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 Against Fraud and other Corrupt Practices states that “The responsibilities of all personnel in respect of prevention and detection of fraud and other corrupt practices go beyond merely abstaining from engaging in these practices. As part of the duty of loyalty, all personnel must keep themselves abreast of the Organization’s policies and ensure full compliance. Any reasonable suspicion or indication of fraudulent, corrupt, coercive or collusive practices or improper use of the Organization’s resources must be immediately reported. Personnel who engage in prohibited conduct under this Policy, fail to immediately report such conduct, or interfere in or obstruct an investigation into whether such conduct has occurred, may be subject to a disciplinary action, up to and including summary dismissal or suspension and/or termination of contractual relationship with the Organization. Monies may also be recovered or withheld from salaries and/or terminal emoluments.”

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 
  • Complaints of workplace harassment pursuant to the policies on the prevention of harassment, sexual harassment and abuse of authority.

 Offenses that should not be reported to this office include:

  • Complaints arising from working conditions or from an administrative measure or decision.

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.

Compliance with the Organization’s Environmental and Social Standards

FAO is committed to ensuring that its programmes are implemented in accordance with the Organization’s environmental and social standards. In order to better achieve these goals, and to ensure that beneficiaries of FAO programmes have access to an effective and timely mechanism to address their concerns about non-compliance with these obligations, the Organization, in order to supplement measures for receiving, reviewing and acting as appropriate on these concerns at the programme management level, has entrusted the Office of the Inspector-General with the mandate to independently review the complaints that cannot be resolved at that level.
Any person, group, or representative of a person or group, who is potentially directly affected by a FAO programme, is permitted to file a complaint. After an admissible complaint is filed, OIG conducts a preliminary review to determine if the complaint alleges a violation of FAO’s social and environmental standards and/or requires further investigation. Those complaints that are deemed admissible will be posted publically and opened for external parties to apply to comment. After the end of the comment period, OIG will initiate an inspection involving further review, site visits and interview, as deemed necessary. A draft compliance review report will then be drafted and shared with all participants in the process, who will be given an opportunity to comment before a final report is submitted to the Director-General, with copies provided to the complainant and other participants. The Director-General will then make a final decision on how to respond to the findings in the report. Unlike for other types of complaints reviewed by OIG, complaints of non-compliance with the Organization’s Environmental and Social Standards may not be made anonymously. A link to the full procedures can be found here.


last updated:  Monday, August 28, 2023