UNICEF Investigating Charges of Corruption, Mismanagement
UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ The U.N. Children’s Fund is investigating claims that some members of its Kenya staff funneled money to phony aid groups and falsified medical and charge receipts.
UNICEF has suspended 10 staff members while it investigates, including the current and past heads of its Kenya office, said Karin Sham Poo, the deputy executive director of the New York-based organization.
``In the 10 years that I have been here, this is the largest case of individuals involved in improprieties or mismanagement,″ Sham Poo said Thursday.
She said it was unclear how much money may have been involved.
``I do not think we are talking about millions,″ she said.
Seven members of UNICEF’s Kenya office were suspended with pay after a November audit uncovered irregularities, Sham Poo said.
The seven were not accused of any wrongdoing, but UNICEF sent its top auditor, Johanna Strieck, to Nairobi to begin a wider investigation in January.
As a result, three additional staff members and one of the staffers punished in November were suspended without pay.
Sham Poo said some of the four were accused of falsifying expense and medical claims.
Strieck’s investigation is expected to be completed later this month.
Auditors were investigating charges that UNICEF was ``allocating funds to activities that were not approved,″ that staff members were improperly hired and that money was given to fake aid groups, Sham Poo said.
Each UNICEF country office is audited every three years.
UNICEF, with a $1 billion annual budget, feeds and provides water and medical aid to children in 140 countries. The agency helps immunize millions of children each year.
The largest contributor is the United States, which gave $135 million last year. Private donations from Americans amounted to another $21 million.