Frequently Asked Questions
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 something like a world police?
No, the OIOS Investigations Division is not a world police and it 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. Pursuant to United Nations Staff Rule 1.2(b) staff members must comply with local laws and honour their private legal obligations, including, but not limited to, the obligation to honour orders of competent courts. Violation of local laws may therefore result in the imposition of a disciplinary sanction.
3. Where does OIOS conduct investigations?
The OIOS Investigations Division has a worldwide 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, prohibited conduct by staff (ST/SGB/2008/5 matters) and basic mismanagement issues. These matters are usually dealt with by management.
5. I’ve read about the type of investigations OIOS conducts, but I am just not sure where the information I have fits in – who can I ask for advice?
Please feel free to submit your report to OIOS, we will duly consider it and refer the matter to the competent entity where necessary. If you would like to ask for advice in person, contact any OIOS regional or field office.
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 sanctioned and/or other measures must be taken to ensure a better functioning of the Organization. Disciplinary sanctions or a referral to national criminal jurisdictions are only envisaged after a thorough internal investigation. The OIOS Investigations Division, a body of highly specialized professional investigators, has the capacity to investigate even the most serious and complex cases.
United Nations personnel have a duty to report misconduct as per Staff Rule 1.2 (b).
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 the conduct of proceedings, whether administrative, disciplinary or judicial, 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 to the subject in that capacity. This ensures fairness towards the subject (the person whose implication in the wrongdoing is suggested), and gives him or her a meaningful opportunity to comment on the facts gathered by OIOS. If the Office of Human Resources Management decides to launch a disciplinary procedure, the subject has the right to full disclosure of the evidence, which also includes witness testimony. In the case of an appeal to the United Nations Dispute Tribunal, it is within the discretion of the judge to request any information about the case as evidence during judicial proceedings.
9. Does OIOS accept anonymous reports of wrongdoing?
Yes; however, these must be sufficiently detailed with independently verifiable information in order to allow OIOS to initiate an investigation.
10. What should I report to OIOS?
Please report any cases of possible wrongdoing that implicate the (civilian and uniformed) personnel, funds and activities of the Organization, more specifically of the United Nations Secretariat, its Offices and Departments, including peacekeeping operations and special political missions. OIOS focusses 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 resources.
11. I have information about possible wrongdoing by a staff member of a specialised funds/agency (e.g. a UNDP staff member). Should I report it to OIOS?
No, please report this to the UNDP investigations hotline. OIOS deals primarily with possible misconduct of (civilian and uniformed) personnel of the United Nations Secretariat, including its Departments and offices, peacekeeping operations and special political missions. Information about possible misconduct of personnel of specialised funds and agencies of the wider United Nations family of Organizations should be brought to the attention of the respective Organization. Such Organizations include, for example, UNDP, UNICEF, FAO, WHO and IAEA. Please see our Useful Links page for the contact details of the investigative offices of the specialised funds and agencies of the wider United Nations family of Organizations.
12. 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 for a possible investigation
13. 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. If the victim is in need of assistance, please contact the United Nations Conduct and Discipline Unit. For more information go to https://cdu.unlb.org/UNStrategy/RemedialAction.aspx
14. I received an unsolicited e-mail informing me about a job 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.
15. My United Nations supervisor has given me a bad performance evaluation and/or is harassing me, should I report this to OIOS?
Please read the Secretary-General’s Bulletin on Prohibition of Discrimination Harassment, including Sexual Harassment, and Abuse of Authority (ST/SGB/2008/5), which outlines several ways, both formal and informal, to deal with this situation. Please also 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.
If you would like to formally report harassment, you should submit your complaint to the Head of the Office, Mission or Department concerned (the responsible official). If the responsible official is the person you would like to complain about, please submit your report to the Assistant Secretary General of the Office of Human Resources or, for field personnel, to the Under-Secretary-General of the Department of Field Support. Alternatively, you can report directly to OIOS.
16. I am a victim of retaliation, should I report the responsible persons to OIOS?
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), which outlines the applicable procedure and establishes that the Ethics Office is competent to deal with such matters. Therefore, kindly report the situation to the Ethics Office. If the Ethics Office finds a prima facie case of retaliation, it will submit the case to OIOS for investigation.
17. I am not a direct witness of the wrongdoing and I have no clear proof, should I still report to OIOS?
Yes, please report to OIOS. There is no need to be a direct witness or to have clear proof of wrongdoing. You should report all concerns and suspicions regarding misconduct in good faith to OIOS.
18. What is a mala fide complaint as compared to a good faith complaint? I am hesitant to report to OIOS because I am afraid that I might be facing 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 wilful disregard of their truth or falsity. Only such 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. It is extremely important that you report all concerns and suspicions concerning possible misconduct to OIOS, do not hesitate.
19. What can I expect when I submit a report of wrongdoing to OIOS?
OIOS will treat your report with due diligence and professionalism. OIOS investigations are confidential, and your identity as the initial source of information will be appropriately protected (see FAQ 8). You may also seek protection against retaliation for reporting misconduct and for cooperating with duly authorized audits or investigations as per ST/SGB/2005/21. In the case of an investigation, you will probably be interviewed by OIOS as a witness. Besides an acknowledgement of receipt for your report, OIOS will not generally provide updates on the status of your report.
20. What happens after I report wrongdoing to OIOS?
OIOS will treat your report with due diligence and professionalism, and the Director of the Investigations Division will decide whether to investigate, refer, or file your report for information, or whether to first suspend it for preliminary inquiries. In the event of an investigation, OIOS Investigations Division staff will carry out an administrative fact-finding process involving, for example, interviews with witnesses, documentary analysis and forensics. The results of an OIOS investigation may be either a closure report or an investigation report on the facts established. It is the responsibility of OIOS to submit an investigation report with appropriate recommendations to the relevant Programme Manager who may take further action. Based on the OIOS recommendations, the Programme Manager may decide to submit the case to the Office of Human Resources Management for possible disciplinary action. If there is no or insufficient evidence, OIOS will prepare a Closure report and inform the Programme Manager and the subject accordingly if the latter has been interviewed by OIOS. 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.
21. I am afraid of retaliation, should I still report to OIOS? What does OIOS do to protect whistleblowers?
Yes. OIOS investigations are confidential, and your identity as the initial source of information will be specifically protected (see FAQ 8). You may also seek protection against retaliation for reporting misconduct and for cooperating with duly authorized audits or investigations as per ST/SGB/2017/2.
22. Is an OIOS investigation confidential?
Yes, OIOS investigations are confidential, and your identity as the initial source of information will be specifically protected (see FAQs 8 and 19). OIOS will share information about the investigation strictly on a need to know basis. For reasons of fairness towards the subject (the person whose implication in the wrongdoing is suggested), OIOS must also ensure that he or she has a meaningful opportunity to provide his or her view on the report made against him/her and to comment on the relevant facts subsequently gathered by OIOS. If the Office of Human Resources Management decides to launch a disciplinary procedure, the subject has the right to full disclosure of the evidence, which also includes all witness testimony provided as part of the investigation. In the case of an appeal to the United Nations Dispute Tribunal, it is within the discretion of the judge to request any information about the case as evidence during judicial proceedings.
23. Will you inform the person who reported wrongdoing about the progress and outcome of the investigation?
No, there will generally be no updates for the person who reported the wrongdoing. However, in cases of retaliation and prohibited conduct, specific provisions apply as per ST/SGB/2008/5, para. 5.18 and ST/SGB/2017/2.
24. Will OIOS help to mediate a situation?
No, it is not within the mandate of OIOS to engage in mediation.
25. Can OIOS assist victims and provide remedies for them?
OIOS cannot provide assistance to victims other than offering them a reliable mechanism to bring forward their complaints and carrying out professional, thorough and objective investigations that will allow decision-makers to respond properly to their situations. Victims of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) should turn to United Nations Conduct and Discipline Unit for possible assistance.
26. 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 Programme Managers and the Secretary-General in deciding about possible imposition of disciplinary sanctions against staff members or other measures by the administration.
27. 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.
28. What is the meaning of the “duty to cooperate”?
The duty to cooperate is a common obligation found in labour law and/or private law, and it forms part of the essential basis of trust that characterizes the relationship between an employer and its employees necessary to optimally fulfil the objectives of the employer. Following this principle, the United Nations, as the employer, expects cooperation from its personnel. The duty to cooperate applies to all United Nations staff personnel. As per the general conditions of contract, it is further applicable to vendors as well as their employees. In administrative investigations, the duty to cooperate means, for example, that a person must accept to be interviewed by OIOS investigators and must answer questions completely and truthfully. The duty to cooperate 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 should volunteer any possibly relevant evidence or information to the investigators, and should also take the initiative to offer unsolicited information to them.
29. 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.
30. 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 Programme Manager, who may take further action. If OIOS finds that the evidence is insufficient, the case will be closed and the subject receives a formal Closure letter if he/she has been interviewed in the course of the investigation. The Programme Manager will receive a formal Closure Notice about the case.
31. How does OIOS protect the rights of a person who is reported for wrongdoing?
As per its mandate, OIOS is obliged to respect the individual rights of staff members and investigations must be conducted with strict observation of fairness and due process for all concerned. Fairness in investigations includes, for example, that OIOS investigators follow established procedures and remain objective and impartial. OIOS investigations must be thorough and must follow all reasonable lines of inquiry, whether inculpatory or exculpatory. Subjects enjoy specific information, disclosure and notification rights (see FAQ 30) and they have the right to be heard. OIOS investigations are professional, non-coercive and at all times respectful of the involved individuals. Any investigative activity must be duly authorized, properly justified, and guided by the applicable law.