Documents obtained by Bivol reveal a rigged appointment in UNESCO of a favorite of its Director-General, Irina Bokova, though she did not have the necessary qualifications. Once the fraud was discovered, Brazilian Ana Luiza (Anita) Thompson-Flores was not reprimanded by Bokova, but appointed to another managerial post with almost the same salary.
At the beginning of the year, Bivol published a confidential report of the Bureau for Internal Oversight Service Audit & Investigation Sections of UNESCO which reveals details about the scandalous appointment of Ana Luiza Thompson-Flores as Bokova’s Deputy-Director of the Bureau of Strategic Planning in UNESCO. This scandal was quoted in a publication of The Daily Mail, which claims that British diplomats wanted Bokova to be investigated for fraud.
The appointment of Ms. Thompson-Flores involved drastic procedural violations: conflicts of interest, leaked confidential information, improper manipulation of UNESCO’s own rules and procedures, and submission of a fake diploma by the candidate. The people responsible for these violations hold the highest-ranking posts in UNESCO, while the audit document repeatedly refers to the actions of Bokova herself.
The career growth of Ana Luiza Thompson-Flores began in 2011 when she was appointed Head of “Human Resources” in the organization. For this to happen, the job announcement was manipulated by lowering the qualifications requirements. Bivol obtained the two vacancy notices which clearly show the difference. In the second notice, the requirement for a master’s degree is mitigated by adding the phrase “or equivalent experience”.
The first notice lists as qualification an advanced university degree in human resources, public or business administration or management or other related fields.
In the second notice, published after the cancellation of the first job competition, the phrase “or equivalent extensive professional experience” is added.
At this point in time, Thompson-Flores had the necessary experience, as she was Deputy Director of “Human Resources” in UNESCO. So, even without the required university degree she was appointed Director.
Thompson-Flores jumped to the next step in her career in 2014, when she took the post of Deputy-Director of the organization in charge of “Strategic Planning”. However, this was a brief stint for her because an investigation into her fake diploma and in the manipulation of the vacancy notice for her former job was launched. The violations were definitely established and Bokova was forced to remove her, but not without resistance.
Bokova on the embrasure
After the report of the organization’s Internal Oversight Service Bureau and the results of the investigations into the violations of Thompson-Flores were presented to the Board of the organization, Irina Bokova attempted to withdraw it. She sent a special letter to the Chairperson of the Executive Board of UNESCO, who, however, refused to withdraw the document.
The thwarted attempt was intended to remove the report from the official records of the Executive Board of UNESCO and thus prevent a future investigation.
This fact is evidence of Bokova’s favoritism to Ana Luiza Thompson-Flores beyond professional relations. Her botched attempt to hush the scandal caused additional tension among diplomats in the international organization, who are asking questions: Why did Flores become so important to Bokova? Is this related to the unofficially-started at the time campaign of the Bulgarian to become United Nation’s (UN) Secretary-General?
Our site also obtained the letter to remove Thompson-Flores from the post of Deputy Director, signed by Irina Bokova. It describes precisely and in detail the misconduct which led to the disciplinary sanction – prior to 2014 Thompson-Flores described a Certificate in Management she held as an MBA Certificate which created the false perception that she held a degree in Business Administration, while the ambiguous description of said Certificate was shared on two occasions with the Member States in 2008 and 2010 – when Thompson-Flores became Deputy Director of “Human Resources” and when she became Director of the same department.
The letter further states that with this misinformation, Thompson-Flores has cast a shadow on UNESCO’s human resources process.
There is another paradox – Ana Luiza Thompson-Flores was the one bestowed with the responsibility to watch for a policy of “zero tolerance” for violations in the organization, promoted by Bokova, but she became precisely the employee that ended in the eye of the storm, which UNESCO diplomats say has no analogue in the last 35 years.
For all these “merits” Thompson-Flores got an unusually lenient reprimand.
From “big director” to “small director”
Instead of firing her for her outrageous deeds that caused serious unrest in the organization, Irina Bokova “demoted” Thompson-Flores from Director D2 to Director D1 and sent her to manage the UNESCO office in Venice.
In monetary terms the wage of the Brazilian decreased from 144,000 US dollars to the “modest” 132,000 US dollars a year, according to the official salary scale of senior executives in the organizations of the United Nations.
But there are other examples of Bokova’s disciplinary rigor as UNESCO Director-General. In 2010, she dismissed without blinking an eye a senior expert. His offense was that he failed to submit an invoice for around about 3,000 euro after he organized an international conference with a budget of several tens of thousands of euro.
Sources from UNESCO told Bivol that it would be sheer madness to risk a post with numerous privileges and a salary of over 10,000 euro a month to pocket 3,000 euro. In this case, this was obviously an omission, not intent. In Flores’ case we have the opposite – obvious intent in presenting a false diploma. The sanction, however, was different and incomparable.
In the case of Thompson-Flores, there is the shadow of the logic of the “nepotism” system with whose dubious values Bokova, as a functionary of the Bulgarian Communist Party and daughter of senior party chief, was brought up. At the time of the regime, senior officials and people close to the power rarely lost their positions over blunders, while in the most striking cases they were reassigned to a similar post, retaining their privileges.
This practice stemmed from the cherished goals of the system – to create an illusion that there were and will be no failures and to preserve the ruling elite. The question is whether we want to see the same, essentially corrupt traditions, transferred to the UN, to where Irina Bokova is heading as candidate for Secretary-General of the organization.
This post is also available in: Bulgarian