Investigations

An analytical process designed to determine whether a wrongful act has occurred and, if so, the persons or entities responsible. Investigations help ensure the highest ethical standards and identify ways to improve internal controls.

Preventing fraud and misconduct

Fraud, corruption and misconduct pose a grave threat to the effective implementation of the Organization’s policies and objectives.  With FAO's overriding mandate of ensuring humanity's freedom from hunger, it is imperative that all resources allocated to this end, both human and financial, are not diverted from their ultimate purpose.  As a result, the Organization has adopted a Zero Tolerance Policy  in respect to fraud in all its manifestations.

Efforts to prevent and combat fraud are given the highest priority at FAO, and this responsibility falls on all FAO personnel.  In fact, the Policy on Fraud and Improper Use of the Organization’s Resources  states that “[t]he responsibilities of [FAO personnel] in respect of fraud prevention and detection go beyond merely abstaining from committing fraud.  As part of the duty of loyalty, the Organization expects each staff member to ensure that the prescribed policies and procedures are fully adhered to and that any breakdown in the system of internal control is immediately reported. The standards of conduct applicable to staff members oblige them to report without delay any instances of fraud, waste and malfeasance to the detriment of the Organization.”

Investigations generally arise out of complaints the Unit  receives so is important for those involved in activities supported by FAO to report concerns of fraud or corruption in those operations.

The Organization’s efforts to prevent and combat fraud goes beyond FAO personnel, as the Office mandate includes investigating alleged violations by personnel and the activities by third parties, such as FAO suppliers and partners involved in FAO programmes and operations.   The Investigations Unit’s resources focus primarily on preventing and investigating potential fraud and corruption involving projects and operations. 

Submitting a complaint

The Office of the Inspector General has a secure mechanism to receive complaints related to FAO's activities, and encourages all those with information to contact the Office.

Complaints can be submitted anonymously, however, because anonymous reports are harder to investigate, those reporting allegations are encouraged to identify themselves, knowing that their names will be kept confidential, and that there are measures in place to protect them against retaliation. To ensure that FAO personnel can report suspected unsatisfactory conduct without fear of retaliation, FAO has issued The Whistleblower Protection Policy, which prohibits retaliation against a FAO personnel who reports suspected unsatisfactory conduct, or cooperates with, the Office of the Inspector General in the course of an audit or an investigation. 

FAO has implemented the following rules to safeguard the rights of staff members and others involved in the investigation process:

  • The Office of the Inspector General accepts anonymous allegations,
  • FAO policy strictly prohibits retaliation against a staff member for alleging misconduct or violations of FAO regulations,
  • The staff of the Office of the Inspector General are obligated to preserve and protect the confidentiality of the investigative process, and the parties involved.

What to report

Allegations that should be reported to the Office of Inspector General include:

  • Unlawful acts related to FAO activities (for example theft, fraud, embezzlement, solicitation/acceptance of bribes or kickbacks, extortion);
  • Misrepresentation, forgery, or false certification in connection with any official business;
  • Fraud committed to obtain undue financial benefits or entitlements (e.g. fraudulent claims for rental subsidy, education grant, travel, medical insurance);
  • Fraud, favoritism, disclosure of confidential bidding information, or misconduct related to contract bids, performance of contract obligations or evaluation;
  • Retaliation as defined under the Whistleblower Protection Policy;
  • Staff violations of the Standards of Conduct for International Civil Servants 

Offenses that should not be reported to this office include:

  • Allegations of harassment, (For information on FAO's policy on preventing harassment, see Administrative Circular No. 2007/05.E ) ;
  • Complaints arising from working conditions or from an administrative measure or decision.

How to make a confidential report

  • Call or fax the Office of the Inspector General
  • Submit the online form through a secure server
  • Write to the secure email address
  • Write to the office in Rome
  • Visit the Inspector General's office in Rome or one of the regional auditors

The investigative process

Guidelines for Internal Administrative Investigations by the Office of the Inspector General 

The investigations unit is responsible for ensuring an impartial, fair, prompt and thorough review of the facts and circumstances surrounding reports of misconduct and fraudulent activity, including a review of any exculpatory evidence. FAO rules provide that unsatisfactory conduct is punishable by disciplinary action, including such severe disciplinary measures as dismissal, or summary dismissal. The Inspector-General may also make recommendations, based on the findings, to improve internal controls in order to prevent similar incidents in the future

All allegations are initially reviewed to determine if they are credible and refer to a serious violation of FAO policies prohibiting misconduct and fraudulent activity. Those allegations that don't qualify as misconduct or fraud, but do relate to violations of FAO policy or other managerial issues, may be referred to internal audit, Human Resources Management Division or other FAO office as appropriate for resolution.

 

last updated:  Wednesday, November 2, 2011