Members of the United Nations recoiled in horror last year when President Trump slashed the US's UN budget by nearly $300 million after the international agency rebuked the US over its decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem. Looks like the jokes on them.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has accepted the resignation of UN Environmental Chief Erik Solheim, a veteran Norwegian diplomat, after an internal audit by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services criticized the environment agency for "a culture of scant regard for internal controls and existing rules" on the use of public funds. This "misuse" included Solheim racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars on personal flights to Paris (sound familiar?), according to the New York Times. Unfortunately for Solheim, those flights had nothing to do with the agency's work on the Paris Accords.
What's even more embarrassing for the agency, the alleged overspending happened at a time when resources for combating climate change were shrinking. Some of the agency's biggest donors even decided to withhold funds pending the final results of the audit.
Aside from the profligate spending, the report also found Solheim was routinely absent from the office without accounting for where he was or why.
The report found "uneconomical routing of flight itineraries, opting for more expensive airlines, implementation of teleworking arrangements that were outside the existing policy on flexible working arrangements."
In fact, Solheim spent as much as 80% of his time away from the agency's office in Nairobi, and frequently took flights to Paris and Oslo for what appeared to be personal reasons. Right after accepting the position in July 2016, Solheim flew to Paris for a "one-day meeting." He ended up staying for a month. Many of the "official" trips were also taken during public holidays when he apparently had no official business there.
At issue in particular were his frequent trips to Paris and Oslo. The audit found that Mr. Solheim, referred to in the audit as “a senior manager,” had spent 79 percent of his time away from the agency’s headquarters in Nairobi and incurred $488,519 in travel expenses over a 22-month period.
According to the audit, he selected flight itineraries that passed unnecessarily through Oslo and Paris and failed to account for what he did in those cities for a total of 72 days. The audit found that the travel arrangements were “uneconomical” and contravened United Nations travel rules.
“Most of the rerouted trips to the two cities were made prior to or during weekends or public holidays,” the audit found. Immediately after taking office, in July 2016, the audit found, Mr. Solheim flew to Paris for a one-day meeting but stayed for a month, accounting for nine days as his annual leave. Then, he went on a six-city tour of North and South America. His travel costs for the whole trip exceeded $14,000.
Sometimes, Solheim took flights on circuitous routes, or flew back to Europe between back-to-back meetings in the US - without any apparent reason.
Separately, he flew through Oslo on his way to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which is only a two-hour flight from Nairobi. On another occasion, he flew to Paris between meetings in Washington and New York. He refunded the world body $7,022 in travel expenses after an internal investigation of that trip.
But tell us again how President Trump is dismantling crucial international institutions for wanting to cut costs, abuse and waste?