Risk Areas

1.2 Sustainment and Contracting

Explanation of risk area

Procurement has long been identified as a significant area of corruption risks; the World Bank, for example, has estimated that public contract awards worth about $1.5 trillion are influenced by corrupt practices. Risks affecting procurement are magnified by large sums of money involved, by the complexity of tender processes, and by officials’ discretionary authority. These risks are magnified in operational environments, which usually feature significant financial flows combined with tighter timelines, a greater degree of outsourcing, and fewer checks and balances. In these environments, risks of fraud, corruption, and theft, committed by both mission officials and contractors, all increase.

Corrupt practices in mission forces are often connected to corrupt networks within the host nation, facilitating and benefitting from larger corruption schemes, from illegal trade to diversion of sustainment-related funding that benefits criminal networks or mission adversaries. Understanding and acknowledging the mission’s position in the host nation and the risks that it can create and reinforce is key to mitigating attendant corruption risks.


Case Study: Corruption and UN peace operations

Fuel diversion: UNMIL

In early 2017, the UN Mission to Liberia (UNMIL) Fuel Unit reported 34 cases of suspected fraud involving a total loss of 92,000 litres of fuel worth approximately $64,000. Mission personnel appear to have diverted fuel resources through excessive refuelling and theft of bulk fuel.

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External Link

Bribery and fuel theft: Afghanistan

In U.S. v Hightower, a military officer was found guilty of accepting bribes in return for allowing a host nation company to steal fuel. Fuel, an indispensable commodity, was the subject of other criminal cases related to deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, and reported by the U.S. Office of Government Ethics. As a key commodity, fuel appears to have been at risk of diversion in most operations.

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Indicators & Warnings

Bypassing key tender procedures

Designing bids for unnecessary or inappropriate items

Vague or biased specifications and selection criteria in the bids

Narrow bid specifications, corresponding to one company’s product features

Regular use of ‘exceptional’ or ‘urgent’ orders without adequate rationale

Contracting officers’ or implementers’ insistence on dealing with particular suppliers

Awarding contracts unfavourable to the contracting entity

Bypassing key contract implementation procedures such as audits

Lack of documentation of key meetings from contracting officers, implementers, and/or auditors

Acceptance of agents, intermediaries or subcontractors, especially when their tasks are unclear or their work history inadequate

Continued acceptance of low-quality or delayed work

Sequential purchases from the same supplier just under a threshold that would necessitate an audit

Significantly higher or lower use of materiel than estimated

Excessive stocks of products, either because it sits unused or because wrong quantities have been delivered

Product substitution: products of lower quality than foreseen are delivered

Poor product quality and/or product failure

Changes in orders or product characteristics at short notice

Reports of wrongdoing