UN senior official resigns after 'mind blowing' audit reportedly finds he spent nearly $500,000 in travel expenses

  • United Nations Environment Program chief Erik Solheim resigned, after he was alleged to have accrued $US488,518 in travel expenses in the course of nearly two years, according to a previous report from The Guardian.
  • Solheim, who was in charge of the “global environmental authority that sets the global environmental agenda,” was revealed to have travelled for 529 out of 668 days, Reuters reported.
  • Critics described the audit’s findings as “mind blowing” and “obscene CO2 hypocrisy.”

United Nations Environment Program chief Erik Solheim resigned, after he was alleged to have accrued $US488,518 in travel expenses in the course of nearly two years. His resignation is effective Thursday, according to Reuters.

Solheim, who oversees the “global environmental authority that sets the global environmental agenda,” announced his resignation after a report from The Guardian shined a light on a draft internal audit of his official trips. (A final version of the audit has not yet been made available to the public.)

“On Saturday, I received the final report on the audit of official travel undertaken by the UN’s Office of Internal Oversight Services,” Solheim said in a statement. “As I have maintained throughout this process – I have been and remain – committed to doing what I believe to be in the best interest of UN Environment and the mission we are here to achieve.”

“For this reason, after deep reflection and in close consultation with the Secretary-General, I am stepping down,” he added.

Critics described the report’s findings as “mind blowing” and an “obscene CO2 hypocrisy,” according to The Guardian, who first reported on the internal report in September.

Solheim reportedly racked up numerous air miles and hotel bills and was estimated to have been travelling 80% of the time. The UN’s internal audit said Solheim had “no regard for abiding by the set regulations and rules,” and prompted countries like the Netherlands, Sweden, and Denark to withhold funding for the UN Environment Program.

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UN Secretary General António Guterres is believed to have asked Solheim to step down, according to The Guardian.

“The secretary general, I think, is pleased to see that UNEP (the UN Environment Program) is committed to implementing the recommendations that are found in the OIOS (Office of Internal Oversight Services) report on the travel office,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters.

A statement from the UN said the secretary general appreciated Solheim’s service in “transformational change needed to make a real difference in the lives of people and promote the cause of the environment.”

“The secretary general is grateful for Mr. Solheim’s service and recognises that he has been a leading voice in drawing the world’s attention to critical environmental challenges, including plastics pollution and circularity; climate action; the rights of environmental defenders; biodiversity; and environmental security,” the secretary general’s office said in a statement.

Solheim, who reportedly claimed to have reimbursed some of the travel expenses, appeared optimistic and said he would continue to fight for environmental causes.

“I am sad to be leaving @UNEnvironment as we have achieved so much together,” Solheim said in a tweet. “I will continue to champion the cause of the environment!”

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