FAQs

Commonly-asked questions on investigations

 

1. What is the role of the OIOS Investigations Division?

2. Is the OIOS Investigations Division a law enforcement service?

3. Where does OIOS conduct investigations?

4. What does OIOS investigate and what does it not investigate?

5. I have read about the type of investigations OIOS conducts, but I am just not sure where the information I have fits in.

6. Why should I report wrongdoing to OIOS?

7. I am not United Nations personnel; can I still report wrongdoing to OIOS?

8. Will the person I reported to OIOS for wrongdoing find out about me bringing the case to OIOS?

9. Does OIOS accept anonymous reports of wrongdoing?

10. I have information about a private company (or some of its employees) involved in corrupt and/or fraudulent practices when making business with the United Nations, should I report this to OIOS?

11. I am the victim of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) by United Nations (civilian or uniformed) personnel, can OIOS help me? Alternatively, I know a victim of sexual exploitation and abuse by United Nations (civilian or uniformed) personnel, can OIOS help him/her?

12. I received an unsolicited e-mail informing me about a job or procurement opportunity with the United Nations and I am concerned that it might be a scam. Should I report this to OIOS?

13. My United Nations supervisor has given me a bad performance evaluation should I report this to OIOS?

14. I am a victim of retaliation for having reported misconduct and co-operated with an investigation, should I report the responsible person to OIOS?

15. I am being retaliated against but not because I have reported misconduct or co-operated with an investigation or audit. Does ST/SGB/2017/2/Rev.1 apply to me?

16. What is a mala fide or bad faith complaint as compared to a good faith complaint? I am hesitant to report to OIOS because I am afraid that I might face sanctions if the content of my complaint turns out to be wrong/ unsupported by evidence?

17. What happens after I report wrongdoing to OIOS?

18. Will OIOS help to mediate a situation?

19. Can OIOS recommend or take disciplinary action against United Nations personnel?

20. Can OIOS investigators access the UN computers and other official UN communication devices, even without notifying me?

21. What is the meaning of the “duty to cooperate”?

22. Can OIOS interview persons who are not United Nations personnel?

23. What happens to a person who is investigated by OIOS for possible wrongdoing?

24. I would like to make a complaint of sexual harassment. Should I send the complaint to OIOS?

 

 

1. What is the role of the OIOS Investigations Division?

The OIOS Investigations Division investigates reports of violations of United Nations regulations, rules and administrative issuances. It is also empowered to initiate proactive investigations to assess the risk of potential fraud in high-risk areas. An OIOS investigation is an administrative fact-finding activity, which means collecting evidence to either support or refute the reported violations.  The focus is on possible misconduct by individuals and prohibited practices by vendors/third parties, however, some systemic issues might also be analysed at the same time.

 

2. Is the OIOS Investigations Division a law enforcement service?

No, the OIOS Investigations Division is not a law enforcement service. OIOS investigations are not criminal investigations. Instead, OIOS investigators carry out administrative fact-finding inquiries related to the personnel, funds and activities of the Organization.  OIOS has no subpoena or police powers and cannot arrest or detain anyone.  The aim of an administrative investigation is to establish the facts and to allow for a conclusion as to whether internal administrative law and procedures of the Organization have been violated. The United Nations has no criminal jurisdiction over its personnel, but as an employer, it can impose disciplinary sanctions in response to wrongdoing or take other administrative measures to ensure a smooth functioning of the Organization.

 

3. Where does OIOS conduct investigations?

The OIOS Investigations Division has a broad mandate. This includes resources, activities and personnel of the United Nations Secretariat and its Offices and Departments, at all duty stations and locations, including peacekeeping operations and special political missions.

 

4. What does OIOS investigate and what does it not investigate?

OIOS investigations are limited to the specific mandate and jurisdiction as provided by the Member States of the United Nations. OIOS does not investigate cases that do not implicate the (civilian and uniformed) personnel, funds and activities of the Organization. Within this scope, OIOS investigations focus on the most serious violations, such as fraud, corruption, criminal activities, sexual exploitation and abuse, outside activities, serious theft, procurement irregularities, conflicts of interest, embezzlement, gross mismanagement and waste of United Nations resources.

OIOS will not normally investigate personnel matters, traffic incidents, simple thefts, contract disputes, office management disputes, basic misuse of equipment or staff, and basic mismanagement issues. These matters are usually dealt with by management.

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5. I have read about the type of investigations OIOS conducts, but I am just not sure where the information I have fits in.

Please feel free to submit your report to OIOS; we will duly consider it and refer the matter to the competent entity where necessary.

 

6. Why should I report wrongdoing to OIOS?

Misconduct undermines the effectiveness, credibility and integrity of the work of the United Nations. The United Nations places an emphasis on accountability and aims to make sure that its activities are carried out properly, with only the optimal fulfilment of the Organization’s mandates and legitimate interests of its beneficiaries in mind. Individuals and entities who are responsible for violations and/or misuse the Organization to benefit their own (improper) interests need to be held accountable to ensure a better functioning of the Organization.  United Nations personnel have a duty to report misconduct.

 

7. I am not United Nations personnel; can I still report wrongdoing to OIOS?

Yes, you can still report wrongdoing to OIOS. Everyone can report wrongdoing to OIOS.

 

8. Will the person I reported to OIOS for wrongdoing find out about me bringing the case to OIOS?

As per its mandate, the OIOS Investigations Division shall ensure that the identity of the staff members and others who have submitted reports of possible wrongdoing to the Office are not disclosed, except where such disclosure is necessary for accountability proceedings, and only with their consent. OIOS will, therefore, protect the identity of the initial source of information. However, where an investigation is conducted, the source will likely be interviewed by OIOS as a witness, and your identity as a witness may be disclosed in that capacity.

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9. Does OIOS accept anonymous reports of wrongdoing?

Yes, OIOS accepts anonymous reports but to be considered for investigation these must be sufficiently detailed with independently verifiable information. If you choose to remain anonymous, consider providing OIOS with a means to contact you if further information, documentation or clarification is needed - for example, consider providing us with a free web-based e-mail address (e.g. hotmail, yahoo or gmail) with an assumed name or alias that will allow you to retain your anonymity.

 

10. I have information about a private company (or some of its employees) involved in corrupt and/or fraudulent practices when making business with the United Nations, should I report this to OIOS?

Yes, please report this information to OIOS, with as much detail as possible. OIOS will duly consider your report and decide how best to address it.

 

11. I am the victim of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) by United Nations (civilian or uniformed) personnel, can OIOS help me? Alternatively, I know a victim of sexual exploitation and abuse by United Nations (civilian or uniformed) personnel, can OIOS help him/her?

It is very important that you report SEA because the Organization treats such behaviour by United Nations personnel as serious misconduct as per ST/SGB/2003/13 on Special Measures for Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse.  Please provide OIOS with a detailed report about the sexual exploitation and abuse.  OIOS will duly consider your report for a possible investigation.  Please note that OIOS does not provide victim assistance but will facilitate a referral to the appropriate entity. For more information, read more on conduct in UN field missions.

 

12. I received an unsolicited e-mail informing me about a job or procurement opportunity with the United Nations and I am concerned that it might be a scam.  Should I report this to OIOS?

No, please report this situation to your local law enforcement service. Beware of scams implying association with the United Nations. The United Nations does not charge a fee at any stage of its recruitment or procurement process. For more information, please visit the UN’s Fraud Alert.

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13. My United Nations supervisor has given me a bad performance evaluation. Should I report this to OIOS?

No. Please read the Secretary-General’s Administrative Issuance on Performance Management and Development System (ST/AI/2010/5) which outlines the Organization’s e-PAS rebuttal process.

 

14. I am a victim of retaliation for having reported misconduct and co-operated with an investigation, should I report the responsible person to OIOS?

No, the report should be made to the Ethics Office. Please read the Secretary-General’s Bulletin on Protection Against Retaliation for Reporting Misconduct and for Cooperating with Duly Authorized Audits or Investigations (ST/SGB/2017/2/Rev.1), which outlines the applicable procedure. If the Ethics Office finds a prima facie case of retaliation, it will submit the case to OIOS for investigation.

Please also note that ST/SGB/2017/2/Rev.1 is designed to address the Administration’s responsibility to provide protection against retaliation. Retaliation under this bulletin may also be misconduct if the burden of proof contained in ST/AI/2017/1 is met.

 

15. I am being retaliated against but not because I have reported misconduct or co-operated with an investigation or audit. Does ST/SGB/2017/2/Rev.1 apply to me?

No, but the conduct may still violate the standards of conduct expected of an international civil servant contained in United Nations Staff Rules, Regulations or administrative issuances. For example, you had a disagreement with a supervisor and you have since been marginalized from meetings. This may be an abuse of authority, within the meaning of ST/SGB/2008/5, as this bulletin prohibits abusive behavior including acts with a retaliatory motive.  Refer to the report wrongdoing page for guidance on how to report prohibited conduct.

 

16. What is a mala fide or bad faith complaint as compared to a good faith complaint? I am hesitant to report to OIOS because I am afraid that I might face sanctions if the content of my complaint turns out to be wrong/ unsupported by evidence?

A mala fide complaint is the transmission of suggestions or reports to OIOS with knowledge of their falsity or with willful disregard of their truth or falsity.  Only mala fide complaints constitute possible misconduct, for which disciplinary measures may be imposed. There are no disciplinary consequences for reporting in good faith a matter that later turns out to be unsupported by evidence.  

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17. What happens after I report wrongdoing to OIOS?

OIOS will treat your report with due diligence and professionalism, and will decide whether to investigate, refer, or file your report for information. In the event of an investigation, OIOS will carry out an administrative fact-finding process involving, for example, interviews with witnesses, documentary analysis and forensics.  OIOS handles reports of unsatisfactory conduct implicating staff members in accordance with ST/AI/2017/1.If OIOS identified systemic problems in the course of its investigations, OIOS issues additional Advisory reports to Programme Managers in order to highlight risks and procedural shortcomings.

 

18. Will OIOS help to mediate a situation?

No, it is not within the mandate of OIOS to engage in mediation. For mediation services, please refer to the Ethics Office’s Roadmap – a staff member’s guide to finding the right place.

 

19. Can OIOS recommend or take disciplinary action against United Nations personnel?

No, OIOS does not recommend or take disciplinary action.  It carries out administrative investigations to establish facts which assist the Organization in deciding about the imposition of disciplinary sanctions against staff members or other administrative action.

 

20. Can OIOS investigators access the UN computers and other official UN communication devices, even without notifying me?

Yes, as per its mandate, OIOS has the right of access to all records, documents or other materials, assets and premises of the Organization and to obtain such information and explanations as they consider necessary to fulfil their responsibilities. Section 9 of ST/SGB/2004/15 (Use of information and communication technology and data) allows OIOS to access all ICT resources and ICT data remotely, without prior notification of the concerned staff member, and without any hindrance or need for prior clearance by any officer of the Organization. OIOS does not need to notify staff or seek their consent.

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21. What is the meaning of the “duty to cooperate”?

Pursuant to staff regulation 1.2 (r) and staff rule 1.2 (c), staff members are required to fully cooperate with all duly authorized investigations and to provide any records, documents, information and communications technology equipment or other information under the control of the Organization or under the staff member’s control, as requested. Failure to cooperate may be considered unsatisfactory conduct that may amount to misconduct.

The duty to cooperate means, for example, that a person must agree to be interviewed by OIOS investigators and must answer questions completely and truthfully. It can also mean that United Nations personnel should not hinder OIOS investigators from accessing United Nations computers, phones, offices, records or documents. More broadly, United Nations personnel shall volunteer any possibly relevant evidence or information to the investigators and shall provide all documents and information requested. 

 

22. Can OIOS interview persons who are not United Nations personnel?

Yes, OIOS can interview persons who are not United Nations personnel and ask for their voluntary cooperation with the investigation. Vendors (private companies seeking or making business with the United Nations) and their personnel have a duty to cooperate with OIOS investigations.  

 

23. What happens to a person who is investigated by OIOS for possible wrongdoing?

Where OIOS decides to carry out an investigation, the implicated person (the subject) will be informed about his/her status as a subject at the latest during the formal interview.  The subject will also be informed about the scope of the investigation, the OIOS procedure and the possible outcomes of the investigation.  During the investigation, and most importantly during the interview, OIOS will provide the subject with an opportunity to present his/her view on the suggested wrongdoing and to comment on the relevant facts established by the investigation. For the subject, this is an important opportunity to submit any exculpatory evidence. Where there is sufficient evidence of misconduct, OIOS will submit the Investigation report to the Office of Human Resources and Management, who may take further action.  If OIOS finds that the evidence is insufficient, the case will be closed and the subject will receive a formal Closure letter if they have been interviewed in the course of the investigation. The Responsible Official will receive a formal Closure Notice about the case. For further information, please refer to ST/AI/2017/1.

 

24. I would like to make a complaint of sexual harassment. Should I send the complaint to OIOS?

The Secretary-General has made the United Nation’s zero tolerance policy on sexual harassment one of his priorities. In line with this priority, the Investigations Division has agreed to take a key role in implementing this policy. To improve and centralize the Organization’s response capacity, the Investigations Division is responsible for receiving all complaints of sexual harassment, and has implemented a streamlined, fast-tracked procedure to receive, process and address complaints. OIOS has a specialized team focusing on the investigation of sexual harassment.

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UN Photo by Evan Schneider, UN flagUN Photo/Evan Schneider