School project: Embezzlement results in freezing of UNICEF funding

Millions been misappropriated via over-invoicing for substandard repairs; losses estimated at US$4 million


Our Correspondent April 14, 2012

ISLAMABAD:


Unicef immediately froze funding for a school rehabilitation project in war affected Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Fata after finding millions of dollars had been misappropriated via over-invoicing for substandard repairs, The Express Tribune has learnt. The losses are estimated at US$4 million (Rs363 million).


A UN official speaking on condition of anonymity said that Unicef has zero tolerance for fraud.

There are about 10 donors involved in the project and a number of implementing partners.

The names of these organisations were not identified by the agency or the official.

Unicef Communication and Advocacy Chief Kristen Elsby said that the project had been ongoing since 2009 and in July 2010, a series of irregularities came into the notice of the monitoring system.

“As soon as the agency had confirmed this, funds were immediately frozen,” Elsby said.

According to a statement issued in New York, the investigation did not establish that Unicef staff knowingly contributed to or benefitted from the losses, only that Unicef was defrauded by others involved in overall project implementation who could not be definitively established.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 14th, 2012.

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