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Press Release No. 778

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WMO Members welcome Secretariat management reforms; call for greater openness of governance process

Geneva, 9 May 2007 (WMO) – Stringent administrative and budget reforms to secure the future and prevent financial fraud at the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) received strong support from the Organization’s Members at its quadrennial Congress, which opened in Geneva on 7 May 2007.

In his report to the Congress, WMO President Alexander Bedritskiy outlined and expressed satisfaction over the series of rigorous measures implemented by the Secretary-General following the discovery by a staff member in the finance department of a fraud case in 2003, and for the transparency of the process.

The Secretary-General M. Jarraud gave details of the actions taken since the fraud, estimated at about USD 3.5 million. His focus has been on tightening administrative and decision-taking procedures to build for the future and prevent further deception. WMO had referred the case itself to the Swiss Judicial authorities and extended its full cooperation to them. It promptly lifted diplomatic immunities to facilitate those investigations, which are still continuing. Restitution of significant funds over 300,000 $ has also been obtained through the Swiss legal system.

The new Secretary-General M. Jarraud immediately after taking office launched an Action Plan. As a result, reform measures have been implemented to introduce fundamental management change throughout the WMO and to strengthen the integrity, transparency and efficiency of decision making processes. The Executive Council welcomed his prompt action at its fifty-sixth session and entrusted the Audit Committee to monitor implementation.

Since the WMO Congress takes place every four years, Mr Jarraud reported on the reforms. The fraud in connection with the WMO fellowship program occurred before Mr. Jarraud’s election as Secretary-General. His name was put forward by the European Region following four indecisive secret ballots and after another nomination from the floor was declined by the candidate.

Measures implemented include a series of reforms to the governance structure (including creation of an Audit Committee), rules and procedures, attitudes and training, introduction of a code of ethics, systematic training on fraud prevention, monitoring and control and management changes taking into account suggestions from both the internal and external auditors, as well as from some external experts.

Highlights of statements

All delegates who took the floor expressed appreciation of the way in which the President, Secretary-General and others involved handled the fraud investigations and remedies. They also thanked the Swiss authorities for the efforts made to investigate and recover some of the lost money. Generally, they felt it was now time to refocus attention on the WMO’s main tasks.

The delegate of the United States said the many administrative reforms were considered to be the “best in its class” within the UN system and underlined the importance of not losing sight of WMO achievements in the meteorological community. He expressed the need to further increase transparency about decisions of WMO’s Bureau.

The delegates of Italy, Belgium, Ireland and several others supported the statement made by the delegate of the United States and expressed full support to the Secretary-General and management regarding their handling of the fraud case. The delegate of Belgium added that he was present at the Secretary-General’s election in 2003 and could confirm there was no reason to doubt the appointment’s transparency and correctness. The president of the Asian region (Bahrain) also confirmed that the election process had been transparent.

The delegate of France felt that a proper governance structure was now in place and the WMO was responding well to the reform measures. It should now focus on its major tasks for the future, including better services in terms of climate change and early warning methods. The delegate of Japan emphasized his country’s support for the actions taken by the Secretary-General and the President, and the delegate of the Republic of Korea called for more attention to meteorological phenomena, such as tropical cyclones.

The delegations of China, Pakistan, Tanzania, Indonesia, Finland, India, Oman and several others expressed their satisfaction with measures taken by the Secretary-General and for the progress in reforming the working methods.

The delegate of Guinea emphasized the needs of Hydrological and Meteorological Services in developing countries and in LDCs, including for more resources. On behalf of all the Members of North America, Central America and the Caribbean, the delegate of Belize congratulated the President and the Secretary-General and praised the recently launched IPCC reports and the establishment of the GEO Secretariat.

The delegate of Senegal agreed that WMO should look to the future while strengthening financial governance. He said countries in Africa needed better structures for socio-economic development in terms of meteorology and the WMO Secretariat should explore available tools.

The delegate of Mauritius cautioned against installing anti-fraud measures that might be too costly and bureaucratic for the Organization.

The delegate of Ecuador emphasized the importance of situating the WMO in terms of global challenges, including issues of interest to developing countries such as climate change, water resources and monitoring El Niño and early warning prevention against natural disasters.

Actions taken so far

An Action Plan was launched in early January 2004 with three phases: integrity, transparency and efficiency. It is now an evolving framework and information is provided regularly to all Members and other concerned parties.

An Audit Committee was created in June 2004 to establish compliance with best practices and make WMO’s governance one of the best in the UN system. Internal oversight was greatly strengthened through internal audit, evaluation and investigation. A new Director was appointed in February 2006.

Specific measures

  • Fellowships: very strict procedures are in place, including much greater control and equity as well as a manual of policies and procedures.
  • Financial controls: stricter segregation of duties, including new financial rules and regulations, and consolidation of various funds.
  • Procurement: consolidation of procurement units, increased outsourcing, competitive bidding and other measures.
  • Staff issues: WMO Codes of Ethics (endorsed by the Executive Council) based on UN best practices, with additional input from Members and stricter rules; systematic training on Code of Ethics and anti-fraud training for staff and others; mandatory financial disclosure for all Directors and above and staff with activities in finance, accounting, procurement, fellowships and oversight; a Risk Management framework and lines of communication accessible from the web site and open not just to staff.
  • Other measures: improved delegation of authority; annual auditing of accounts; improved competitive recruitment process; new guidelines on refunding of travel expenses, staff obligations regarding the host country; new rules for short-term staff and other measures
  • Communications: regular flow of information to all concerned, including twice yearly presentations to Members’ Permanent Missions in Geneva and to other groups; regular reporting to the Executive Council, Audit Committee, Bureau and regular communication with staff.

Congress stressed that it was important that its deliberations should concentrate on major scientific and technical issues facing the Organization.

WMO is the United Nations’ authoritative voice on weather, climate and water
For more information please contact:
Ms Carine Richard-Van Maele, Chief, Communications and Public Affairs, WMO.
Tel: +41 (0)22 730 83 15.
Mr Mark Oliver, Press Officer, Communications and Public Affairs Office, World Meteorological Organization. Tel: +41 (0)22 730 84 17.

 

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