How  the dodgy business of UNOPS is enabled from Geneva

23 July 2022 – Mukesh Kapila

Moin Karim, UNOPS Geneva Director strikes a fetching pose on his Instagram

A criminal complaint against the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) has reached the Danish Police’s  special unit that investigates organised economic crimes. The Danes have jurisdiction because UNOPS is headquartered there, and its Copenhagen office is de facto the crime scene where offences of a potentially corrupt and fraudulent nature appear to have occurred. 

This is encouraging as I have argued for some time that the public interest requires the Danish authorities to act because the United Nations cannot be trusted to conduct a proper investigation into its own people and bring them to account. That is because the UN, including UNOPS,  does not have the leadership, will, integrity, transparency, and capacity to do so.

Shall we see accountability?

Will the Danes be diligent in pursuing the UNOPS case?  Perhaps, it may be less embarrassment and headache for them to finesse it away?  What actually happens remains to be seen. Hopefully, the Nordic media will keep up the pressure.

Some of the sordid  details around UNOPS are in my previous pieces and, over recent weeks, dozens of media articles around the world have informed the public and member states on wrong-doings and cover-ups there. 

Whether or not we get full accountability, restitution, and reform within UNOPS is another open question. Informed opinion is pessimistic.  Mr Jens Wandel, a long-standing, ambitious UN insider who has previously tried to become the UNOPS Executive Director  (he is said to have competed against Grete Faremo), is now its acting chief.  His embedded instinct is to do the minimum in the hope that these inconveniences will go away, sooner or later when we all get bored.  

Meanwhile, the search for the substantive  Executive Director appears to be postponed perhaps on the reasoning that Mr Wandel should first clean up the crime scene. As that will take a long time, Mr Wandel is to be congratulated for having achieved his ambition to lead UNOPS.

He is also a willing prisoner of  the  senior leadership team that presided over and connived with the greatest scandal that UNOPS has known.  Its authors are still there, subsumed in a wider global team. Many of them are Mr Wandel’s best friends over decades of joint working in the UN system.  They don’t necessarily like or trust each other (as evident in top-level backstabbing that emerges from internal leaks). But their personal inter-dependence goes deep because of skeletons shared in the same closet. 

Hence the rectification ordered by UNOPS’s Executive Board in June 2022 faces serious obstacles. The process has zero credibility as the wider United Nations under the leadership of Secretary-General Antonio Guterres closes ranks behind its privileges and immunities although these protections are not supposed to excuse individuals who commit or connive with behaviour considered criminal in member states.

Much of the attention has, so far, focused on S3i. A better understanding of how UNOPS committed its misdeeds remains vital because transparency is crucial for accountability – whenever that comes. Hence, the focus of this article is on its Geneva office – a key enabler of organisational rot at UNOPS.  It is from Geneva that millions of dollars of profit were generated, allowing the top leadership in Copenhagen to create its dodgy enterprises.

Geneva centre

Geneva is the hub of a US$ 650 million UNOPS business empire that spans its Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia as well as a “hosted partnerships” centre.  Its webpage is sparse and out-of-date, perhaps deliberately, to hide what it does. The information and analysis presented here come from UNOPS Geneva personnel – past and present.

UNOPS’s foggy finances mean that there is no independently audited statement publicly available that disaggregates its Geneva operations. But piecing together leaked individual records suggest that it probably contributes as much as US$ 30 million annually in direct and indirect profits to the overall UNOPS bottom line. 

Profiteering, scamming, cheating

The profits come from the profiteering and rent-seeking practices of UNOPS Geneva that robs the poor and vulnerable on the planet, and cheats donors who provide funds in good faith.  Such windfall profits made a significant contribution to the unauthorised US$ 260 million reserves that UNOPS accumulated over several years, and which allowed its leaders to punt on the failed – and potentially corrupt and fraudulent – S3i venture.

How does UNOPS Geneva make such huge profits? Apparently, from management fees and direct and indirect cost recovery levies it foists on its projects around Europe and Central Asia, and on the ten or so “hosted programmes” in Geneva. The latter are obliged to pay a special premium  to shelter under the UN flag and enjoy the privileges this brings.  This is tantamount to UNOPS renting out the UN name and logo. Calculations on selected activities and programmes indicate that accumulated overhead charges can amount to more than 30% of the value of some goods or services provided by some projects. This is profiteering from donor aid funds on a grand scale.  

Why do substantive UN agencies allow UNOPS Geneva to host major programmes that fall within  their own mandates? For example, for tackling major diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis, when there is already the World Health Organization and the Global Programme of AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, also in Geneva. It has simply created costly fragmentation and competition within global health, from which only UNOPS benefits. 

This is additional to another UNOPS-sponsored industry to bypass the UN’s own staff procedures and protections via its invention of an “individual contractor modality” (ICA) that allows the system to reduce its employment costs through staffing that can be hired and fired with ease. These people – often but not only from the poorer parts of the world – do the same jobs as regular UN staff – but receive less remuneration, fewer  allowances, and diminished social protection. 

Such a sophisticated form of labour exploitation has been dubbed by the Staff Union as an “Uberisation of the UN” or the UN’s “Bermuda Triangle”.  Hailed originally as the innovate and  “agile” way to handle human resources, it was created at UNOPS by bending existing UN rules or making up new ones. The UN is exempt from ordinary national labour laws – in this case, Swiss Labour Laws – and so can ignore or dilute basic employee rights and protections.  Therefore, UNOPS Geneva’s ICA modality is not illegal in formal terms, but arguably immoral. Some have even drawn colourful comparisons between UNOPS Geneva’s sharp employment practices and human trafficking: Geneva is a well-known magnet for low-paid labour from all over the world as there are plenty of jobs going as cleaners and nannies for wealthy expatriates (and in the thriving sex industry).

UNOPS holds the contracts of some 1250 personnel including staff and ‘contractors’ hired not just by itself but also on behalf of several agencies such as WHO, the UN Environment Program, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, UN’s Geneva headquarters at the Palais des Nations, International Trade Center, and others. UNOPS charges hefty fees to recruit and administer such personnel contracts and provide payroll and administrative services for them. One contract holder called this – somewhat colourfully – a form of pimping by UNOPS Geneva.

As UNOPS contract staff (ICA) do not have the status of regular UN staff, they are not exempt from Swiss income tax and social charges (health and unemployment insurance). However, UNOPS Geneva has fudged this issue for many years by misadvising this category of personnel. Geneva management has relied on the fact that there is little information exchange between Swiss Federal authorities (responsible for issuing residence permits to foreigners including UN employees) and Geneva Cantonal authorities (responsible for taxation of those who reside in its territory). 

Thus, the Swiss authorities have, over many years, been cheated by UNOPS Geneva of millions of francs of taxation revenue. More recently, the over-relaxed Swiss woke up and started chasing UNOPS ICA personnel (that they could trace from their incomplete records) for unpaid past taxes, often running into tens of thousands of francs. Mass panic ensued in the Geneva office: many affected ICA personnel fled the country, sometimes overnight. The response of UNOPS management appears to have included re-working earlier contracts to indicate that affected personnel  dwelt elsewhere e.g., across the border in Ferney-Voltaire, France or (in at least one case) at the other end of the world in Vancouver, Canada.  

For so much of what it does, UNOPS Geneva does not have a clear or consistent formula for its fees. Its computations require  many unjustified factors and weights, or arbitrary adjustments that defy logic or fairness. Even Mr Wandel is said to have difficulty getting his head around Geneva’s ‘black box’ calculations.

Other scams come on top. An inside expert explained that the commonest is cross-charging the same UNOPS administration and support costs to multiple clients at the same time.  The estimate made was that this practice could net UNOPS Geneva $3 for every $1 it actually expended.

Another scam is via reverse-engineering. First, decide what profit you wish to make or can extract from a project or hosted client. Then retrofit the factors and calculations needed to get to the magic number. That way, the paper trail will show that everything is in accord with the rules and formulae.  

Scams build on scams. So, for example, a hosted programme newly coming under the wing of UNOPS Geneva may be offered a cut-price charging schedule for support services. Once the programme is settled-in, service charges are racked-up by significant periodic increments. The hosted entity has no choice but to swallow these because by then its staff are fully ensnared and find it impossible to get out as huge penalties may be incurred for doing that. This is akin to the practice of bonded slavery seen in some ruthless private sector enterprises. In any case, UNOPS-hosted programmes find it hugely difficult to go elsewhere  because UNOPS Geneva spreads malicious lies about them through  its network with sister UN agencies.  That is how UNOPS Geneva manipulates the “hosting market” which other agencies including (but not only) the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) are also interested to gain from.

Of course, where there is scam, fraud and corruption are not far behind. An illustration comes from the human resources arena at UNOPS Geneva. Case A concerned a Sudanese national keen to get Swiss citizenship but was unfortunately short of the requisite residence qualification having lost their job in another UN system agency. Personal friendship with the UNOPS Geneva directorate produced a nominal contract of just a few days but scattered over a whole year. The trusting Swiss were, of course, not fully informed of all the facts, and issued a residence permit that covered the whole year at the end of which Case A was able to get their Swiss passport.   There are other examples on how UNOPS Geneva has gamed the Swiss.   

UNOPS’s Executive Board has not been briefed on such machinations because they are kept secret by UNOPS management. But the S3i expose has opened the Board’s eyes that it cannot shelter behind its ignorance of the many deceits practiced by management. This has obliged the Board to demand greater transparency and a review of the underlying UNOPS business model.  But will this get anywhere considering its complexity and hidden characteristics? It may be easier and quicker to junk the old model and make a simple new one that is consistent with the service-providing values of the UN and not the profit-maximising greed pioneered by the departed Executive Director (Ms Grete Faremo) and implemented enthusiastically by her cronies who remain in office. 

Immoral leadership

How does such a brazenly rapacious enterprise prosper in the bosom of Geneva, the UN’s second capital in the land of the upright Swiss? For that, we must try to understand its principal leader:  Mr Moin Karim,  a career UN administrator.  His point man was his previous deputy Mr William Axelsson, a protege of Ms Faremo, who is now posted at UNOPS New York in a special role to bamboozle the Board.  

Mr Karim has not, to the best of our knowledge, been involved in designing or executing the S3i scam.  But, as outlined above, he does bear responsibility for enabling it to flourish through presiding over the Geneva centre that brought-in such massive resources.

The UNOPS melt-down over S3i is thought to be a good opportunity for Mr Karim whenever the dust settles.  He is very pleased that his old friend Jens Wandel is now the Acting Executive Director. He has been heard to boast that he got Mr Wandel the position and his peers (none of whom trust him further than their nose, according to their own testimony) are sure that he is actively scheming to become his Assistant Secretary-General (successor to the disgraced Vitaly Vanshelboim). Mr Karim has often alluded to his closeness to the UN Deputy Secretary-General Ms Amina Mohammed and would, no doubt, instrumentalise that association to get promoted.

But who is Mr Karim? Of Indo-Pakistani  origin, Mr Karim has Saudi nationality inherited from his deceased father who was a respected physician to a grateful Royal family that bestowed the citizenship.  He is an alumnus of  elite private British schools and prominent UK and US universities.

Mr Karim is said to be a wealthy man with properties in Dubai, London, Geneva, and the luxury Swiss lakeside resort of Montreux, a favourite haunt of vacationers from the Gulf.  His staff complain that he is hardly seen nowadays in his rather un-prepossessing office besides a busy Geneva highway. The Covid-19 pandemic’s working-from-home indulgence is not responsible for this.

However, it is not unusual for senior UN officials to accumulate considerable wealth from life-long tax-free remuneration, to invest in real estate. There is nothing illegal here unless income from non-UN sources, such as rental from multiple properties, is not fully declared for local taxation.  This also applies to residents of Switzerland including UN officials with diplomatic status, as Mr Karim must be aware.

Mr Karim is a cultured man with a tendency, according to some of his close friends, towards “flamboyance” and a liking for opportunities to attend fashion, film, and music events with celebrities in attendance. Again, there is nothing wrong in that. Unfortunately for him, some countries including his country of nationality frown upon or criminalise certain lifestyles and personal choices that are taken for granted in Western countries.

For UN staff in Geneva caught in cultural-behavioural binds, seeking permanent settlement in  liberal Switzerland is possible once they retire. However,  they must satisfy certain criteria, including a track record of law-abiding conduct. In fact, according to the Swiss authorities, they must be squeaky clean.  As Mr Karim will know, that means UN staff protected by immunities and privileges should not have abused them when they were in positions of UN authority if, one day, they wish to be permanent beneficiaries of Swiss hospitality.

An Overseas Citizenship of India is also possible for a person with an Indian parent like Karim, and  eligible people can’t be faulted for wanting that, especially if they are also Bollywood fans.  Besides, despite its other problems, India is much more socially tolerant than either Pakistan or Saudi Arabia in relevant areas.  Unfortunately, the Indian government makes it very difficult, if not impossible, for anyone with a Pakistani connection to get a visa.

Doubly unfortunate is that the UNOPS Directorate in Geneva does not cover India and there is no reason for them to go there for official reasons. As a knowledgeable UN official, Mr Karim is aware that using an United Nations laissez-passer to request an official visa for private travel is tantamount to a serious infringement of the UN staff code of conduct. It is one of the reasons why countries like the US and Mr Karim’s own Saudi Arabia  do not issue visas on UN travel documents. Other nations are considering the same – as such abuse has become quite rampant.   

UN agencies – especially UNOPS Geneva – should make sure that their staff – at any level – are not abusing this privilege. All violations should be investigated with offending staff duly penalised. Meanwhile, countries, including India, do not like being hoodwinked into issuing official visas by senior UN staff misrepresenting the purpose of their visit.   The Indian Government is aware of  recent abuse by UNOPS in Geneva in that regard and if it decided to pursue that, it will bring considerable embarrassment.

Meanwhile, it is the top leaders that inspire, exemplify, or shape what happens in their set-up. The Geneva office is reputedly one of the unhappiest among all of  UNOPS’s worldwide presences. Those who knew Mr Karim at a younger age and in different phases of his career comment revealingly on his personality traits that shape the culture that drives UNOPS Geneva.  

What is that office culture in Geneva?  Past and current personnel at UNOPS Geneva paint the picture of a cut-throat atmosphere where trust has long since fled. People at the top are feared because of their abuse of office and advanced manipulation skills and constant scheming in the competitive struggle for personal survival and business maximisation.

Informants use phrases such as “toxic”, “sociopathic”, “intimidatory”  around UNOPS office interactions, centered on a “ruthlessly transactional approach” accompanied by  the “malignant narcissism” tendency of a leadership adept at “creating its own reality”. If that means a certain flexibility with the truth, even to the point of misrepresentation (i.e., lying), the means justify the ends.

Such a dog-eat-dog and favour-begets-favour management ethos puts unbearable pressure on juniors to bend organisational rules when required.  Examples related around the skewing of fair recruitment rules to recruit personnel favoured by senior management. These recruits are inevitably dependent on their ‘manager-sponsor’ and prey to their further demands. Thus, Geneva management has built up a cadre of vulnerable personal pets who are kept insecure (including perhaps hiding from the Swiss tax authorities!) and, therefore,  amenable to do the malpractices bid by their bosses. For example, to inflate costs and fees for client projects, an aspect of the organised scam that appears to be the UNOPS Geneva business model.

And so UNOPS Geneva rakes in the dollars, hand over fist. Strictly speaking, this is not all illegal (although some aspects such as systematised cheating of the Swiss authorities must be so), especially if donors and other UN agencies are aware of the common law doctrine of caveat emptor and don’t mind being lied-to and fooled. Geneva is a small town and much of this has been talked about in diplomatic receptions and bars around the place.

The greater human tragedy is around the human spirits corrupted or broken among those who got ensnared in UNOPS Geneva – described by some as the “reptilian school of management”. Few have graduated from it without being stung and traumatised, sickened, degraded, or humiliated.

One distressed interlocutor called the UNOPS Geneva way of making business as “living off immoral earnings”. This phrase is usually used for other types of intimate business which, incidentally, is legal in Switzerland. However, the Swiss Civil Code makes it illegal to live off immoral earnings.  The UNOPS Geneva model of profiteering, rent-seeking, and  racketeering to manipulate the market which it has itself created and rigged could easily be considered a type of ‘immoral earning’.

UNOPS will not be able to right itself unless it goes beyond the checklist of bureaucratic reforms Mr Wandel is said to be conducting.  It needs a form of ‘moral re-armament’ to correct the moral deficits in its structures, systems, and leadership.

And above all, UNOPS should rid itself of those who have lived off ‘immoral earnings’ for far too long.

Personal declaration: The writer has funded UNOPS when he was a donor in the UK government, employed UNOPS when he was in another UN agency, and has worked briefly as chief executive of a ‘hosted programme’ in UNOPS Geneva.  

Published by Mukesh Kapila

See http://www.mukeshkapila.org

31 thoughts on “How  the dodgy business of UNOPS is enabled from Geneva

  1. UNOPS is in a self-destructive mode. Personell are leaving every day.
    Donors should withhold the funds until a proper clean up is done! BUT, definitely not by WANDEL. He is in bed with the thieves.

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  2. It is a very accurate description of the business environment and of Moin’s character – on the surface,

    but it does not even come close to the ruthlessness and cut-throat mentality of his true nature.

    It would be worthwhile to talk to his former boss, no not Grete but Bruce M., the former Regional Director for Europe & Asia. One would hear a fantastic story, how Moin who was the Deputy to Bruce teamed up with Sanjay M. to step Bruce in the back and have him kicked out by Grete.

    Resulting in both conspirators becoming the new Regional Directors, one for Europe and the other one for Asia after the region was conveniently split up in 2 separate kingdoms and neither position was ever advertised publicly.

    Maybe the next post should be focusing on the Regional UNOPS Office Asia and the Maharaja that rules it.
    A story not less captivating than “Geneva by night.”

    Sempre Fi

    John Derrel

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    1. Sanjay is a very wealthy person working in Asia for decades. Don’t you remember IAPSO? UNOPS needs to shut it down because of some corruption. They did it later. Sanjay M. (considered as the God of Asia like Vitaly V. was for UNOPS in general) put all his old friends in the strategic positions in Asia, such as in the procurement. And Sanjay’s friends put their own friends in other strategic positions.
      Why? Well, you know why…

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  3. Moin is a sick man, butt-kissed by another sick man William. The biggest commonality between the two are “small men, huge ego”. They were rotten poster child of the Faremo era and making everyone at UNOPS sick. Criminal charges should be brought to both of them if Swiss gives a dame. And Board Members should really see William for who he is, a little man with a brain so small that he has no intellectual capacity to even hold a dialogue with people who are not some 20 year old young women that he promotes. We’ve all heard about things he did in New York. It’s a matter of time.

    Agreeing with John that Sanjay and the Asian region definitely feel hot right now as their pants have been on fire for years. Reveal them!!!

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    1. Yes Moin and William go in hand in hand, they did many crooked things together, the difference is Moin is smarter, while William is really not very intelligent, either. He just thinks he is, but if he knew what his Geneva colleagues said about him, his dumb smile would disappear from his face

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  4. Hosted Programmes are problematic, however one of greatest challenges with them comes from the “mgmt” personnel within the programmes. They are on UNOPS contracts, more senior on FTAs, with lower seniority on ICAs….the hosted programmes flaunt rules and regulations: HR, Finance, Travel etc (well documented internally and publicly)….

    UNOPS personnel have struggled with reeling in the hosted programmes, however there are myriad issues with them….there are numerous accounts of abuse of authority corruption and non-adherence to rules and regs within RBM, Stop TB, WSSCC (SHF) and others….

    Personnel jump from unops to the hosted programmes to gain FTAs and the litany of overpriced benefits that accompany these contracts…..the managers of hosted programmes, many of whom are political hires, look at unops/hosted as just an entitled means to an ends of service delivery within the programmes.

    it is important to note, that the hosted entities are ‘programmes’, and do not have legal standing on there own – hence the need to attach themselves to UN bodies…WHO, UNOPS etc…the renting of the blue flag is a fair statement, & is a large revenue stream for GVA/the region….the major issue being, if not with agency X, it will move to entity Y, from WHO to UNOPS, and UNDP always there to step in as well….its a UN System characteristic where they compete for funding to substantiate/fund there existence / competition for funding….

    if truly examining UNOPS practices, beyond the articles on the SLT, GLM, GMM or whatever the current label is, should be the costing and pricing structure:

    1. Management Fee (Indirect Cost) which is variably applied depending on risk increment, complexity of programme etc., (some donors have negotiated costs &% from EU….if thinking this is high, please examine and look at USG/USAID Negotiated Indriect Cost Rate Agreements (NICRA) …some of which are up to/ exceed 20%

    2. Centrally Managed Direct Costs (CMDC) which are applied to each personnel contract, as well as each project in the UNOPS Systems on an annual basis…this will only increase with the SaaS model of ICT provision, access, licenses, services etc

    1 + 2 are costs that are taken directly to UNOPS HQ, this is where HQ and non revenue generating areas of the organization are funded + reserves come from

    3. Locally Managed Direct Costs (LMDC): this is a countries office way of budgeting positions within projects and working to stash working capital and supplement annual budgets ….it accounts for the price of project personnel funded at a % of level of effort and/or 100% charged to donors…

    additionally, offices can ascribed >100% of costs of personnel (110-115% ) to afford to ‘office sustainability’ across financial years…as a means of using project funds beyond / outside of directly attributable project related costs….

    4. Regionally Managed Direct Costs (RMDC) vary across regions (if applying this cost structure)….are serve as a way to charge projects and offices for ‘oversight’, support or advisory costs….which drive costs up on projects with little tangible results other than office cost offsetting

    other issues that should be examined is the ICA modality vs. FTA. FTAs are so coveted, but are generally legacy cases from long serving personnel, to country specific and personal relationship based (tax free regardless of country, housing, insurance, spousal allowance, relocation grants in the 10s of Ks, pension match at the 5 yr service mark). some countries do not recognize the ICA as tax exempt (Swiss & Austrian offices) and thus, this creates even greater disparity among unops employed personnel: 2 tier system…an even wider issue to question is the disparate level of contract for similar/same roles…within one office, u have people that have disparate application of rules, regulations, entitlements, tax rules…

    there are issues across UN Agencies – hiring practices in general non-transparent with a large # of positions earmarked or known before/during the publication and interview process….and are tantamount to paper exercises…

    anyone that has worked for a UN agency knows this. generally it is known, speak up (?) and be unable to progress within the agencies, and definitely within. the peter principle is prevalent, as is quota based hiring….

    all said, there are very dedicated, diligent, intelligent people working to address extremely complex global issues and challenges…..bien sure, there are issues, por supuesto, there are inadequacies….of course there are shady dealings (try working with govts in some of countries without)….this comes with international business operations….its a question of how to address, and how much is to be tolerated….

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    1. At least some of the hosted programmes are also hiding behind UN immunity, thanks to UNOPS, to enable their management to do things that would land everyone in jail if they were not enjoying UN status. It’s the case of the Sanitation and Hygiene Fund fellows, a completely corrupt organization with a chair who’s currently restrained by a court order by the Nigeria Federal High Court for having been part of the interim management committee of the Nigeria Delta Development Commission, called by Nigerian media ‘a disturbing cesspool of corruption’ and ‘the untouchable pot of corruption that defies all solutions’- Well, this is where UNOPS went to pick up the new chair of the SHF after the former one was making some USD 17.000/month in secret and illegally to favor decisions to please the current SHF management.

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  5. Great Pic, the dude doesn’t even try hiding his luxerions life, spit in the face of the system. And that’s not the only pic on open source, here is the Facebook https://m.facebook.com/582616773/

    The guy also doesn’t hide his place of living is Montreaux. Since when UN allows for its Geneva based staff be deployed 2 hours away from Geneva?

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  6. Hello,

    With all due respect, I have a family to feed, so if it requires butt kissing of the senior leadership, I will do it. This is no different from any other Swiss workplaces or businesses. At least Moin appreciates it and I get to keep my job, and sometimes get a promotion.

    Current unops staff

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  7. Dear Mukesh,

    Thanks for not stopping at the UNOPS S3 fiasco. The regional Geneva office and it’s satellites has loose and wasted millions and overcharged amounts several times higher than S3 wasted and that needs to be investigated.

    As for Moin, I have documented proof (recordings, documents and emails) that tell a lot, some of them contain clear evidence of racial and ethnic discrimination. Unfortunately, for this to be used in an investigation, it requires a prior consent of a person who is being recorded. But perhaps you can find a way around?

    Moin

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  8. Hi Mukesh,

    You seem to have good sources, but nothing is coming up on corrupt hiring processes and nepotism, massive issues across UNOPS, led by example from Regional Directors, Moin including, with HR in Copenhagen very well aware but pathetically useless

    You should ask your sources in Geneva and New York to start talking how they were forced to chose candidates that were nowhere close to being qualified for positions in échange for long term patronage favouritism and protection.

    Regard

    Good luck!

    Victoria

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    1. Sad that Wandel is avoiding this issue. Regional Offices Directors and IPAS HR are real culprits when it is come to this.
      Recruitment process are always manipulated!

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  9. @ still under ICA

    fully agree but you don’t need to look as far as the hosted programs, it is UNOPS itself that violates their own rules and regulations on a daily basis just to safe a few quits that can support the ivory tower styled conditions Senior Management is bathing in, whether it is HQ or the Regional Offices.

    According to standard HR rules, non-staff contracts are not supposed to be used to establish and maintain position that are core functions in the organization. But does UNOPS care, of course not.

    Just look to Asia where you have plenty of so called “Country Managers”, positions that run a country office and all operations therein. In any other UN Agency that would be FTA P4, P5 at minimum. In UNDP they are called UNDP Resident Representatives and are at least on P5 or D1.

    And in UNOPS….. no way, such positions are all ICA. Imagine, a position that is managing an entire country office with all the business cases, projects, responsibilities, being counterpart to the Government, one would assume that has to be a staff position because it is a core function.

    How can it be that a “Country Manager” with 2 children has to pay for their education out of his/her own pocket and the colleagues sitting at the same UNCT table from FAO, WFP, UNFPA, UNDP and all the other Reps and Directors are entitled to education grants, insurance, healthcare and housing allowance?

    Guess there is indeed a 2 tier system.

    Tier 1 is the “haves” with their FTA contracts, the system enablers, the people that do the talking, the thinking and subsequently deserve the staff positions….. sarcasm off”
    and there is
    Tier 2, the “not haves” the ICAs and LICAs, the people that actually do the real work, that bring in the projects and the revenue for the organization. And it is true, they have to walk a fine line when dealing with “difficult Governments” not all is black and white, there is a lot of murky waters.

    But instead of being grateful to them, the corporate rulers in HQ and the Regional Offices exploit them like slaves and if one dares to open the mouth, they are gone in the blink of an eye.

    The next willing victim is already waiting to take over the position, to move from ICA 1 or ICA 2 to ICA 3, not fully aware that they are not UN staff but simply consultants that can be hired and fired at will.

    UNOPS should be put back under UNDP and then all UNOPS personnel can be made ICAs and work as a sort of consultancy department on implementation. There is no need for such a head heavy system where many have to work so hard, that so few can enjoy power, wealth and a luxurious lifestyle.

    If UNOPS is not dismantled and rebuilt into a real UN Agency then it is better to let it vanish and let the work be done by professional consultancy companies.

    They do it better, more efficient and without the nepotism and corruption that became the trademark of UNOPS.

    Sempre Fi

    John Derrel

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    1. Good points, and completely agree re: icas & the overload of responsibilities vs. contract modality benefits…

      Interesting seeing the deeper/insightful comments from others across the org…

      Lets see what happens moving forward.

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  10. WELL-SAID, JOHN! UNOPS SHOULD BE DISMANTLED YESTERDAY ALREADY. ENOUGH CORRUPTION AND ENOUGH CRIME ALREADY. BEING ABSORBED INTO UNDP OR BEING DISMANTLED, CRIMINALS STILL NEED TO BE PROSECUTED.

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  11. What is incredible is that no one speaks about Russian funding in Lao PDR. I repeat: RUSSIAN FUNDING IN LAO PDR.
    Is it legal? What is the UN’s position for the war in Ukraine and the Russian’s sanctions? Morally speaking? Who cares? For the people working there it’s money for the family? Swimming pool, good food. What a good place to live. Money doesn’t smell. UNOPS and ICA take a lot of money. People are suffering all over the world because of sanctions to Russia, but UNOPS’s staff is enjoying good salary, swimming pool, good food in Lao PDR.

    Friends will try to find job for friends. It is usual within the UN.
    The UN core is “Shut-up, don’t be competent, take what ever you can take and eliminate those who are able to destroy your career path”. Competent people are all the time removed from UN. Why? Because problems are solved and UN interest is not to solve problem, but to stay in a country and make money. You don’t make money when you solve problems.
    What a crazy world! UNOPS staff doesn’t have any value UN is fighting for. UN is not the right answer to the world problems. UN is just a bank giving money to their own family workers. Your money! Even with sanctions against Russia, it is still your money.

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  12. Only people who are not happy themselves are mean to others. However, life has in its own way of correcting the wrongs.

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    1. Totally. Take Wiliam for example, he was coming to NY as a divorced man who lived in a hotel room. Can you imagine how distorted his mind is when it comes to seeing people (men or women) who have happy families? Life is abusing authority in the office and sulking in sadness in a hotel room. It seemed the Geneva office all had very young women and those were what Moin and William could ever stand hiring and promoting. William brought this sick tradition to NY.

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    2. One of the big Business of UNPOS are the Peacekeeping Missions, not mentioned in the article. Several missions bitterly objected the double costing and where shut by UNHQ NY. UNOPS in its root is not a bad idea but has grown to a monster. Some comments are spot on that UNOPS is not the only UN entity wheeling and dealing, UNDP is a far more cunning. Just to add that YMCA has an overhead of 40% in all their project down with the UN.

      Best,

      MT

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  13. Jens so – called reforms action points are silent on the abuse of authority which is the root cause of all troubles.

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  14. These hosted partnerships are the wild west and operate carte blanche. As long as the management fees keep flowing, UNOPS will turn a blind eye to the rampant corruption, abuse and illegal contract modalities. The media has been sleeping on this and should cover the corruption in the The Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council. The NY Times did an expose on systemic mismanagement by Stop TB Partnership’s Executive Director and UNOPS did nothing: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/12/health/ditiu-stoptb-united-nations.html. UNOPS Geneva office sucks up to all these partnerships because all their money comes from them which they spend on great initiatives like S3i, while keeping their staff on illegal contracts that flaunt national labor laws. ICA staff should band together and file a class action lawsuit.

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    1. thanks Michelle for your comment, you are totally rights about the WSSCC and the SHF, they ended up on Swiss TV for corruption see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5WQUIxlbuCs&t=740s

      And also see this for more details: nsider this story of corruption, mismanagement, racism and other serious abuses within the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), a UNOPS (UN Office for Project Services)-hosted entity.

      This story, like so many others, is provided to banned Inner City Press by UN whistleblowers; the UN of Guterres and his spokespeople Stephane Dujarric and Melissa Fleming refuse to answer written question or even law firm letters. It is total impunity and corruption.

      After 30 years of existence, WSSCC was shut down at the end of 2020 to become the Sanitation and Hygiene Fund (SHF). The transition to SHF was a disaster, because it was characterized by a long series of illegalities that led to the destruction of most of the workforce, with the exception of the authors of the crimes and their closest acolytes.

      The Executive Director of UNOPS, Grete Faremo of Norway, was informed all of this corruption. However, she did not intervene to bring the illegalities to an end and to protect whistleblowers according to UNOPS’ own whistleblowers protection policy. So hte information was provided to donors fraud and anti-corruption hotlines (including SIDA, MINBUZA i.e. the MFA of the Netherlands, NORAD and SDC – Swiss Cooperation).

      However, despite the fact that even an internal investigation conducted by the UNOPS Internal Audit and Investigation Group (IAIG) concluded since February 2021 that the members of the senior management of the WSSCC (now SHF) were responsible of financial mismanagement, including multiple irregularities in recruitment procedures and procurement fraud, and despite the additional abundant written evidence of corruption and other abuses, donors have recently made the decision to continue supporting financially the UNOPS Sanitation and Hygiene Fund (SHF, formerly WSSCC).

      There is also a pending case in the UN Dispute Tribunal (UNDT) concerning the context in which the decisions leading to the set-up of the SHF were made, and their validity. Among other serious issues that the internal UNOPS investigation disregarded, that were brought to the attention of the UNDT, there is written evidence of the corruption and conflict of interest of the Chair of the WSSCC/SHF Board.

      From the end of 2019, the current Deputy Director of the SHF, Ms. Sue Coates, with the complicity of the Director, Mr. Dominic O’Neill (hired by Sue Coates when she was Executive Director a.i.), and senior UNOPS officials in Geneva, New York and Copenhagen who work directly with Grete Faremo (which explains why Ms. Faremo did not take any action), paid illegally over 200.000 USD/year to the Chair, Ms. Hind Khatib Othman, to make or influence a series of other illegal decisions concerning the SHF organogram. In addition, there is written evidence of the pressures and intimidation of some African members of the Board who were raising good governance issues (for instance, a WSSCC employee called the Minister of Health of Uganda, a recipient of large Dutch-sponsored WSSCC Global Sanitation Fund grants, to ask her to intimidate the Ugandan member of the Board who had raised accountability issues), and of a widespread climate of racism, harassment and discrimination across the organization. Given the above, the completion of the case before UNDT may in the near future have impacts on the validity of the decisions made to establish the SHF.

      However this does not seem to be an issue neither for Ms. Faremo nor for donors. As a result, the persons who committed the above-mentioned offences are still in place at UNOPS/SHF. http://www.innercitypress.com/ungate2unopsguttedicp072421.html

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  15. Very strange. Where are the posts about Sanjay and the UNOPS Asia? Why they were removed? Sanjay, in Asia for years. He cannot be removed, like Vitaly.
    He his friends to very strategic positions in Asia, in the various procurement and finance units. Why? After the destruction of IAPSO (check why), ex-UNOPS Procurement Unit, people were jobless and they suddenly moved to Asia to be controlled by those who need to keep the career on.

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  16. @Misha,
    assuming you are talking about the Mittaphap Hospital in Vientiane.
    It is really absurd, every week, the Russian Embassy will hold a press conference in Vientiane, telling the world that they are carrying out humanitarian missions in the Ukraine, that they help people and they fight the aggression from the Ukrainian forces.
    The international community including the UN in Lao is very quiet, who wants to upset the host country, no one.

    And among the UN Agencies, there is UNOPS, very, very quiet because as @Misha mentioned, the Russian Government is funding a project, the renovation of the Mittaphap hospital with a few millions and UNOPS is benefiting from this project by earning a sizable amount of corporate management fees and RMDCs and LMDCs.

    If anyone is interested, look it up in One UNOPS and you can see how UNOPS is in bed with a Government that is running a war of aggression agains the Ukraine, slaughtering thousands of men, women and children, and not a single word from UNOPS HQ or the Regional Office in Bangkok, because it is all about the money. As long as the fee is coming in, as long as Sanjay M. in Bangkok can afford his Jaguar, what do we care where we take the money from, as some said it here, money does not smell. What a shame, just disgusting.

    Sempre Fi

    John Derrel

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    1. You are right Derrel. That’s why I don’t understand why my posts are deleted when I am referring to UNOPS Bangkok, handled by the well known person you mentioned. This person provided gifts (positions) to his own friends to control the procurement and finances.
      Yes. Just disgusting, in Thailand and in Laos.
      It should be noted that LMDC, RMDC and other fee managements don’t need to be justified to the donors. HR budget line as well. You can handle it easily.

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  17. So, I cannot mention what’s going on in Bangkok with Sanjay and his friends? Well understood.
    UNOPS is not obliged to share with the donors how they manage LMDC, RMDC and Personnel budgets lines. They can easily play with all these budgets lines. UNOPS is working well with all these manipulation Asia.

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  18. Does everyone know that William connived with Jim, strategized with Hafida and called Alejo (whose soulless life purpose is to get rid of innocent people) everyday to try to get rid of Dragan, who is a recovering cancer patient? William knew nothing about work in NY, but of course thanks to his Daddy’s friendship with the disgraced Faremo, he was put in charge of NY team, even though everyone on the team was more competent than him. After he got to NY and guided by his own lack of intelligence, fragile ego and tradition of only capable of working with women in their early 20s, he was on a mission to get rid of the institutional knowledge. He was verbally abusive and he was calling Alejo everyday to discuss how to “handle” Dragan. He was complaining about how Andrew Reese didn’t want to work with him. And the only person of his dream was the young assistant that he was risking his life to promote. If he continues to represent UNOPS to interact with the Executive Board, the rest of UNOPS may as well start vomiting on their desks every day.

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    1. Many people complained about Alejo’s unethical behavior and nothing is done to him. It will be interesting to know why!

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  19. I’m surprised no one has yet mentioned the Mexico National Medicine Procurement project, a deal worth $2 billion. After assisting Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the current Mexican president, with an anti-corruption campaign when he was still in the opposition, UNOPS was given this contract, although it had very little experience with national medicine procurement.
    Right now, there are medicine shortages in Mexico, due to Mexican suppliers previously used not meeting tender requirements set by UNOPS. Majority of suppliers receiving contracts are (PO Box?) subsidiaries of multinationals.

    https://impunityobserver.com/2022/05/31/how-the-united-nations-foments-medicine-shortages-in-mexico/
    https://hbr.org/2019/05/the-executive-director-of-a-un-agency-on-running-it-like-a-business

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  20. Wandel good intentions will be blocked . Corruption at UNOPS is deep rooted. Grete did not choose former SLT members at random. They all have common traits. Toxic, deep love for money and they care less about UN values.

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