The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS)

Open letter to UNOPS personnel

Dear UNOPS colleagues,

As promised, I want to update you on the latest developments regarding the Executive Board meeting that took place in New York on 6 June 2022.

The failures connected to the S3i initiative were the focus of our discussions and I am grateful for the swift and clear guidance in defining a way forward. Member States have now backed a strategy to address the situation, and I am optimistic that the Board’s fast and decisive measures and our joint action plan will help us overcome the current challenges.

Firstly, the strategy we have set out commits us to implement several measures to address the failures regarding S3i and the accumulation of UNOPS reserves. This includes taking all necessary steps to support the recovery of funds related to S3i by the Office of Legal Affairs (OLA) and continuing the suspension of all new investments by S3i. On our reserves, I will ensure that any balance not committed to projects from the growth and innovation reserve, the S3i reserve, and accumulated surpluses, will be transferred to our operational reserve. No transfers will be made out of this operational reserve for any other purpose than our daily operations.

Secondly, UNOPS will fully support the work of the Executive Board working group which will be established to address the root causes and institutional vulnerabilities that led to the failures associated with S3i. I will commission a third-party review of the oversight mechanisms that existed for S3i investments. I will also commission a third-party review of broader UNOPS internal control systems, risk management and governance structures, including an assessment of the integrity of the wider UNOPS portfolio for additional assurance. This will include a review of UNOPS cost structures. Furthermore, the working group will present to the Executive Board options on the appropriate use of UNOPS reserves and on increased transparency around UNOPS management fees and costing structure.

Thirdly, I will work on strengthening compliance and transparency at UNOPS, while also ensuring the full independence of the UNOPS internal audit and investigation mechanisms. This includes, as a first step, accelerating the implementation of oversight body recommendations. I will also be working on strengthening the independence and communication between UNOPS internal audit, investigations and ethics functions, the Audit and Advisory Committee, and the Executive Board. To improve transparency for our partners, we have already started to provide partners access to real-time data on our common project portfolios.

We will provide the Executive Board with an action plan, and a detailed timeframe for all of these actions, no later than 15 July 2022.

The road ahead will not be an easy one. But with the full participation of UNOPS personnel, an agreed action plan and time frame in place, we have greater clarity and optimism about the way forward. The first step in any recovery is to remind ourselves why we exist: to help people build better lives and countries achieve peace and sustainable development.

In closing, I would like to invite each of you to support in delivering on the Executive Board decisions. With commitment, determination and transparency, we can work to restore trust and continue to serve those that need our help the most.

I have full confidence in all of you – UNOPS personnel – that we can realize this objective together.

Regards,
Jens Wandel

Acting Executive Director


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