This week, the Financial Times reported on allegations of misuse of funds in several GEF-funded projects implemented by our partner UNDP, citing a leaked internal UNDP audit of fiduciary issues which is expected to be published soon. This is a serious matter and I would like to take this opportunity to clarify how the Global Environment Facility operates, how our oversight processes work, and how we plan to work together with UNDP as it fully investigates and addresses the findings of the final audit.
I joined the GEF as CEO and Chairperson three months ago, in September 2020, and am proud to lead this institution whose core values are transparency and integrity. We finance approximately $1 billion per year for urgently-needed projects and programs in developing countries, which would otherwise struggle to meet their international environmental obligations related to biodiversity, climate change, sustainable land use, and more. The projects and programs we fund are designed, implemented, and managed directly by 18 implementing agency partners, including UNDP, who work in partnership with recipient governments as well as civil society organizations. It is an operational model built on partnership and deep, earned trust; clear lines of responsibility and accountability; and strong policies to protect people, resources, and the environment. GEF Agencies are responsible for adhering to our Fiduciary as well as our Environmental and Social Safeguard Standards – which were strengthened over the past two years and include an obligation of full disclosure, and for establishing grievance mechanisms to investigate complaints, including allegations related to fraud and corruption.
While I cannot speak to the UNDP’s final audit report, which has not been released, I am heartened to see the transparency required by GEF standards in action. The process is working. In line with GEF requirements, UNDP has correctly prioritized an investigation of grievance cases related to its GEF-supported projects, and sought to address them systematically using appropriate mechanisms. These are the correct steps to take in order to address issues that may otherwise go unspotted and/or worsen. We look forward to working closely with UNDP as it reviews and takes action on areas where there have been weaknesses and where improvements are needed. I know the organization is undertaking this work with seriousness and I am confident that the investigations will lead to progress in how we continue to support developing countries’ environmental priorities.
Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, GEF CEO and Chairperson