UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The chief procurement officer in the U.N. peace-building mission in Sierra Leone signed three contracts worth more than $2.7 million in total, way in excess of his $50,000 per contract limit. A staff member in the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo used a U.N. vehicle without authorization to transport sacks of a precious mineral into a neighboring country. The U.N. mission in Liberia was unable to account for 70 vehicles.
Those were just three of the examples fraud, bribery, financial and procurement misconduct and incompetence cited in the annual report of the U.N.'s internal watchdog, which circulated Thursday.
Since the oil-for-food scandal in Iraq that blew up after the U.S.-led invasion, the U.N. has sought to strengthen oversight of its peacekeeping, which is its largest operation, both in personnel and cost. The U.N. has more than 100,000 peacekeepers.
The Office of Internal Oversight Services completed 42 investigations of sexual exploitation, abuse involving minors or rape.
In the peacekeeping mission in Haiti, for example, OIOS said it received a report that one or more police officers had sexually exploited a 14-year-old boy. An investigation produced clear evidence, including a handwritten admission by the officer, who was dismissed and sentenced to one year of "rigorous imprisonment," the report said.
While the officer was punished, OIOS expressed regret "that the sexual exploitation and abuse of the boy had likely occurred over a three-year period but had remained undetected until 2012."
The report did not specify the outcome of all of the 42 sexual abuse cases.
"Sexual exploitation and abuse remains a significant area of concern, with the greatest number of such offenses being committed by uniformed personnel," there report said.
The office urged stepped up efforts to prevent sexual abuse, saying the continuing allegations "reflect a failure to create and sustain an environment that deters such behavior."
Several cases of sexual abuse were also reported in Congo.
Also in that African country, the OIOS said local authorities arrested a staff member transporting sacks of precious minerals on suspicion of mineral trafficking. He was convicted of rebellion, attempted fraud, illegal ownership and transport of minerals, and is currently in prison.
Elsewhere, OIOS said the U.N. mission in Afghanistan spent about $42,000 to airlift obsolete and damaged equipment from the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif to the capital Kabul from January 2010 to December 2011 when it could have been transported by road for about $1,400.
The U.N. mission in Iraq overpaid two contractors a total of $632,992, it said, and at the joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur, a staff member with expired procurement authority approved 87 purchase orders valued at $29.13 million.
In impoverished Liberia, which is emerging from a long civil war, OIOS said the U.N. peacekeeping mission was unable to account for 70 vehicles "owing to the lack of adequate and effective procedures to safeguard assets." It said 20 of 64 closed circuit televisions installed after the theft of four vehicles weren't operational and data was only stored for a week. It said 12 of 21 heavy vehicles had been in the workshop for over a year, and two others for over three years, because of the lack of spare parts.
OIOS said only two of 25 "quick impact" projects supported by the Liberian mission and designed to provide jobs and spur the economy were completed in the three-month time frame. Thirteen took up to three years to finish, OIOS said.
The OIOS also criticized the U.N. peacebuilding mission's management in Sierra Leone, which is trying to rebuild after the end of a civil war in 2002.
The report said the chief procurement officer in Sierra Leone signed off on contracts of $814,834, $1,815,652 and $105,000, even though he only had authority to sign for $50,000. The report did not say what happened to the officer.
The OIOS also said the Sierra Leone mission awarded six contracts without competition to vendors that didn't meet U.N. requirements.
When the U.N. wrapped up its mission in the Central African Republic and Chad, OIOS said $1.1 million worth of equipment and material that was supposed to be shipped to other missions was kept in the port at Douala, Cameroon from July 2011 until July 2012 by the freight contractor.
"As a result, assets depreciated and may have deteriorated in storage if conditions were not optimal," it said.