I speak on behalf of Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.
Strong oversight and internal controls are at the heart of good governance and crucial in order for WHO to be able to deliver efficiently and effectively on its mandate and improve public health outputs.
At the 22nd meeting of WHO’s Programme, Budget and Administrative Committee, Sweden – along with other member states – raised our grave concerns about the findings of the internal auditor and the Independent Expert Oversight Advisory Committee (IEOAC).
Their reports paint a gloomy picture, clearly indicating that important weaknesses in the internal control environment persist. The internal auditor continues to detect previously identified practices, connected with unacceptably high risk for financial and other misconduct - notably among country offices. We would therefore like to repeat our long-lasting request to receive more information on WHO's actions at country level.
Analyzing the IOS reports for 2013 and 2014, only 4 country offices out of 25 reviewed were deemed having satisfactory internal control routines in place. We do not believe statistics will improve if we start looking further back. This unacceptably low score indicates to us that what should have been the exception, appears to have become something of a rule.
We are deeply concerned to note that the control processes regarding direct financial cooperation are unsatisfactory in order to mitigate risk. We find it worrisome that 73% of the internal controls in last year's audits were deemed ineffective, a negative trend compared to previous two years.
In order to address the situation, we strongly believe that the “first line of defence” needs to be strengthened and preventive controls effectively designed and implemented in order to address the systematic weaknesses. Compliance with the internal control framework should be an integrated part of the performance management system, and supported by sanctions. Lessons learned from individual audits should not be handled on a case-by-case basis but rather looked upon from a strategic and organization-wide perspective.
We noted the words of Director-General Chan at PBAC that there is no tolerance for non-compliance, and welcome this strong message from the secretariat. But words need to be matched by actions. We´d be interested to hear what measures WHO plans to take in order for this situation to significantly improve. There seems to be a systematic lack of adherence to necessary practices at country level. This obviously requires a systemic response.