The GCF plans to renew its partnership with the UNDP, in the framework of investigations into corruption
Green Climate Fund board urged to re-accredit the UN development agency, despite unresolved corruption allegations against projects in Samoa and Armenia
The United Nations Development Program is seeking to renew its partnership with the flagship United Nations climate fund under the shadow of unresolved corruption allegations in two of its projects.
The Green Climate Fund was created to help poor countries reduce their emissions and cope with climate impacts. It depends on agencies like UNDP to carry out projects in poor countries.
The GCF accreditation panel recommends that the fund reconnect with the United Nations development agency, its biggest implementing partner, in a virtual board meeting this week, despite allegations corruption and concerns on the weak implementation of UNDP policies in its regional offices.
Documents for the meeting say corruption allegations have been raised against UNDP-led projects in Armenia and Samoa approved by the fund. The GCF is awaiting the outcome of a UNDP investigation into the complaints.
And donor countries continue to pressure UNDP to prove that corrective action has been taken over a long period. corruption scandal to one of its programs in Russia.
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Allegations embezzlement of millions of dollars in the program to promote energy efficiency in Russia, funded by the Global Environment Facility, seriously damaged the reputation of the agency.
A source with knowledge of the matter told Climate Home News that UNDP’s proposal to renew its accreditation with GCF was “cynical” and that the UN body should “get its house in order first.”
A UNDP spokesperson told Climate Home that the agency had followed “a thorough and transparent due diligence process as part of the re-accreditation process” and insisted that the allegations against its GEF-related programs had been the subject of a “thorough investigation”.
He added that the agency was “promptly implementing recommendations” in response to the case and strengthening its monitoring policies.
UNDP is the largest implementing partner of the GCF both in terms of the number of projects funded and the volume of funding obtained. By the end of July, the GCF Board of Directors had approved 35 UNDP projects around the world worth $ 2.4 billion.
Liane Schalatek, expert in climate finance with the Heinrich Boell Foundation and close observer of the GCF, described the re-accreditation of the UNDP as “difficult” given its role as “essential international implementing partner for GCF projects for further development. many developing countries ”.
The issue for this week’s GCF Board meeting is whether UNDP has strong enough systems and oversight across the organization to receive, investigate and act appropriately on allegations of corruption and mismanagement.
Information shared by sources with Climate Home indicates a culture of fraud cover-up and whistleblower protection, which they say has yet to be fully addressed.
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Six UNDP projects were on the GCF watchlist for close monitoring in July, according to fund documents.
A $ 66 million flood management project in Samoa, which Climate Home previously reported raised concerns among technical experts, and a $ 116 million project to improve energy efficiency in Armenia through retrofitting buildings had both been the subject of corruption allegations.
UNDP did not respond to specific questions about allegations of corruption in these projects.
A GCF spokesperson told Climate Home News the fund had “a zero tolerance policy towards integrity violations” and “worked closely with UNDP to ensure our projects are properly managed” .
He added that UNDP had been “fully transparent” during the review process and that the accreditation panel concluded that it was able to deal appropriately with allegations of professional misconduct.
Recommendations for re-accreditation were made on condition that the United Nations body deploys an anti-money laundering policy throughout the organization and demonstrates in 2024, through an independent study, that actions corrective measures have been implemented.
In July, UNDP Director Achim Steiner told the Board, in an update seen by Climate Home, that “UNDP – and I personally – have zero tolerance for any fraud, embezzlement or irregularity ”.
Yet nearly seven years after a whistleblower claimed that Russian officials award lucrative contracts to friends and family in the GEF-funded project, no one has yet been held publicly accountable. The full story of Russia’s decade-long program, which ended in 2017, has yet to be released.
a independent review published earlier this year concluded that the problems of weak governance were “systemic” and that “a number of individuals have been able to play with the governance systems and relatively weak technical capacities”. The case of the whistleblower was not dealt with in a satisfactory manner, he noted.
Steiner told the board that he had been given “a full view” of the issues and that individual responsibilities had been established. “Half a dozen” people still working for UNDP have received formal reprimands, including administrative leave while disciplinary action is underway, he said.
Among donors, some concerns remain about the ability of UNDP to deal with allegations of corruption.
After writing to Steiner for the first time in March 2020 to express their concerns, the Netherlands froze € 10 million from its annual voluntary contribution of € 30 million to UNDP, citing his dissatisfaction with the way UNDP responded to the allegations.
A spokesperson for the country’s foreign ministry told Climate Home that “UNDP should restore confidence that allegations of wrongdoing have been adequately investigated and that lessons are widely learned to avoid problems. similar in the future “.
TO a meeting of the GEF board in JuneKonrad Specker of Switzerland said his government shared “fundamental concerns” about UNDP. He added that the recommendations and policy changes “do not really address issues related to management behavior and organizational culture”.
“We believe that unless these issues are resolved, it remains to be seen to what extent the management actions taken will produce the real change on the ground that has been advocated,” he warned.