The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS)
Statement in response to independent reviews of UNOPS S3i
UNOPS welcomes the publication of independent reviews of failures associated with its Sustainable Infrastructure Investments and Innovation (S3i) initiative.
- This article was originally published on 31 October 2022 and was updated on 28 November 2022 to reflect recent developments.
Two separate reviews were conducted by management consultancy firm KPMG, examining oversight mechanisms for S3i investments and UNOPS internal control systems.
In its key findings, KPMG notes:
Leadership failures at the highest level, pushing through investments, disregarding red flags and creating an opportunity for fraud.
UNOPS has a full set of administrative and financial rules, but the S3i initiative, including the selection of partners, was operating outside this framework, and circumvented existing controls.
Structural governance failings leading to elements of a culture of fear and a failure of oversight mechanisms.
Lack of accountability, competency and expertise in impact investment arrangements.
Full details are available here.
UNOPS takes all findings extremely seriously and is committed to address all recommendations under the direction of its Executive Board. A statement from UNOPS Acting Executive Director on this matter, to be delivered on 30 November, is available here.
UNOPS is committed to a rigorous and comprehensive process to address any possible misconduct and mismanagement claims. If any allegations are confirmed, in whole or part, appropriate disciplinary and corrective actions will be made to restore the trust and confidence of our personnel and partners and, crucially, to ensure the uninterrupted delivery of our services across the globe.
UNOPS would like to thank all parties participating in the reviews, and welcomes the transparency of this process. A number of actions in response to the failures associated with S3i have been undertaken and are ongoing. Full details are available here.
Notes to editors
In May 2022, the Secretary-General accepted the resignation of the former UNOPS Executive Director and appointed the current Acting Executive Director.
In June 2022, UNOPS, in agreement with its Executive Board, committed to a series of measures to address the situation. Status updates on all management actions backed by Member States and the Executive Board in relation to these matters are publicly available here.
In respect to ongoing actions by the UN Office of Human Resources Management concerning an investigation into the S3i Chief Executive and formal efforts for recovery of funds underway by the UN Office of Legal Affairs, the United Nations is taking appropriate action with a view to ensuring accountability. In respect of any investigations conducted by national authorities, the UN’s long-established policy is to cooperate with such authorities with respect to their actions to facilitate the proper administration of justice. The UN is not in a position to comment further on these matters and does not wish to prejudice any action that might be contemplated or taken by national authorities in this regard.
Financial statements published by the UN Board of Auditors in September 2022 identified a number of recommendations associated with S3i and partnerships with ‘Sustainable Housing Solutions’ and ‘We Are The Oceans’. UNOPS is committed to addressing all recommendations. The overall audit conclusion from the UN Board of Auditors is that UNOPS financial position is sound, and it is an unqualified audit, which means that it is considered to be a statement that is transparent and compliant with generally accepted accounting principles.
The S3i initiative is separate from UNOPS regular project activities. The S3i initiative involved eight investments worth $63 million. By comparison, delivery of UNOPS’ regular project activities exceeded $3.4 billion in 2021, through approximately 1,000 projects around the world.