Audit – UNHCR respons with early summary

Allegations of financial mismanagement have forced the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to take the unusual step of issuing a summary of its most recent audit report before it is seen by the United Nations general assembly.

The audit report on the UNHCR’s 1997 accounts is still being finalised in New York. Prepared by National Audit Office head Sir John Bourn and the auditor-generals of Ghana and India, it will be put to the general assembly in October.

But a series of reports claiming that management and financial abuses are rife (6 August, page 3) forced the Geneva-based body, which uses its $1bn to help around 22 million displaced people worldwide, to send the auditors’ conclusions to donor countries.

The auditors said the accounts ‘present fairly, in all respects’, the UNHCR’s financial position’. And, in an additional response, the UNHCR pointed to regular audits by external and internal UN auditors – as well as by UN committees and its own oversight committee – as proof of its transparency.

‘There is nothing “dubious” about UNHCR’s accounting practices,’ the commission said. ‘UNHCR’s basic accounting and reporting are sound.’

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