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Embattled UNEP head refunds travel expenses

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Erik Solheim, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program
Erik Solheim, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). AFP PHOTO  

Erik Solheim, head of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), who is under investigations for incurring multiple and unnecessary travel expenses, has admitted to refunding part of his travel expenses that auditors had flagged even as he insists he has committed no offence to warrant his exit.

Mr Solheim says in an email sent to UNEP staff that the audit of UN Environment travel processes is not an investigation.

His response came after the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) reported that it had unearthed massive wastage at UNEP, notably to interrogate the extensive travel by three senior managers that has resulted in total travel costs of Sh74 million.

“The Office of Internal Oversight Services earlier this year investigated all my travels in great detail and found three instances of oversight out of all of them. The money was refunded immediately. Better administrative control systems would have helped avoid these mistakes in the first place,” Mr Solheim said in an email seen by the Business Daily.

The Unep boss makes clear his intention to stay put, insisting that he will accept personal responsibility even as he ‘immediately refines this process going forward’’.

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The OIOS in its report recommended that Mr Solheim refunds “all travel costs and related staff time not accounted for and all additional costs incurred by UNEP as a result of uneconomical and inefficient decisions made by management”.

Just 22 months since Mr Solheim took over from Achim Steiner as the Executive Director of Nairobi-based UN Environment, a report has been published saying he pays too little attention to the environment, the regulations and the budget of his office.

Mr Solheim incurred $488,519 in travel expenses between May 2016 and March 2018, spent 529 days of his 22 months as head of UN Environment globetrotting, “resulting in an absence rate of 79 per cent from his duty station.

The UNEP chief travelled extensively around the world, visiting top cities such as Paris, France and his home country, Norway.

Meanwhile, another senior official of the UN agency referred to in the report as Manager B, is said to have spent 349 days in travel between August 2016 and March 2018, spending $95,343.

Mr Solheim has, however, sought to downplay the report and to justify the travel expenditure incurred.

He notes that as a team working on urgent environmental challenges the job ‘‘requires global commitment to unprecedented action, driven by new levels of personal action and political will’’.

The UNEP boss reckons that real results could only be obtained in close dialogue with member states, businesses and civil society. He downplays the leaked audit report as ‘draft notes’ that laid ground for consultations between the Office of Internal Oversight Services and UN Environment, adding that it may contain misunderstandings or inaccuracies.

“I ask that you keep in mind that many of the findings are in the process of validation. We are now awaiting a first draft of the report for our comments prior to the report being finalised,” says Mr Solheim.

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World Bank pushes G-20 to extend debt relief to 2021

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World Bank Group President David Malpass has urged the Group of 20 rich countries to extend the time frame of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative(DSSI) through the end of 2021, calling it one of the key factors in strengthening global recovery.

“I urge you to extend the time frame of the DSSI through the end of 2021 and commit to giving the initiative as broad a scope as possible,” said Malpass.

He made these remarks at last week’s virtual G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting.

The World Bank Chief said the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered the deepest global recession in decades and what may turn out to be one of the most unequal in terms of impact.

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People in developing countries are particularly hard hit by capital outflows, declines in remittances, the collapse of informal labor markets, and social safety nets that are much less robust than in the advanced economies.

For the poorest countries, poverty is rising rapidly, median incomes are falling and growth is deeply negative.

Debt burdens, already unsustainable for many countries, are rising to crisis levels.

“The situation in developing countries is increasingly desperate. Time is short. We need to take action quickly on debt suspension, debt reduction, debt resolution mechanisms and debt transparency,” said Malpass.

ALSO READ:Global Economy Plunges into Worst Recession – World Bank

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Kenya’s Central Bank Drafts New Laws to Regulate Non-Bank Digital Loans

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The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) will regulate interest rates charged on mobile loans by digital lending platforms if amendments on the Central bank of Kenya Act pass to law. The amendments will require digital lenders to seek approval from CBK before launching new products or changing interest rates on loans among other charges, just like commercial banks.

“The principal objective of this bill is to amend the Central bank of Kenya Act to regulate the conduct of providers of digital financial products and services,” reads a notice on the bill. “CBK will have an obligation of ensuring that there is fair and non-discriminatory marketplace access to credit.”

According to Business Daily, the legislation will also enable the Central Bank to monitor non-performing loans, capping the limit at not twice the amount of the defaulted loan while protecting consumers from predatory lending by digital loan platforms.

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Tighter Reins on Platforms for Mobile Loans

The legislation will boost efforts to protect customers, building upon a previous gazette notice that blocked lenders from blacklisting non-performing loans below Ksh 1000. The CBK also withdrew submissions of unregulated mobile loan platforms into Credit Reference Bureau. The withdrawal came after complaints of misuse over data in the Credit Information Sharing (CIS) System available for lenders.

Last year, Kenya had over 49 platforms providing mobile loans, taking advantage of regulation gaps to charge obscene rates as high as 150% a year. While most platforms allow borrowers to prepay within a month, creditors still pay the full amount plus interest.

Amendments in the CBK Act will help shield consumers from high-interest rates as well as offer transparency on terms of digital loans.

SEE ALSO: Central Bank Unveils Measures to Tame Unregulated Digital Lenders

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Scope Markets Kenya customers to have instant access to global financial markets

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NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 20 – Clients trading through the Scope Markets Kenya trading platform will get instant access to global financial markets and wider investment options. 

This follows the launch of a new Scope Markets app, available on both the Google PlayStore and IOS Apple Store.

The Scope Markets app offers clients over 500 investment opportunities across global financial markets.

The Scope Markets app has a brand new user interface that is very user friendly, following feedback from customers.

The application offers real-time quotes; newsfeeds; research facilities, and a chat feature which enables a customer to make direct contact with the Customer Service Team during trading days (Monday to Friday).

The platform also offers an enhanced client interface including catering for those who trade at night.

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The client will get instant access to several asset classes in the global financial markets including; Single Stocks CFDs (US, UK, EU) such as Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google, BP, Carrefour;  Indices (Nasdaq, FTSE UK), Metals (Gold, Silver); Currencies (60+ Pairs), Commodities (Oil, Natural Gas).

The launch is part of Scope Markets Kenya strategy of enriching the customer experience while offering clients access to global trading opportunities.

Scope Markets Kenya CEO, Kevin Ng’ang’a observed, “the Sope Markets app is very easy to use especially when executing trades. Customers are at the heart of everything we do. We designed the Scope Markets app with the customer experience in mind as we seek to respond to feedback from our customers.”

He added that enhancing the client experience builds upon the robust trading platform, Meta Trader 5, unveiled in 2019, enabling Scope Markets Kenya to broaden the asset classes available on the trading platform.

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