UNHCR refers Kenya staff to police after internal investigation finds fraud at Kakuma camp

An aerial view shows part of the Kakuma refugee camps in Kenya.  © UNHCR/Siegfried Modola

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is implementing a number of measures to strengthen management and oversight of its Kakuma operation in Kenya in light of an internal investigation that found fraud and other serious misconduct.

UNHCR’s investigation was prompted after allegations were received of fraud, corruption, threats and intimidation at the camp.

The investigation confirmed the involvement of five staff, against whom a range of actions have now been taken. These include, in three cases, referral by the UN’s Office of Legal Affairs to the Kenyan police for criminal prosecution – so far resulting in one arrest. Two of the five have resigned, and disciplinary processes are under way against the remaining three.

UNHCR has separately launched an independent management review which has made a number of recommendations to accompany the disciplinary actions being taken against those found to have committed malfeasance.

As further measures to address the situation, and in parallel with the investigation, we immediately suspended normal resettlement submissions from Kakuma and reviewed processes. An information campaign is under way, and we are pursuing matters with our partners, including working with them to carry out their own investigations and to deepen anti-fraud awareness and prevention measures.

“Protecting lives is at the core of UNHCR’s work, which makes the betrayal of trust we have seen in this case so galling,” said UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees George Okoth-Obbo. "The management review has provided us an understanding of what happened and allows us now to enhance a number of preventive, assurance, response and corrective measures in management, oversight and operational delivery."

 

Additional Information

UNHCR has immediately informed concerned partners of the investigation and we have briefed donors both in Nairobi and Geneva.

Investigations at UNHCR are done by the organization’s Inspector General’s Office (IGO) – an independent investigative body which reports directly to the High Commissioner. The IGO conducts ad hoc inspections of field offices and Headquarters units; undertakes investigations of possible misconduct by UNHCR personnel or any entity with contractual links to the organization; and conducts inquiries into violent attacks on UNHCR personnel and operations. The team is made of experienced investigators, some of whom are former police officers.

All UNHCR staff, and staff of our partners, are expected to sign a Code of Conduct which specifies an obligation not to abuse positions in relation to beneficiaries and to make sure that all their actions are free of any consideration of personal gain. Staff must agree never to request any service or favour from refugees. The Code of Conduct does not have the force of law, however it serves as a guide to the kind of professional and personal behaviour that is expected. Failure to comply with the Code may amount to misconduct, and – as in this case – staff may be referred to national authorities for prosecution.

 

News contacts:

UNHCR Headquarters, Switzerland

Nairobi, Kenya