POST WRITTEN BY: Tamara Shockley, Administrative Law Specialist with UNICEF
To meet the challenges of the twenty-first century, the United Nations has created new management oversight reforms to enhance UN operations. The UN has responded to the demands by the Member States to use resources more effectively and efficiently. A number of reforms have been instituted to enhance accountability of the UN operations. With the UN at the forefront as a forum for establishing conflict resolution in the Middle East, as first responders for combating the Ebola virus, to sending peacekeepers to internecine conflicts in Democratic Republic of Congo or Central African Republic, it has become even more crucial for the accountability of the use of Member States’ resources.
The UN has responded to one of the demands of the Member States for internal accountability by strengthening the oversight of its audit and investigations’ body. The UN realizes that to proceed with its actions on the global front it has to ensure the Member States that there are internal operations to monitor financial accountability.
One of the areas which the Member States demanded reform is the area of internal investigations for procurement irregularities, fraud, and misconduct by internal staff members. The UN has a legal obligation to ensure compliance with internal regulations, rules and policies, including breach of employment obligations. Investigations in the United Nations are unique. The United Nations has partners in all parts of the globe: the investigators may be located in New York, the incident may have occurred in Africa, and the witnesses may have been transferred to Asia. In addition to geographic separation, United Nations’ investigations may have to contend with a range of different languages, including local dialects, cultures, customs and ethnic issues. These are all factors that affect the ability to investigate allegations of staff misconduct or irregular procurement procedures in the United Nations.
Why does the UN need oversight in internal investigations? The UN, governed by the General Assembly and composed of 193 Member States, is important as a multilateral forum for the discussion of global issues. The world is always watching the UN. The Member States also fund the UN and expect transparency and accountability in the expenditure of public funds. In turn, the UN has to demonstrate not only to the Member States but to the general public that it accords its staff with the same principles as guided by the UN Charter. Good governance in the UN requires internal oversight of staff members and UN operations to strengthen the integrity and respect for the UN.
What is the role of OIOS investigations in the United Nations? It is fundamental that internal investigations must have as its core mandate the purpose to determine whether any improprieties or wrongdoing has occurred in the Organization. The most significant benefit of a good internal investigation is that it enables management to determine whether there are any problems with corrupt staff, organizational structure, or administrative policies and procedures. An internal investigation provides UN management with an essential tool of oversight to identify any necessary changes to ensure on-going business operations and to disclose potential misconduct which may affect staff moral and bad publicity among the Member States.
The Article “The Investigation Procedures of the United Nations Office of Internal Oversight Services and the Rights of the United Nations Staff Member: an Analysis of the United Nations Judicial Tribunals’ Judgments on Disciplinary Cases in the United Nations” discusses the UN Judicial Tribunals which provide an impartial and independent forum for the resolution of disputes between the staff member and the Organization. The Article analyzes UN Dispute Tribunals and UN Appeals Tribunal decisions on due process rights and the responsibility of OIOS to conduct fair and timely investigations. This is a new area of law for the UN establishing a global commitment of fairness to international civil servants. If you would like to Ms. Tamara Shockley’s article in its entirety please pick up a copy of Pace International Law Review(27 PACE INT’L L. REV. 1 2015) this coming year.