The Report of the Board of Auditors to the President of the UN General Assembly dated July 24, 2019 disclosed an UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) budget surplus of a whopping $105.01 million, with the program budget alone–which finances the core activities of the Agency—recording a surplus of $100.38 million.

The report noted that the surplus was ‘due to efforts made by the Agency to mobilize resources from various donors’, as well as a reduction in ‘non-core operations’ costs.

Other Key Audit Findings:

  • Treasury and Cash Management: Among the issues that the auditors identified were differences between the amount of the trial balance as of December 31, 2018, and the cash count conducted by the Board of Auditors.
  • Asset Management: The Board performed an assessment of inventory at the Jordan field office warehouse and observed that the information recorded in the UNRWA system did not represent the physical stock of inventory in the The finding reflected a weakness in the integrity and accuracy of economic events, contrary to the stipulations of the Conceptual Framework for General Purpose Financial Reporting by Public Sector Entities.
  • Human Resources Management: Attendance forms that staff members were supposed to use to record their daily attendance were not available in all UNRWA departments. Furthermore, the Department of Human Resources at UN headquarters informed the Board of Auditors that recording attendance at the Agency was ‘not mandatory’. In addition, while the Lebanon field office had a register of its staff’s monthly attendance prepared by a senior officer, that was not the case for the Jordan and West Bank field offices, which only kept signed spreadsheets ‘as a backup’ for staff attendance. The West Bank field office, for example, stated that each of its departments determined its own method for recording attendance— if it had one!

This situation was found to be contrary to the stipulations of the UN personnel directive (No. A/1/Rev.1/Amend.1), which establishes the way in which attendance is to be recorded. The Board of Auditors considered that the ‘lack of a reliable and consistent control mechanism’ that enables the verification of compliance with established working hours, may hinder the completion of the work hours established under the area staff rule. Conversely, having a mechanism that objectively registers daily attendance makes it possible to verify compliance with working hours and schedules and to keep a record of absences.

 

  • Procurement and Contract Management: After checking the list of vendors identified as being ineligible for participation in the United Nations Global Marketplace and the list of vendors identified as having been removed from the UNRWA vendor roster on the basis of “poor performance”, and comparing those lists with the list of suppliers that were awarded contracts by UNRWA between January and October 2018, it was observed that an ineligible vendor, “United Electronic ”, had been selected by the Agency in contravention of its procurement manual. The vendor had been declared ineligible by the United Nations Global Marketplace since 20 May 2008, and its status under “vendor’s master data” in the REACH system had been listed as “blocked” since 30 October 2017. The basis for the block was due to its being included on the sanctions list issued in September 2017. Nevertheless, UNRWA created a new ‘micropurchase order’ for the vendor on May 28, 2018.

Audit Recommendations

The Board of Auditors included a list of recommendations with their ‘Financial Report and Audited Financial Statements’, but also noted that ‘of the 54 outstanding recommendations from the previous year’s audit, only 32 were ever fully implemented’ by UNRWA.

 

*David Bedein, MSW, who founded and has directed Israel Resource News Agency in Jerusalem since 1987, administers the Center for Near East Policy Research in Jerusalem. He is the author of Roadblock to Peace – How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict: UNRWA Policies Reconsidered and The Genesis of the Palestinian Authority. His website can be found at www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com

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David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com and www.cfnepr.com. A new site,unrwa-monitor.com, will be launched very soon.

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