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60 percent of UN funds to Burma not monitored

Oct 9, 2009 (DVB), More than half of funds allocated to Burma in 2007 by a United Nations body went unmonitored, according to an internal audit report now being presented to a UN budgetary panel.

The amount of unmonitored funding stands at $US1 million, which was allocated by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to non-governmental organizations in Burma, according to the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS).

The figure is equivalent to 59 percent of the total funds allotted to the Burma country office, the report said.

It went on to say that staff believed they were only responsible for technical aspects of their work, "although their terms of references clearly indicated that they were responsible for both technical and financial monitoring".

"In addition, the contracts with non-governmental organizations did not give the country office access to their financial records, risking misuse of the funds," it said.

The spokesperson for the UN secretary general, Michele Montas, said on Wednesday that the report was now being presented to the UN Fifth Committee, which deals with administrative and budgetary issues.

Concerns over mismanagement of overseas aid going into Burma are compounded by a deep-rooted skepticism on behalf the Burmese government of any foreign involvement in the country, as well as widespread corruption.

In the wake of cyclone Nargis in May last year, the ruling junta initially blocked flows of aid into the country. One shipment of UN food that did make it in was seized by government officials.

The following month, a UN humanitarian coordinator, John Holmes, reported that the UN had lost at least $US10 million in aid channeled to Burma due to the government's distorted exchange rate.

The OIOS said that recommendations to the UNODC "to report periodically on the use of funds by non-governmental organization" have been agreed and implemented.

Reporting by Francis Wade


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