Dar es Salaam. Lands, Housing and Human Settlement Development minister Anna Tibaijuka has strongly defended her record at the helm of United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) in Nairobi, rejecting allegations of lack of transparency and mismanagement.
Prof Tibaijuka told The Citizen on Sunday in an exclusive interview early in the week that she took great exception to the suggestion that she was a poor or rigid manager, insensitive or even corrupt when she headed the UN agency, which she left to return home and run for Parliament.
The minister rejected the findings of an audit in February, by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) that couldbadly dent her image as one of the only two Tanzanian women to have risen to the top in the UN system.
Prof Tibaijuka was the highest-ranking woman, at the level of Under Secretary-General, before Dr Asha-Rose Migiro, who was the Tanzanian Foreign minister, was appointed in February 2007, as Deputy Secretary General. It is highest position a woman has ever held in the world body.
In defending her 10-year record at the helm of UN-Habitat, Prof Tibaijuka dismissed some of the findings of the DFID audit that led to a decision by the UK Government to withhold up to 1million pounds sterling (Sh2.4 billion) in core annual funding to the Nairobi-based agency.
“I take great exception to the insinuations contained in the audit because it is prejudicial and does not reflect the true position,” said the minister, when contacted for comment.
Prof Tibaijuka, who is highly regarded internationally and locally, is serving her first five-year term as the MP for Muleba South in Kagera Region, and was appointed to the Cabinet by President Jakaya Kikwete, who handed a docket aptly fitting her credentials.
Some analysts were reported in foreign media, as warning that the withdrawal of funding to UN-Habitat would not only severely hamper its programmes and projects, but also dent Prof Tibaijuka’s image. The Tanzanian has prided herself on raising the profile of the UN agency and helping to increase contributions to the organisation threefold during her time.
They noted that the DFID review was conducted while she was still in office, and, therefore, any shortcomings would be directly attributed to her leadership and management style. Some critics and insiders claim she was authoritarian and secretive.
A senior UN-Habitat official was quoted as saying that the current problems were caused by “poor leadership.” He added: “One of the reasons UN-Habitat and other agencies continue performing poorly is that they do not allow themselves to be audited externally. This creates a lot of room for corruption.”
The DFID audit was ordered by the British Secretary of State for International Development, Mr Andrew Mitchell, as part ofthe UK’s review of its funding to 43 multilateral organisations, as the Prime Minister David Cameron-led coalition embarked on serious efforts to curb expenditure.
The audit was also critical of several other UN agencies, whose funding it scaled down or withdrew altogether. They include the UN Industrial Development Organisation (Unido), the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction.
According to DFID’s findings, many UN agencies and other multilaterals consistently fail to deliver results on the ground, partly because of lack of results-based management.
More than two-thirds of the multilaterals assessed were found to be weak in strategic and performance management. A significant number were said to be not sufficiently focused on reducing costs and cutting waste.
The report found that only nine of the 43 organisations offered “very good value for money”.They include Unicef, the Global Fund to Fights AIDS, TB and Malaria, and the Global Alliance for Vaccination and Immunisation (GAVI), all of which will receive increased British aid in future
That UN-Habitat scored “weak” and “very weak” ranking in almost all the yardsticks tested, was alarming enough for Prof Tibaijuka’s successor, Mr Joan Clos, to write to the UK to protest the poor rating and freeze of funding. He assumed office last October.
In a letter dated March 2, Mr Clos informed the UK Minister of State, Mr Alan Duncan, that he was disappointed, considering the crucial role that UN-Habitat plays in international development.He also pleaded for the rescinding of the decision to cut funding and pledged reforms to improve performance in line with the UK’s objectives.
UN-Habitatreportedly performed unsatisfactorily in strategic and performance management and cost and value consciousness. The review says that the agency has a poor record of institutional performance and transparency.
It states: “UN-Habitat does not operate under a presumption of disclosure. It provides some information on projects to the governing body, but does not publish full details on project performance.”
The DFID said the agency had not significantly contributed to the goal of improving slum dwellings.
But Prof Tibaijuka said it would be insincere to accuse her of poor leadership or corruption. “I worked tirelessly for the agency and for the improvement of the plight of poor urban dwellers,” she said, pointing out that she even won the prestigious 2009 Göteborg Award for Sustainable Development.
Recently, she was named by the Steering Committee of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), as its new chair to succeed Dr Roberto Lenton, whose second and final term ended last month.
“My record at the UN-Habita has seen the centre rise to a fully fledged UN office on the continent, while at the time of leaving office there was some $52 million (over Sh73 billion) in its accounts,” said Prof Tibaijuka.
The agency had made a mark that would continue to attract funding and support from more donors.
“There will be no proof to back up the audit claims of corruption or mismanagement. By withdrawing funding, the DFID has shown that it does not care for the urban poor and the role that housing could bring to the poor economies where we work,” Prof Tibaijuka told The Citizen on Sunday.
She added that the only plausible explanation for the move was that the DFID had removed urban housing from its core priorities, even in London.
The minister said the timing of the UK decision was also inappropriate “because it would have been logical that they support the incoming management instead of deserting them”.
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