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In Corrupt UN of Guterres UNESCO Financial Mismanagement Expands

By Matthew Russell Lee & sources, Exclusive

UN GATE, Feb 8UNESCO, like the whole UN system under Antonio Guterres is falling apart in corruption and fraud.

  Inner City Press has been reporting on serious malfeasance by the French Audrey Azoulay administration at UNESCO in Paris, almost as bad as Antonio Guterres' corruption in and of the UN in New York. A fish rots from the head.

This has led to a situation where, at UNESCO, mismanagement is possible to an extent never seen before. Nevertheless, the information that reached Inner City Press yesterday is a bombshell that deserves to be amplified concerned: 

1) The agency's financial situation at the end of 2023 was catastrophic. The accumulated deficit of some 19 million dollars could not be absorbed by the remaining available budget. Under these conditions, UNESCO's Chief financial officer, Magdolna Bona of Hungary, took the unilateral decision to liquidate all remaining obligations for 2023. She took this decision without even informing the ADGs of the program sectors. Even the Director of IOS was not informed, and he and everyone else discovered that some of the contracts signed by his Service could not be honored. The only person to speak out and openly oppose this decision was the ADG for Education - Italian Stefania Giannini. 

2) In her unprecedented decision and rule-breaking action, Magdolna Bona was supported by her direct boss, the ADG for Management, Nicholas Jeffreys of the UK. Subsequent to Jeffreys' approval, the following e-mail was sent to all HQ Administrative Officers on January 5, 2024: "Dear Colleagues, First of all, I would like to extend my warmers wishes for a happy and prosperous New Year! The 41 C/5 biennium is ending, with the December 2023 accounts being closed today. (…). The combination of high inflation and exchange rate volatility has resulted in additional budget impact of around $19 million, which must be absorbed by the Regular Budget (…)". The rest of the e-mail serves to justify this decision. Signed: BFM/DIR. Since all contracts signed in 2023 were legally binding and valid, a solution had to be found but certainly not one based on an action contrary to the rules. 

3) The fact that a Chief financial officer of a UN agency would take such a step, without any prior consultation and approval from UNESCO's governing bodies is nothing short of appalling. There is a well-established procedure for the transfer of funds from one biennium to the next and deciding not to follow it speaks volumes about the current state of the agency's governance - abuse of authority, disregard for rules and regulations, a sense of impunity for senior financial managers - the list goes on.

 4) Taking the full measure of his actions and the risk to himself and Magdolna Bona, Nicholas Jeffreys decided that the best way out was to involve DG Azoulay in the decision-making process on this sensitive issue, meaning that Azoulay must approve the illegal transfer of funds and that a plan on how to do so is now on her desk. Such a decision by a DG - to regularize the liquidated obligations in 2023 with funds made available by member states for this and next year’s biennium - would set a very dangerous precedent. 

5) Even more worrying is the fact that even contracts signed by Bernardin Assiene, Director of Internal Oversight Services (IOS), have been liquidated. The Director of IOS would normally be the first to sound the alarm, pointing out that this practice is totally illegal.  Instead, Bernardin Assiene's only public comment to CFO Magdolna Bona was that it was "not normal".  Of course, this is not normal, it's much more than just "not normal".

It's contrary to financial rules and regulations. It's serious enough for Member States to call for the immediate dismissal of Magdolna Bona, Nicholas Jeffreys who is covering it all up, and Bernardin Assiene, Director of IOS, who is completely failing to do his oversight job and take action against wrongdoing by senior UNESCO officials.  This financial mismanagement swindle is also a serious blow to the reputation of the team of Canadian external auditors. How is it that such an illicit maneuver has gone unnoticed by the sentinels of the rightful use of public money? The Canadian auditors seem either suborned or totally incompetent. Either way, it's worrying, even if their mandate is coming to an end soon. It is expected that the Canadian team will be replaced this year by the South African team.  What is the position of France's ambassador to UNESCO, Philippe Franc, regarding this proven violation of financial rules under the administration of their DG Audrey Azoulay?  Not clear yet.

 Still, only the member states can decide how long this French arrogance in mismanaging the agency will last.  It goes without saying that if UNESCO's Director General had come from a developing country, the French, Europeans in general and the Nordic countries in particular would have severely criticized her, or even called for her dismissal, as in other cases elsewhere in the UN system.  But since Audrey Azoulay is French and UNESCO is based in France, most of those who usually have something to say about corruption, keep quiet in her case. However, in the corridors, at receptions and bilateral meetings, criticism is becoming increasingly vocal. It will only grow louder in the months ahead, as Azoulay's term of office draws to a close, and tongues will loosen even more with the campaign for the next DG starting this year. 

This is where UNESCO stands today, a UN agency ravaged by financial misappropriations, propitious to the flourishing of abuse of power, corruption and nepotism. Watch this site



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