For and Against the UNOPS

While state officials are happy to delegate their responsibilities to the UN Office for Project Services, the Comptroller of Guatemala has declared that its services are "detrimental to the interests of the state".

Wednesday, July 8, 2015


The arrival in Central America of the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) was hailed by many as a factor that would allow the execution of public works which are very difficult or impossible for state institutions in the region to run, for various reasons ranging from lack of qualified personnel to simple negligence.

Applause broke out -including from us- at the mere thought of long-awaited road projects, that much needed bridge, or essential hospitals which would finally be materialize with the supposed efficiency of the UNOPS.

Apart from the specific ability of UNOPS staff to implement projects, what attracts the interest of Central American officials the most is that their actions fall outside the scope of supervision of national authorities. Supposedly, UNOPS will apply its own standards of project supervision, contract services and money management, for which reason it is not necessary for national Comptroller institutions to intrude.

It should be remembered that UNOPS charges for its services amounts of money usually equivalent to 4% of the total amount of each project.

In Costa Rica, a country where public infrastructure, especially roads, have a backlog of more than 30 years, UNOPS is already running projects even through contracts endorsed by the Comptroller General of the Republic. And others allegedly responsible for public infrastructure in the country, such as the infrastructure manager of the Social Security Department, Gabriela Murillo, are assessing delegating their responsibilities to UNOPS: "We are evaluating an option with the people from the UN to see if it is possible to shorten times for tenders," said the manager Gabriela Murillo. "It's an issue that we are just testing out to see if they can give us some alternative advantageous results for the Department, in particular options for lowering timeframes.They have a much more streamlined mechanism for hiring. "

See: Kafka walks through Costa Rica

In El Salvador, Roberto Rubio, Head of Fundación Nacional para el Desarrollo (FUNDE) suggests that "....the tenders required to resume works in the dam El Chaparral, in San Miguel, or the expansion of the international airport Monseñor Oscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdaméz could be done through the UNOPS, since it will guarantee the transparence of the process." And as warranty for the transparency, the director states that UNOPS is not going to "...burn its prestige."

See "FUNDE insta a utilizar UNOPS para licitaciones".

On the other side, the General Comptroller in Guatemala rejects the eventual award of a project to UNOPS, pointing out problems in the contracts and stating they are "detrimental for the financial interests of the State, since they compromise expenses for management of works that are supposed to be done by executionary organs, increasing in a significant way the cost of the project, affecting also the principles of probity".

See "Contralor pide declarar lesivo contratos por US$ 3.07 millones".

Unfortunately an interview apppointed for this week between CentralAmericaData.COM and the director of UNOPS in Costa Rica was canceled, so we couldnt ask the question: Who controls the execution of UNOPS, the quality of the services it provides, and the transparency of its contracting processes?

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More on this topic

Costa Rica: No More Projects with UNOPS

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