Statement by Ambassador Joseph M. Torsella, Representative for UN Management and Reform, on the reports of the UNDP, UNFPA and UNOPS ethics offices before the annual session of the UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS Executive Board

Ambassador Joseph M Torsella
U.S. Representative for UN Management and Reform 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY
June 8, 2011




AS PREPARED

Mr. President,

I would like to welcome the ethics offices of UNDP, UNFPA and UNOPS, and thank them for their presentations of their annual reports. The United States strongly supports each of their offices and welcomes their collective effort to contribute to a culture of integrity and accountability within the UN system. Let me focus my remarks on several key elements of the ethics and integrity framework.

The United States strongly supports the financial disclosure program as a vital tool for avoiding conflicts of interest among UN staff. We are pleased to see that the program is well-established with compliance rates of 99 percent at UNDP, 100 percent at UNFPA, and 95 percent at UNOPS. We would, however, like to see 100 percent compliance at UNOPS and welcome its efforts to improve participation in the financial disclosure program in order to achieve this goal.

The United States appreciates the annual reporting mechanism. However, in the future we would like to see more meaningful reporting that includes the following:

First, on the financial disclosure program, we would like to see the actual number of cases that required divestiture of financial holdings, recusal, transfer to another office, or other remedial action. More thorough reporting on these issues would build confidence in the program’s capacity to identify and address conflicts of interest among staff. Second, we also urge the three organizations to make the disclosure statements of senior officials publicly available in order to enhance transparency.

We are strongly committed to credible whistle blower protections. However, it is difficult to determine from the current reporting how each case is handled and whether sufficient protections exist to guard against retaliation. We recommend that UNDP, UNFPA, and UNOPS standardize their reporting to the Executive Board with a view to maximizing transparency and disclosure by, for example, seeking guidance from the chair of the UN Ethics Committee on the treatment of complaints of retaliation.

The United States reiterates its appreciation to the ethics office in each organization for working to promote the highest standards of ethical conduct and integrity. These efforts are critical to building a credible system that encourages staff to come forward with ethics questions, and to report instances of fraud, waste, and abuse.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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PRN: 2011/111