UNOPS Chief Grete Faremo leaves in disgrace

8 May 2022-  Mukesh Kapila

The author with Grete Faremo at the UN in New York in more innocent days

I listened to Grete Faremo, Executive Director of the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS)  preening herself  on 6th May in front of a small group of 25 of her top managers including her Senior Leadership Team, Regional and key Departmental Directors.   There was no hint that she had already resigned. Instead, she boasted about all she was doing to right the ship that she herself had wrecked.

But they say that a day is a long time in the affairs of men – and women. And Ms Faremo had already drafted her resignation in a short apologetic message to her worldwide staff in which she admitted that she was responsible for all that went wrong ,and acknowledged that UNOPS cannot move on while she is still there.

Why did it take Ms Faremo so long to shameless cling to office? Many of us had been calling for her resignation since my first article on 4th March. Several other articles followed on my “Flesh and Blood” site documenting the sorry saga of the misconduct, mismanagement, and probable fraud and corruption. All of this happened under the leadership of Ms Faremo, aided and abetted by her personally-appointed groupies at the top of UNOPS.  

My writings were only possible because desperate UNOPS staff – present and past –  trusted me to give them a voice on the terrible and systematic wrongs they had suffered for many years, including intimidation, harassment, and worse.  That was on top of UNOPS cheating donors and robbing the world’s poor through its greedy, profiteering  business practices.  

These pieces were dismissed by the arrogant Ms Faremo and her coterie as just from a  blogger, and not worthy of being taken seriously in terms of the grave issues raised.   She was wrong; accountability and justice may often be slow but they cannot be avoided if there are enough determined people with the willingness to make a stand. My profound thanks to UNOPS personnel for their courage in providing me with overwhelming – at times, painful – evidence that emboldened me to write with clarity and conviction.

Ms Faremo’s own United Nations bosses had also been calling for her resignation, but she had rejected their plea to go in a dignified manner. Now she is forced to do so, in disgrace. Today’s brilliant story in the New York Times summarised the whole scandal very well, leaving no leaf under which Ms Faremo could crawl.  

Her own Senior Leadership Team – that she suborned into criminal mismanagement – are also thinking of leaving. They would be wise to do so – because they cannot be allowed to stay on, as they are central figures in the debacle at UNOPS. One of them, Mr Bruce McKerrow, acting head of S3i, has already resigned but is planning to shamelessly cling on till the end of June. He must go now as should the others. Other senior functionaries and directors named in my previous writings must also go because they proactively enabled the misconduct and mismanagement at UNOPS, or failed egregiously to uphold UN norms and values in doing their jobs.

What happens next? The UN Secretary-General,  Mr Antonio Guterres will appoint an interim executive director. This is expected imminently. Ms Faremo is boasting that she has recommended some names, including some of her own tainted senior staff and her close friends.

Mr Guterres would be extremely unwise to accept any of Ms Faremo’s self-serving recommendations. That will not help in restoring trust and confidence in UNOPS nor in the wider UN.  The ad interim executive director should be someone independent  who could hold the fort while the substantive successor is appointed after consultation with UNOPS stakeholders, including its Executive Board.

The departure of Grete Faremo does not close the chapter on this saga.  It is only the first step along the long road towards extracting full accountability from all concerned with the egregious wrongs and abuses committed at UNOPS. Only then will the right lessons be learnt and appropriate changes made to return UNOPS to its rightful role as a key, trusted partner in the global development struggle.  

Published by Mukesh Kapila

See http://www.mukeshkapila.org

48 thoughts on “UNOPS Chief Grete Faremo leaves in disgrace

  1. Mukesh, you and the courageous colleagues made this happen, kudos to you and to everyone who acted and contributed here and elsewhere.
    You will see that in even in Grete’s last message, she speaks of the ‘delivery’ in numbers and money, and not anywhere close to what the UN values are about. Nothing about people and how their lives changed, but $.

    Time for a new ad interim to replace this SLT with a more credible leadership, with honesty and passion for the work, at least as high as those UNOPS colleagues working in the countries. I hope the new ED/a.i. is someone from the past leadership team of UNOPS, and not anyone from, or even associated with the current management team. Bring back people from the past management team, who really cared about the best for UNOPS and had reshaped it.

    Bruce should go, and so should Nick, Jim, Pete and Marianne.
    Raad is not innocent either, sneaky but quiet, appearing to be honest…But he should have had the courage to speak up just like his more junior colleague did. But he chose to be quiet and go along.

    Kudos to her, she who was placed on admin leave by Grete because she spoke out! She has been treated badly the past months because she reported this. She is a role model to follow and to respect. Happy mother’s day to her and to all.
    And a big shame on the others. Really, a big shame.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well done Mukesh and all UNOPS personnel (former and current) for being courageous and taking on the cartel.
    It was so painful to see colleagues contracts being terminated because they spoke out against injustices and corruption.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Mukesh, many thanks for your tenacity and for leading us in this clean up campaign.
    Let’s hope donors money will be recovered.
    Next step should be to disband PCG Internal Grieveances and IPAS HR. These two units are now used to witchhunt UNOPS personnel.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. @al,

    true, that’s the first step. Let’s not forget, a hydra has many heads and let’s not celebrate whilst others will grow again.
    SLT should go, no doubt and also PCG and IPAS HR and the Legal Office in NY.

    And of course not to forget the Regional Offices and the Regional Directors with their armies.
    SLT would never have been so powerful if the RD’s would have not played along as it was also to their own benefits and the working class had to suffer and pay the price.

    It is time to clean house and start with a fresh slate. Some mentioned here that some of the old, former UNOPS senior staff should come back to be ED a.i.

    Reckon Jan Mattson won’t be available for that and Japan van Hierden is now RC.
    A name that was recently mentioned is Bruce McCarron the former Director for Asia and Europe, before he was axed by Grete for speaking out and replaced by her darlings Moin and Sanjay the “Yes Ms ED Madam”, you whistle and we jump.

    Or maybe it will be an outsider. But who ever it will be, if all personnel stick together and speaks with one voice with the new ED a.i. there is a chance to bring the message home and safe the sinking ship so we can return to what we once were, a UN Agency that is here to help people and not to run after profit like a greedy wall street broker (not to offend the brokers).

    Either the ED a.i. or the new ED should establish a mechanism, where current and former personnel can voice there griveances in a safe environment without risk of retaliation, bullying and threats.

    There are so many issues that need to be addressed and brought to a closure.

    Like Moin and the tax issue and how he allegedly forced ICAs to provide false information on their contracts so it appeared they would work outside of Switzerland although they came every day to the office.

    That’s not only a blatant violation of UN rules and regulations, that’s a clear criminal case and should be looked into.

    Or how a brilliant colleague was bullied out of an Asian country to make place for another “darling” of the Regional Office. Luckily, this colleague is now also Resident Coordinator.

    Or the entire Costa Rica saga, or the events in Kenia where a culture of harassment, bullying and indimitation ended the careers of many colleagues.

    The list is long and it will take time to address all issues, investigate them and bring them to a closure.
    If we don’t do that, then we will not get anywhere and an abusive system will just be replaced by a new one.

    To move into the future we have to accept our past and come to terms with it.

    And I also have to admit that often I closed my eyes and looked the other way when the big bosses called, out of pure fear to get into the black book of the cabal.

    But the time is now and fear has passed and now we gonna put everything on the table.

    Sempre Fi

    J.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have just found out through my NYTimes sub. I would like to help hold the attention to this situaiton I hope the Blog Master will provide follow up data on all the issues you have mentioned here. I teach English Conversation classes at all levels, and surely some of my students would be interested in participating.

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  5. Hi Mukesh, Thank you for exposing this! Great Faremo is also culpable in covering up sexual harassment and assault case and retaliation against the victim. She and her administration ,including corrupt ethics and investigation office were all engaged in the ebove mentioned violations, whhich constitutes a crime per se.. the member states never cared and some diplomats got personal benefits, including jobs within the UN for covering it up…

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  6. It’s really great to see this clean-up campaign. It’s even better to see that the ordinary working class is finally having their say and power.

    What goes around comes around, and hopefully this is a strong message to all who abused their positions and hurt the organisation/others long the way. I bet the list is long…

    UNOPS builds the future – so let’s start in-house and make it clean and fair! Only then you can truly help others.

    Like

  7. Well done to all those UNOPS folks who finally spoke out. But this is just the first step and more should come forward and tell the truth

    Hopefully, the story doesn’t end here. It seems few silent but very active cabal members, or SMT, will go unpunished. The investigation needs to go deeper into the European offices, more precisely to check on how the predatory-minded Geneva hub Director, Moin Karim, has over the years implemented the profiteering strategy of selling the UN brand and logo to so-called hosted entities in Geneva at 20% profit to UNOPS, hidden under multiple so-called direct and indirect costs. The investigators should also look at how the same Karim was used by the UNOPS to sell UN staff and consultancy contracts to other UN Geneva agencies to bypass proper UN Hiring rules. Or how he issued favors to his mates or anyone who will then owe him a lifetime favor for being given a Swiss-based contract to avoid tax in their home countries, or be eligible for Swiss residency, or generally stay in the UN system. The audit should look at and question the integrity of those middlemen that Moin used to deliver his messages. Many of them might actually talk, now that the house of cards is about to collapse. One should try to talk to Moin’s former adjutant, who (surprise surprise) after years of running errands of various shady nature, had a few months ago landed a UN senior staff job in Geneva in … one of the UNOPS Geneva hosted entities! A favor for a favor?

    The investigators shall in due course also try to talk to another one of Moin’s favor proteges – the long-serving head of UNOPS HR in Geneva, who all of a sudden, just a few months ago, left UNOPS. He must have a folder or two where all those cases of ‘jobs for the boys’ have been carefully documented, waiting for the house to fail.

    Or perhaps the investigation should try and find over a few dozen of senior honest staff who left the UNOPS offices over the past few years as a silent protest and a refusal to be involved in the shady doings of the likes of Moin, Faabrizia, Jim, Honore, Sanjay and others. It is real easy, Dear Investigators, you don’t need to be a Sherlock, just look at the places where the Directors stay for years and years, while his / her deputies, and other senior managers in the region, work closely with the Director, resign every 1-2 years. Orelse, Dear Investigators, if you cant see the forest for the trees, then a favor for a favor, might as well be applicable to your cases.

    Thanks

    A current UNOPS Staff member

    Like

  8. Next in line should be Jim and Honore. The two were chief enablers for all these transactions.

    Like

  9. Denial is not just a name of river in Egypt.
    If Honore key messaging to personnel during the Africa Townhall meeting was to ignore Mukesh rantings because according to him is a jealous blogger, I wonder what he has to say today.

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  10. Kudos 👏 Mukesh Kapila. UNOPS colleagues, let’s stick together but not with the bad and corrupt leadership.

    Like

  11. We all know who introduced SHS Holdings and Vitaly to politicians in Ghana, Nigeria, and Guinea.
    Totally unfair that he is hiding behind the curtains while the Hub Director is left alone to answer the questions. The prepared talking points are not helpful.

    Like

  12. Fare thee well Ms Faremo! For you and your SLT members, it was indeed a pleasure to misappropriate donors money, abuse your authority to manipulate recruitment processes and rob the poor people of the much needed humanitarian aid.

    Like

  13. @End Impunity Now,

    No worries, Jen’s has already received the link to this blog. He is studying….. 🙂

    Sempre Fi

    J

    Like

  14. I think that it is important to remember that below the absolutely senior management level a really solid organisation is working competently and for the right reasons

    Like

  15. After witnessing Grete using UNOPS as her personnal promotion tool for almost a decade I am happy to see her leaving. Hope the next ED would actually be someone willing to take UNOPS in the right direction for the right reasons. After 15 years with this organisation I am aware that we have had issues and occasionally big isses but Grete has fully made us the butt of a joke.

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  16. Mukesh we are behind you. Sadly, we can’t show you our support openly and on social media because everything we do is being monitored.
    Many, many thanks for saving UNOPS and for creating this safe space.

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  17. A very warm welcome to UNOPS Jens!
    We are thirsty of leadership that respect of UN values.
    In the field we are working very hard, some of us under very difficult conditions.
    I urge you to immediately reach out to the hub directors in Africa region to understand the current situation.

    Like

  18. Good Job Mukesh and colleagues. This is just the beginning of UNOPS reform.

    The power lies with the peoplr, in this case UNOPS personnel in the field, but not with bullies like the Grete, Honore and Mariannes of this world.

    We all know that Grete and her cabal were deliberately ignoring all other allegations of wrongdoing while buying time and pretending to be focusing on the S3i investigations. We need to support the ED a.i to ensure all other allegations are properly investigated and all the preparators are brought to book.

    Let’s provide as much information as we can to Mukesh. UNOPS services is still needed but the corrupt SLT must pack and go!

    Like

  19. As expected, now that Grete is out, some SLT members are already pushing the blame to her and admitting that S3i is part of UNOPS.

    UNOPS needs a reset and for this to happen the current SLT should go.

    Like

  20. Excellent indepth investigation Mukesh. I encourage UNOPS personnel to use this safe space to report all wrongdoing.

    Like

  21. The audit report should be made public and UN should further investigate and bring criminal charges. None in their right mind would agree such deals without a significant financial gain.

    It is known that both Chief Counsel and UNOPS Director of Africa Region benefited from these deals through proxies.

    Like

  22. Crimes are commited by actions but also by omissions. UNOPS has been a safe heaven for criminals.
    The Regional Director for Africa is known for abuse of authority, harassment and micro aggression. Staff have been raising complaints but PCG decided to look away.

    Like

  23. UNOPS donors are starting to react across the countries. The SLT is still in the Copenhagen bubble and they are causing more damage by asking hub directors to lie to donors.

    Like

  24. This waste of money and corruption has been going on for a while, the last case with WATO is just the tip of an iceberg.

    The likes of UNEP, UNHCR, and a wide range of hosted entities (typically an organization that revolves around one man/woman) have used UNOPS, mostly from Geneva offices, for 6 years now for all kind of dodgy business. UNOPS didn’t fire Moin, who has been approving business class flights for certain hosted individuals for up to 40k per flight! Even donors picked it up and issued formal warnings from funding member states, that were then ignored.

    There is also little mention any more if another NYT article on another Geneva-based Unops hosted entity , with CEO Dr. Lucica Ditiu accused of harassment and bullying, a very well known fact amongst all Geneva health sector professionals, yet, UNOPS’s own investigation “did not identify wrongdoing or misconduct to the level requiring termination,”.

    After years of telling ICAs that shouldn’t worry about the tax, personnel was told by Moin to move to neighboring France and come to work every day, but lie to the Swiss authorities that they work from home.

    Every one of them owns millions and multiple properties, had anyone in the IAIG ever asked how you become a millionaire after 5-6 years as a regional director in UNOPS?

    These are all court case once these directors loose their immunities and privileges.

    What a joke.

    Like

    1. If you have evidence of any of this, important to share this information with journalists as well who can help hold leadership accountable. Try Ilna Gridneff (gridneff.ilya[at]gmail.com) who wrote about the UNOPS situation in the Globe and Mail and Devex.

      Like

  25. Good blog. My part from Ukraine where mismanagement from Moin in Geneva and Grete and her mafia in Copenhagen and wrong appointments and recruitment brought a $50mil Ukraine hub to bankruptcy in just 2 years. At least there was law and order during Time of Vitaly and Nasser Shmut.

    Thank you

    Like

    1. important to share this information with journalists as well who can help hold leadership accountable. Try Ilna Gridneff (gridneff.ilya[at]gmail.com) who wrote about the UNOPS situation in the Globe and Mail and Devex.

      Like

  26. Moin is simply a dodgy human being if he qualifies to be one. Jim Provenzano needs to be prosecuted by the Americans. Someone who has served as both of their right hand-William Axelsson-is promoting his girlfriend. And yet Grete loved all these three. Jens Wandel, open your eyes and see what are your welcome wagon. These are the people you are associated with now. I know the best people were retaliated by Grete and her mafia when they spoke up against these three. Seriously, Jens, clean the slaughterhouse before you do anything.

    Like

    1. 002 – important to share this information with journalists as well who can help hold leadership accountable. Try Ilna Gridneff (gridneff.ilya[at]gmail.com) who wrote about the UNOPS situation in the Globe and Mail and Devex.

      Like

  27. Bravo Mukesh for your tenacity. Next target should be UNDP. Multiple layers of corruption with Achim Steiner with his cronies and backed by German government.

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  28. Bravo Mukesh for tour tenacity and perseverance. Next target should be UNDP. Same culture and cronyism from the top down.

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  29. Well done Mukesh and UNOPS colleagues who spoke out.

    Going forward we must appreciate that UNOPS can only survive if it is run based on the UN values. The current SLT is a bunch of incompetent but ambitious people. They real expertise is abuse of authority and receiving kickbacks.

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  30. UNOPS personnel think hard before you decide not to speak up. Your silence gives consent!

    Apart from WATO, other contracts were given to Grete, Vitaly, Honore and Jim friends. You know about this but you are keeping quiet.

    Like

  31. Every good intention ends when good times start. Grete was clever to surround herself with like minded people. What the current SLT have in common is that they all opportunists and have no respect for established policies and practices. They manage by threats and they don’t think twice before getting rid of people they perceived to be threats to their imaginary kingdom.

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  32. @From Ukraine

    Well said, but let’s not give all the “credit” to Moin.
    Some insiders told me a story how his buddy and Grete darling Sanjay M. the Regional Director for Asia, managed to obliterate an office that had the potential to be one of the biggest on the UNOPS map, China.

    Being a Maharaja reincarnation he knew it all and destroyed a flourishing office with real innovative programs. Instead of listening to employees that really understood the ways how business works in China, he and his in-house henchmen brought the office down, fired dozens of personnel and made sure that the doors for UNOPS in China are closed.

    Moin and Sanjay are not so much different, they can work perfectly together, when they courted Grete so long until the previous Regional Director for Europe&Asia, Bruce McCarron was fired in the blink of an eye and the spoils of war, Europe and Asia were split among the 2 of them.

    Both are just interested in one thing only and that is their own presentation and status, the gold watch, the Chalet in the Swiss Mountains, the Jaguar in Bangkok, and all made possible by the working class they exploit and the cabal here in HQ that needs them so the fees keep flowing to the ivory tower

    But as @Michelle mentioned, the moment the SLT and the Regional Directors are stripped of their immunities and privileges, they will face the music of justice.

    And don’t be mistaken, Jens is well known and preparations have been made so he is truly informed by the working class and and not only blinded by the Senior Management.

    And @Sepp, I got also some calls from friends in the donor community and the message is clear:”Stop telling fairytale stories, we had it, clean house or the funding goes elsewhere.”

    And let’s clean first our own house and restore it to a professional UN Agency that embraces the values of the UN before looking to UNDP.

    Sempre Fi

    J

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  33. When Moin moved to Geneva as Director, he went to what formally was a burn-out leave, what most in UNOPS know was leave to buy Chalet in Swiss Alps and do other private business. There was his Deputy, he managed Geneva and the region for 2 years, when Moin was busy with business and politics, to grow Geneva to double or triple of its former size. He left, because Grete told Moin to give William, her friends son, a job in Geneva. He then went to open Ukraine office with Vitali and grew it to a massive program in 2018, 60-70 million dolalrs. how this could fail after 3 years?

    I suggest the new ED ai finds him to have a friendly chat. He would know what went wrong in Ukraine and in Geneva, he would also know many other dodgy dealings of Moin and the Denmark crew. One should also talk to peoples like Peter, Greg, Paul in Geneva office, the sidekicks that covered up HR and financial schemes for Moin.

    Like

    1. This comment makes certain interpretations that could lead people to think that Argita B. “Gita” form UNOPS Geneva office made this comment. Someone has misused my name and I want to make it clear that I am NOT the author of this comment.

      Like

  34. Indeed some regional offices are 21st-century incarnations of feudalism. All the elements can be found there.

    There are the absolute Lords. They rule single-handedly in exchange for granting favors and protection to their vessels

    The Nobles: These are corrupt managers that try to shape things to suit them ignoring all kinds of fair dealings.

    The nights. We find some of these characters even lower down the scale. These are self-seeking individuals that will do some dirty jobs to obtain protection.

    The last strata, the Peasants. This includes all the hard-working staff that stays out of these nasty dealings. Most of them happen to also do most of the work in less than favorable working conditions.

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  35. UNOPS has been running activities helping 🇺🇦 Someboy may be annoye and want to penalise UN because ofthat. Why was thisscandal not making. headlines. sooner And why are we only seeing consequences now that there is war.

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  36. Thank you all for who made it happen to expose the bad eggs and are helping to make sure they will pay. Not only the top but also the ones who accepted jobs and climbed up the ladder knowing they shouldn’t.
    Good to read that not only Grete Faremo and Vitaly Vanshelboim are being named but names like Moin Karim, Tina Hansen too and the people that they hired who got a position that they shouldn’t have gotten. Still time to turn your own karma around by doing the right thing before you are being cracked too. Took awhile before unops got exposed and became UnFLops.
    Waiting patiently for justice and for good people to lead unops again so that unops can become UN(T)OPS.

    Like

  37. Ι constantⅼy spent my half an hour to reɑd this weblog’s articleѕ or revіews eѵerʏ day alоng with a mug of
    coffee.

    Like

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