UN agency chief resigns after probe into its investments

Grete Faremo, former UN Under-Secretary General and UNOPS Executive Director. File | Photo Credit: Reuters

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has accepted the resignation of the head of a United Nations agency that was under investigation for questionable investments.

Grete Faremo, a former Norwegian Minister of justice and public security, had been undersecretary-general and executive director of the UN Office for Project Services since August 2014.

The office, headquartered in Copenhagen, says its mission is to provide “infrastructure, procurement and project management services for a more sustainable world”.

Ms. Faremo's resignation was accepted on Sunday, the day the New York Times reported that the agency made “a baffling series of financial decisions” that purportedly led to $25 million in losses.

The Times report followed an April 16 article in Devex, the media platform for the global development community by Brussels-based writer Ilya Gridneff, titled: “What went wrong with UNOPS' ambitious impact-investing initiative?”

That article said the investigation focused on a series of loans from the agency to a Singapore-based company that received tens of millions of dollars to develop plans to build more than 1 million affordable homes in six countries. “Today, the entire project is stalled, UNOPS is owed tens of millions of dollars, and no houses have been built,” it said.

Devex quoted an unidentified spokesperson for the agency as saying that “steps are being taken to recover all outstanding amounts regardless of the source of activities.”

The UN's internal watchdog had been investigating the transactions.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Ms. Faremo's resignation was effective from Sunday. He said Jens Wandel of Denmark, a former special adviser to the secretary-general on reforms, will serve as acting head of the agency while a new executive director is recruited.

“The secretary-general is grateful for Ms Faremo's commitment and dedicated service to the organisation,” Mr. Dujarric said in a statement.

He would not comment beyond the statement when asked whether Mr. Guterres asked for Ms. Faremo's resignation.

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Printable version | May 9, 2022 3:24:51 am |