UNOPS to close its operations in Helsinki
The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) will close its office in Helsinki by the end of 2023. The Social Impact Investing Initiative, managed by UNOPS, was discontinued already at the start of the year due to a corruption case.
The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) founded an office in Helsinki in 2019 for its Social Impact Investing Initiative (S3i) programme. The programme was to attract private investors to finance sustainable development programmes in developing countries.
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs became aware of the allegations of misconduct by the Chief Executive of the S3i programme in December 2021. The Ministry immediately froze Finland’s funding to UNOPS. The Executive Director of UNOPS resigned in spring 2022, and the Chief Executive was dismissed in January 2023 after an investigation. In February this year, the UNOPS Executive Board took a unanimous decision to discontinue the S3i programme and cease its social impact investing activities.
In the UN, Finland has been advocating for a thorough investigation of the corruption allegations and calling for holding all wrongdoers accountable. Thanks to the activity of Finland and other Member States, UNOPS is undergoing an extensive reform to strengthen the Office’s internal audit, risk management and ethical measures to prevent any recurrence of similar misconduct in the future. This reform is largely based on recommendations proposed in a report commissioned by UNOPS from KPMG Finland.
Finland supported UNOPS with a total of EUR 10 million when it opened its office in Helsinki. Finland has not financed UNOPS’ investing activities. UNOPS will return unused funds to Finland. The sum will be further specified but will correspond to more than half of the paid funds. The process of recovering the funds that have already been used may not be initiated before the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has completed its criminal investigation.
Following the UNOPS case, the Foreign Ministry commissioned risk assessments of all the UN agencies it is supporting. The investigations did not reveal any similar defects in internal audit and risk management.
Satu Lassila, Director, Unit for UN Development and Innovation Issues, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, tel. +358 50 529 98 37
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