UNESCO Scandals: Director-General Irina Bokova Manipulated Recruitment Procedures to Appoint Protégé with Fake Qualifications as Her Assistant Director-General

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A confidential report of UNESCO’s Internal Oversight Service Audit & Investigation Unit reveals scandalous details surrounding the appointment of Ms. Ana Luiza Thompson-Flores as Director of BSP. In this case, the abbreviation BSP does not stand for the Bulgarian Socialist Party, with which the UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova is associated and to which she owes her diplomatic and international career. In this particular case, BSP is an acronym for UNESCO’s Bureau of Strategic Planning, which de facto controls the overall budget and manages the financial resources of the organization. Its stated function is as follows: “The Bureau of Strategic Planning (BSP) is the central focal point of UNESCO for all strategic, programmatic and budgeting issues, as well as for cooperation with extra budgetary funding sources and public-private partnerships (PPPs), and it provides advice to the Director-General on all these matters.”

More details on the position of Assistant Director-General for Strategic Planning: http://www.unesco.org/orgchart/en/ORG_vis_EN_files/png_1.htm

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 Mrs. Bokova herself.

“A real product of the communist nomenklatura

Public information about the case is scarce. What is known is that at the end of 2014, Ms. Thompson-Flores became Assistant Director-General for Strategic Planning, only to be removed from the post a few months later, in September 2015.

These abrupt developments attracted public attention, but both Mrs. Bokova and Ms. Thompson-Flores declined to comment for the media, according to an overview article on UNESCO’s 70th anniversary, published in the The Art Newspaper in November last year.

The prestigious monthly mentions Mrs. Bokova’s poor management skills as Director-General and quotes an unnamed diplomat saying: “Management is Bokova’s Achilles heel. She is a real product of the communist nomenklatura in Bulgaria.”

A confidential report obtained by Bivol sheds abundant light on Ms. Thompson-Flores’ appointment and quick demotion. The report contains a detailed chronology of all the events related to the two scandalous

Bulgarian-Style Appointments

On May 5, 2015, Mr. Mohamed Sameh Amr, Chairperson of UNESCO’s Executive Board, sought clarification on issues pertaining to the appointment of Ms. Thompson-Flores, and asked Mrs. Bokova for an explanation on the recruitment procedures that had been followed and invited her to address “concerns, perceptions and rumors” that had been brought to the attention of the organization’s Internal Oversight Service. In other words, behind its unassuming façade, internally UNESCO was in for some turbulent times.

The story began in 2011, when Ms. Ana Luiza Thompson-Flores became head of the Bureau of Human Resources Management (HRM). She was appointed to the post through manipulation of the recruitment procedures and lowering of the qualification requirements – according to the report.

The first irregularity in that case was the participation of Ms. Thompson-Flores, in her capacity as Deputy Director of HRM, in the preparation of the Vacancy Notice and the job announcement under the supervision of the Director-General Irina Bokova. Bokova also appointed her as a member of the pre-selection committee. Conflict of interests? Yes, but that is not all.

There was a concrete formal obstacle preventing the selection of the favorite, Thompson-Flores, for the post. For that post, there was a requirement for an advanced degree; however, Ms. Thompson-Flores had no such degree. That obstacle was circumvented by employing dubious means– the qualification requirements for the post were lowered.

Bokova canceled the first job competition at the end of 2010, at the final stage when six candidates were already shortlisted and interviewed. The post was then re-advertised. Ms. Thompson-Flores herself modified the desired profile of the candidate in the Vacancy Notice. Then the Vacancy Notice was submitted to the Director of the Office of the Director-General for the Director-General’s review and approval.

Attention! “Further changes were made at this stage lowering the educational requirements”, states the report in black and white. In other words, the changes were made either by a member of the Office of the Director-General, or by the Director-General herself. Since it was not clear who exactly introduced the changes, the IOS continued its investigation in the issue.

What is clear is the nature of the changes to the requirements – they were edited so that they could fit the qualifications of Ms. Thompson-Flores. Instead of an advanced degree the candidate was allowed to apply on grounds of having “equivalent extensive professional experience”.

The second announcement attracted 279 candidates; 15 were shortlisted, and 5 were selected for final interviews. Finally, on April 17, 2011, Irina Bokova decided to appoint Ms. Thompson-Flores to her dream-post Head of Human Resources of UNESCO (starting annual salary $120,000).


UNESCO Scandals:  Director-General Irina Bokova Manipulated Recruitment Procedures to Appoint Protégé with Fake Qualifications as Her Assistant Director-GeneralUNESCO Scandals:  Director-General Irina Bokova Manipulated Recruitment Procedures to Appoint Protégé with Fake Qualifications as Her Assistant Director-GeneralUNESCO Scandals:  Director-General Irina Bokova Manipulated Recruitment Procedures to Appoint Protégé with Fake Qualifications as Her Assistant Director-General

New Reshuffle, New Conflict of Interest

Three years later, history repeated itself. In 2014, Ms. Thompson-Flores, in her capacity as HRM Director, drafted the Vacancy Notice for the post Assistant Director-General for Strategic Planning.

Contrary to every professional unwritten rule, the announcement for this important post, whose responsibilities involve “all strategic, programmatic and budgeting issues” as well as the extrabudgetary funding of UNESCO, was made on August 4, in the deadest possible period.

The outgoing head of the Bureau of Strategic Planning had recommended to HRM (to Thompson-Flores) to include in the Vacancy Notice an educational requirement for a Ph.D. degree. But once again, the qualification requirements were lowered. The Ph.D. degree was included in the draft Vacancy Notice only as a desired qualification, and was not included as a mandatory requirement in the final Notice. Having eliminated this stumbling block, Ms. Thompson-Flores had her draft Vacancy Notice approved by Irina Bokova. And of course, she applied for the post.

In this case, again, there was a conflict of interest, which Ms. Thompson-Flores did not report to the UNESCO’s Ethics Office. Thus, that conflict of interest was never addressed, states the report. The investigators, however, continued checking both appointments for conflicts of interest.

195 candidates applied for the post Assistant Director-General for Strategic Planning, 7 were recommended for interview. On the Director-General’s instruction the pre-selection committee reviewed the list and reduced it to 6 candidates, following a strange instruction for “better geographical representation.” Finally, Irina Bokova personally interviewed the candidates (including Thompson-Flores) and decided to appoint her to the post.

This time, however, the institution found this to be a pill hard to swallow. In the end, the Brazilian was exposed as a sham and subsequently fired. She not only didn’t have aPh.D. degree, but she had also embellished her biography by claiming a non-existent “MBA – certificate”.

The appointment letter from 2011, signed by Irina Bokova, states that Ms. Thompson – Flores “holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the American University in Washington D. C.” and “an MBA Certificate from John Cabot University in Rome”. There is an emphasis on her “over 20 years of experience in various fields of Human Resources within the UN system”.

MBA, Master of Business Administration, is an accepted equivalent of the Master’s degree (MA).

The check, however, showed that

Such certificate did not exist

and that the document presented by Ms. Thompson-Flores was actually a “Certificate in Management”, which is not the same as MBA. The investigators continued their probe in the replacement of one type of document with another and its submission with the job application.

Besides questions regarding the suspicious diploma, the Executive Board of UNESCO suspected downright criminal actions, such as “destroyed, altered, removed or inserted documentation” into or from the official recruitment files for theDirector HRM and ADG/BSP posts to which the favored Thompson-Flores was appointed.

The audit rejected these allegations and found no irregularities in the hard copy files. But the report states that Ms. Thompson-Flores submitted her motivation letter supporting her candidature for ADG/BSP by e-mail 16 days after the deadline to submit the job application. This means that her application file was incomplete, but the application was accepted after the deadline as some kind of compromise.

The audit then found that Ms. Thompson-Flores did not meet two of the 16 required qualifications for the ADG/BSP post, namely: “a demonstrated experience in developing and managing the preparation of the programme and budget of a large international organization, including budgeting techniques and results-based budgeting approaches”. Thompson-Flores also lacked “demonstrated ability in the field of resource building and mobilization”. The auditing body emphasized that the Director-General can only appoint staff members who fully meet the essential requirements set forth in the Vacancy Notice. But Irina Bokova has done exactly the contrary.

The rumors are true

There were rumors of information disseminated inappropriately prior to the completion of the recruitment process for this important post, states the report. The auditors questioned the delegations of the member states of UNESCO about those rumors. Some representatives pointed out that the rumors reflected the actual state of affairs and provided examples; however, they did not reveal their sources of information.

“Unauthorized disclosure of information regarding recruitment process is unacceptable”, is the the confidential report’s outright conclusion.

Indeed, all other transgressions described in that report also seem unacceptable. They are not that different from the methods employed in our neck of woods – appointing “our man”, never mind they are a sham. These are the typical methods of the communist nomenklatura, currently the trademark of the “comradely” elites in power in Bulgaria and Russia.



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