After an investigation into a financial scandal that resulted in an overhaul of the United Nations Office for Project Services’ (UNOPS) official Grete Faremo, the UN fired a senior official. On Thursday, Vitaly Vanshelboim, a Ukrainian who served as Assistant Secretary-General and Chief Executive of UNOPS Sustainable Infrastructure Impact Investments, became the second U.N. official to be fired as a result of the controversy.
Vanshelboim is accused of giving businessman David Kendrick and his daughter Daisy, $58 million from the agency. Kendrick, the company’s founder, intended to use it for initiatives like the construction of homes in underdeveloped nations.
The pop song “Oceans,” performed by singer Joss Stone, was allegedly produced with the aid of $3 million donated by Daisy Kendrick and her organization We Are The Oceans (WATO). Stone was not compensated and claims she performed the song for free because she believed it was a fundraising initiative.
The UN agency also gave Daisy Kendrick, who worked as an intern at the UN after graduating from Boston’s Northeastern University, $3 million to develop an Angry Birds-inspired video game with an ocean theme and a website that raises awareness of environmental threats to oceans, according to the New York Times.
The UNOPS’s head Faremo resigned in May, a day after The New York Times published an article detailing how the little-known organization had given a single British family $61 million in loans and grants. Uncertainty surrounds the amount of funding that actually went to those initiatives, and the UN asserts that $22 million of it is still missing.
According to The New York Times, Kendrick’s businesses have failed to repay the organization more than $22 million in funds intended for aid. Three of the businesses received loans but have been referred to by Kendrick’s lawyers as a single entity.
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Following a party hosted by UNOPS chief Grete Faremo, the organization loaned three companies ostensibly associated with Kendrick between 2018 and 2020 $58.8 million from its entire investment portfolio through a UN programme known as S31.
Auditors found that Kendrick’s companies admitted to using UN loans to settle other debts. After the financial catastrophe and one month after Faremo resigned, the board of directors-imposed reforms, including stringent restrictions on UNOPS’s financial reserves. Vanshelboim was placed on administrative leave.
The Kendricks’ legal team claimed last year that they had done nothing wrong and that Kendrick still anticipated the completion of their projects. Vanshelboim was fired at a time when the UN is requesting significant funding to address a number of rising global issues, such as the war in Ukraine and the hunger crisis in Africa.
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