Executive Director Grete Faremo, who assumed her position in 2014, announced her resignation to U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres on Friday.
UNOPS has made this disclosure after an independent inquiry into dubious loans it granted was recently concluded by the U.N.’s Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS). Announcing her retirement in September due to health and family concerns, Faremo has already announced she will leave her position.
Un Agency Chief Resigns After Probe Into Its Investments
Devex broke the story last month that UNOPS was investigating how the organisation loaned money to a firm named SHS Holdings to build cheap homes in low-income nations, despite the fact that the organisation had a poor track record of actually completing such projects. UNOPS claims it is owed tens of millions of dollars, which it is working to retrieve, despite the fact that no homes have been constructed. UNOPS also provided at least $3 million to an organisation led by David Kendrick’s then-22-year-old daughter so that she could create a song and video game to raise awareness for ocean conservation.
For the sake of preserving the credibility of a United Nations investigation, I decided to do the following. The verdict is still pending. “The last few months have been a tremendous strain on everyone,” Faremo said in an email to UNOPS employees over the weekend, which was obtained by Devex. “I don’t know the details, but it occurred under my watch. I accept the weight of the situation and have made the difficult decision to resign.
As previously reported by Devex, Faremo has been requested to step down by U.N. leaders.
Sustainable Investments in Infrastructure and Innovation (S3i), an impact-investing initiative run by UNOPS, is at the heart of the probe since it spent over $63 million in the affordable housing project and two wind farms in Mexico and India. As soon as Faremo heard about the OIOS probe in December, she reportedly put Vitaly Vanshelboim, the CEO of S3i and the No. 2 officer at UNOPS, on administrative leave.
In her letter, Faremo also mentioned her collaboration with UNOPS management and United Nations officials “to frame the independent, transparent Evaluation needed to resolve any major issue detected in S3i.”
Faremo appears to place the responsibility on Vanshelboim in her email, writing, “A stunning violation of trust hurts, and it has affected the company tremendously.” Some UNOPS employees and contractors have speculated that Vanshelboim is being thrown under the bus and that Faremo actually knew what was going on, as he is a subject of the U.N. investigation while Faremo is not.