The U.N. hires a new anti-fraud team, finally
The U.N. has appointed a World Bank investigator with experience probing war crimes and fraud abuses from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the Balkans as head of the U.N.’s premier internal anti-fraud unit, filling a personnel vacuum that has dampened morale and severely hampered the U.N.’s ability to combat corruption within its own ...
The U.N. has appointed a World Bank investigator with experience probing war crimes and fraud abuses from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the Balkans as head of the U.N.’s premier internal anti-fraud unit, filling a personnel vacuum that has dampened morale and severely hampered the U.N.’s ability to combat corruption within its own ranks, according to internal U.N. memos obtained by Turtle Bay.
Carmen La-Pointe, a Canadian auditor who heads the U.N. Office of Internal Oversight (OIOS), announced the hiring of Australian investigator, Michael Stefanovic, in an internal memo obtained by Turtle Bay. She also announced the hiring of an American national, Dr. Deborah L. Rugg, to head up another Inspection and Evaluation division. Stefanovic will start up the job in August.
U.N. and U.S. officials hope the arrival of new team will bring stability and purpose to a department that has been plagued leadership gaps and severe staff shortages that have hampered the U.N.’s ability to police a far flung empire of political, humanitarian, and peacekeeping missions. The breakdown in the U.N.’s investigations division has posed political risks for the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki moon, who has faced criticism for doing too little to rein in corruption and reform the global instution, and the United States, which had faced criticism for moving too slowly to appoint a high-level U.S. management official to oversee U.N. reform efforts.
"The United States had previously raised concerns about the performance of the investigations division in particular, and we had urged it to more vigorously pursue fraud and misconduct," Joseph Torsella, the recently appointed U.S. ambassador for U.N. Management and Reform, said in a statement that was provided to Turtle Bay. "OIOS is poised to become the strong and independent watchdog it was intended to be."
A former Australian policeman, Stefanovic has served since 2006 at the World Bank, where he is currently manager of the External Investigations Unit, which investigates cases of fraud and corruption in the organization’s global operations.
He previously worked as OIOS’s chief resident investigator in Ivory Coast, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Before that, between 1999 and 2003, Stefanovic was employed as a war-crimes investigator with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. He also participated in a 2004 U.S. State Department mission that traveled to Chad, near the Sudanese border, to document allegations of genocide arising from the conflict in Darfur.
The U.N. internal investigations division has been hobbled by leadership lapses almost since OIOS was established in 1994 as a kind of inspector general’s office. In 2007, an outside consultant claimed that the management culture in the investigations division was so dysfunctional that it should be shut down. The investigations unit has not had a permanent director since 2006, when its American chief, Barbara Dixon, stepped down.
Inga-Brit Ahlenius, a Swedish auditor who previously headed OIOS, sought to hire a highly regarded former U.S. District Attorney, Robert Appleton, for the post. Appleton, who served as the temporary head of a U.N. procurement task force, carried out some of the most aggressive anti-corruption probes in the U.N.’s history. But he also provoked the ire of influential governments, including Singapore and Russia, whose nationals were targeted by the task force.
Appleton’s appointment was blocked by Ban’s office on the grounds that Ahlenius had violated recruitment procedures that required female candidates be included on a short list of prospective candidates. Ahlenius countered that Ban has interfered in the independence of her office by preventing her from selecting her top deputies. Appleton has since gone on to file a discrimination grievance against the U.N. for blocking his appointment.
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Colum Lynch was a staff writer at Foreign Policy between 2010 and 2022. Twitter: @columlynch
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