UN headquarters in New York.
Following the discussion, the Board requested an external study on S3i’s investments and on UNOPS ‘internal control systems and governance structure. UNOPS will have until mid-July to explain how it intends to take the necessary measures.
Finland is awaiting the decision of the UN Legal Service to take its own legal action to recover the EUR 10 million donated to the S3i program.
Source: The Nordic Page