Exclusive: As Nobel winner's WFP leadership winds down, questions remain over credit card abuse fiasco

Former WFP chief of staff Rehan Asad with ED David Beasley. Photo credit: Twitter

 ROME – As David Beasley’s tenure as head of WFP draws to a close, diplomats reflect that while the former Republican governor has been a good fundraiser, helping to earn the agency a Nobel peace prize, his internal management at the UN agency HQ has been "largely absent." Chaos in his office climaxed with his first chief of staff being “let go honourably” after a row over alleged unauthorized corporate credit card expenditure on air tickets for his wife.

 An internal audit signed by the WFP Inspector General, presented to the Executive Board in January 2020 shows that no rules were followed in hiring in the American ED’s office after his appointment and that the then chief of staff, Rehan Asad, allegedly used credit cards to buy aeroplane tickets for his wife. “It is shocking what you can read even before discounting the diplomatic tone an audit necessarily adopts, “ a seasoned WFP executive commented

 “The audit arrives at an overall conclusion of 'partially satisfactory with major efforts still needed'” added the veteran executive at the agency, who spoke to the Italian Insider on condition he not be named. “This is remarkable.”

 “You cannot imagine how much management tries (and succeeds) to water these down before they become final, so the fact such a conclusion remains such is astonishing.”

 The audit report accessible to the public on the WFP website went on to say that

  • Mr Beasley “travels and is never around," in his absence there is no consistent management of the organization (para 7.).
  • Leadership organizational arrangements, roles and responsibilities need to be redefined (para 8.- read there is chaos). Reporting lines are unclear and contribute to chaos.
  • WFP’s leaders need to walk the talk (para 9) “Strengthening organizational discipline is a priority” (read: there is none).
  • (Former) Chief of Staff is “spread too thin” and everyone says he is incompetent (para 9) causing “unnecessary work, chatter, anxiety and frustration as well as some confusion”.
  • Known and repeated waivers or non-compliance with accepted norms, policies and procedures were noted (para 10, read rules are ignored and do not apply at the top).

 As the senior WFP manager noted, the audit underlines “essentially a lot of unethical behaviour at the top. How should we expect the rest of WFP then to behave in ethical ways?”

 Further points that emerged from the audit included

 -- On compliance review – the ED’s office hires without any process or rules. Basically appoints the people the ED likes. The first chief of staff was one of them. Indeed he is now on his third chief of staff.

 -- People in the Office of the Executive Director travel business class even when against the rules. Waivers are routine and often not properly documented. It often does not even seem clear who approved their travel.

 -- Corporate credit cards - this is the scandal around the COS's wife. There may be other cases. The audit suggests those who have these cards do not have to justify their expenses. There are no controls in place.

 -- There are no proper performance reviews for Leadership Group members neither do they usually give performance reviews to their staff. If you are at the top you can get away with it. No performance review - no accountability…

  As the executive noted “All of these beg the question -- how can you have a well managed, rules-based agency when the top is not leading by example?”

 “The audit is of course diplomatic. It just mentions the use of corporate credit cards has to be monitored better.”

 “In essence the audit is a pretty damning review of the internal management. It shows the top is not living what it preaches to the bottom, so to speak.”