In response to an article which appeared in the 15 November 2021 edition of the Samoa Observer, UNDP would like to state the following:
The article includes multiple inaccuracies and misrepresentations.
First, the article omits the fact that the temporary shift of delegated authority from the UNDP Samoa office to the UNDP regional hub, in order to effect enhanced oversight for a period of time, is limited to the Vertical Funds (Global Environment Facility (GEF)/Green Climate Fund (GCF)) portfolio and does not apply to projects funded by other donors.
The article further alleges that this temporary transfer would have negatively affected the implementation of UNDP projects. This is incorrect. UNDP’s day-to-day programme operations have continued normally and were not slowed down, beyond expected COVID-related challenges, as a consequence of the temporary transfer and enhanced oversight. The UNDP Samoa office works closely with the regional hub and decisions on the Vertical Funds projects are made consultatively.
Related to this, the article misrepresents the subject of a letter sent to UNDP by the then-CEO of the Ministry of Finance. In this letter of 23 December 2020, the CEO does not raise concerns about the suspension of delegated authorities slowing progress on flood mitigation efforts, but about the impact that the completion of safeguards assessments relating to potential displacement and resettlement that UNDP and the GCF require may have on the speed of implementation of the infrastructure activities under the project. Safeguards assessments, a critical part of due diligence, do take time to complete in line with the requisite standards expected of important and critical inputs to the design and implementation of infrastructure activities.
Second, the article repeats the previous allegation made by the Samoa Observer, which UNDP has corrected in the past, that the flood protection wall in Segment 1 of the Vaisigano River had collapsed during flooding in December 2020. This is incorrect. The flood protection wall, financed with resources managed and overseen by UNDP, did not collapse and is still standing intact as of today.
Finally, the article notes that three projects in the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau are among the “dozen projects ordered to be suspended”. This is misleading. No UNDP-supported project has been suspended. Implementation of all projects has continued as per the approved project workplans. There are no Vertical Funds projects in Tokelau.
Formal investigations were launched by UNDP’s Office of Audit and Investigation (OAI) in relation to irregularities that had been detected by UNDP through its internal oversight systems. Appropriate follow-up actions have been initiated by OAI in line with the UNDP Legal Framework and OAI Investigation Guidelines. The case has also been referred to national authorities. Since the start of the OAI investigations, UNDP has placed the Vertical Funds project portfolio under enhanced oversight by the Regional Bureau for the Asia-Pacific Region, which has actively led its implementation and financial management. This is an important step taken out of an abundance of caution to ensure that resources are overseen with the highest standards and that project activities are not adversely affected.
The GCF is an important partner to countries that UNDP serves and has strong support from UN Member States. We look forward to continue to work closely with GCF and supporting countries, including Samoa, that seek UNDP’s assistance.