Let me thank UNHCR for the presentation of its financial accounts and for an unqualified audit.
The UK welcomes the recommendations made by the Board. We would encourage UNHCR to implement these in a timely fashion. It is important that UNHCR set measureable, time bound actionable commitments in response to these.
The UK would like to highlight three areas from the auditor’s report where we would want to engage with UNHCR in the coming year.
First, on fraud. There is a risk that UNHCR staff are missing fraud, particularly in the supply chain. It is important that staff, and partner organisations are clear on what to look out for, and where to go where they have suspicions of fraud.
Second, effective management of downstream partners is essential for effective programme delivery and for full transparency of how resource is being used.
We note the positive areas of practice. However, are concerned that performance is variable at the country level with staff having differing levels of understanding of the expectations of them. Downstream partners should be clear what’s expected of them and UNHCR staff should be able to hold them to account.
Third, on risk management, we welcome the proportionate risk-based management approach proposed by the Board. For this to be effective, it’s important that management clearly set out their risk-appetite to staff. We would encourage UNHCR senior management to consider overall risk registers as part of their regular meetings and communicate regularly to staff on risk.
For all three of these issues that we have highlighted, staff engagement is crucial. Management must both clearly set out what is expected of staff and invest in building staff capacity. This is necessary if UNHCR is going to be successful in establishing a culture of fraud and risk-management.
Engagement across the organisation is harder, but just as important. It won’t always be plain sailing. It may mean, at least in the short term, that cases of reported fraud increases. However, it will also mean that UNHCR is better able to address all potential fraud. And an important step in upholding the highest standards on tackling fraud and corruption.