UNDP's Global Environment Facility linked once again with allegations of fraud and corruption

This is an onsite edited excerpt of the G|O Briefing newsletter

On Wednesday 2, 2020, UN Secretary-General António Guterres will be calling to mobilize global, urgent climate action. In a major upcoming address to mark the five-year anniversary of the adoption of the Paris Agreement, Guterres will highlight the present situation and pathways forward toward a safer, more sustainable, and equitable future.

His speech will follow revelations about allegations of massive fraud and corruption linked to the multibillion-dollar Global Environment Facility, part of the portfolio of projects under the United Nations Development Program. Documents seen by the Financial Times, dated November 2020, described “financial misstatements” worth millions of dollars across UNDP’s portfolio of GEF-funded projects around the world.

In a 2019 investigation called “Greed and Graft at The UN Climate Program,” Foreign Policy Magazine had already revealed alleged major misappropriations at GEF-UNDP.  

The latest audit of the UNDP’s GEF-funded projects highlighted problems, including signs of “fraudulent activities” at two country offices and “suspicions of collusion among the various project managers” at another, without naming the countries.

The report covers 2018 and 2019 and is the first review of its kind since 2013. But it comes against a backdrop of rising concern from some donor countries over management and oversight issues at the UNDP. Twelve donor countries—including the US, France, Australia, and Japan—have since sought an independent review of the UNDP’s handling of that project.

In a written response to FP, the UNDP said it “takes all cases of financial mismanagement and other irregularities extremely seriously,” adding that its GEF projects were some of the organization’s “most closely monitored.” While there have been “allegations of misuse of funds” at certain projects, such complaints affected “a tiny fraction—1.4 percent” of the UNDP’s GEF-funded portfolio, it added.