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UN Board of Auditors issued 2020 report on peacekeeping operations

UN-PKO - LogoThe UN Board of Auditors (Board) examined the financial statements of United Nations peacekeeping operations and governance effectiveness in selected areas. German SAI’s audit staff assigned to the UN Board of Auditors’ unit carried out field visits at the United Nations Headquarters in New York and at missions in the Congo, Sudan, South Sudan and Mali and at the service centres in Uganda and Italy.

In financial year 2018/2019, a total of 13 peacekeeping missions used budget resources of approx. $7.2 billion. Peacekeepers deployed included 76,000 soldiers (“blue helmets”), 10,000 police, 13,000 UN civilian staff and 1,400 UN volunteers.

After the adjustments required by the Board had been made, the 2018/2019 financial statements presented fairly, in all material respects, the financial position.

Furthermore, the Board developed the following key findings:

Financial reporting

  • The Administration significantly understated after-service health insurance liabilities. In line with the recommendations of the audit team, the Administration reviewed the liabilities included in the financial statements and increased the level by $100 million.
  • The Administration reimbursed residential security expenditure to staff to reflect the particular security situation in peacekeeping missions. The Administration failed to verify documents to substantiate the expenditures made and made reimbursements also in cases where staff members had already left the eligible duty station.
  • The Administration did not have a complete overview of its 263 bank accounts. The monthly reconciliation of bank balances with the bank statements was inaccurate or not available at all.

 

Military component

  • Many soldiers lacked basic military skills (for example they did not know how to handle their weapons properly). The Administration should issue binding minimum requirements and conduct more compliance checks.
  • One mission had a special military unit with a budget of $70 million. The purpose of this unit was to conduct offensive operations against armed groups. In non-compliance with the mandate, the mission did not deploy the unit in 2019. The Administration should review the need for the special unit before the new budget cycle starts.
  • The mandate of the UN Security Council for one mission stipulates the protection of civilians in the conflict-affected eastern part of the country concerned. The mission deployed a battalion in the capital situated in the host country’s far west although civilians in the capital were not in danger. In response to the recommendation of the audit team, the mission deployed the battalion in the country’s eastern part to protect civilians.
  • A member state provided a mission with attack helicopters on the basis of cost reimbursement. Due to a lack of pilots and of spare parts, the helicopters could not operate as agreed. The Administration in New York rejected the request made by the mission to repatriate and replace the attack helicopters.

 

Support areas of peacekeeping operations

  • The Administration failed to finalise memorandums of understanding with troop- and police-contributing countries in due time and to ensure signature by the member states. This makes it difficult for the Administration to accurately calculate the costs to be reimbursed. Furthermore, the Administration was too slow in implementing the ICT module for reimbursements.
  • The Secretary-General restructured the process of delegating authority for the areas of budget and finance, human resources, procurement and property management. The audit team noted weaknesses in delegating authority.
  • The Secretary-General’s peace and security pillar reform pursues the goal of enhancing the effectiveness and coherence of peacekeeping operations and special political missions. The Administration was too slow in adapting processes and did not track the progress made. No measurable criteria, indicators and milestones were in place.
  • The Administration did not adequately document the need for and required duration of temporary appointments and assignments. Selection decisions were not transparent.
  • One mission closed eight locations. The mission gifted, donated or disposed of the locations’ assets although the financial regulations stipulate that the option of transferring assets to other locations or selling them needed to be explored beforehand. Asset statements and documentation were lacking.
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