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Audit official slams Annan forum’s failings

A top Swiss audit official has criticised the Global Humanitarian Forum, which closed its doors after only three years due to lack of funds, for “serious failings”.

Armin Vuillemin, deputy director of the Federal Audit Office, also criticized the foreign ministry, which covered much of the SFr2 million ($2.2 million) debts of the Geneva-based think tank, headed by ex-United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

He told DRS national radio that from a legal perspective the basis for paying over half the debts of the insolvent forum was “unsatisfactory”.

The Swiss foreign ministry paid SFr1.75 million to cover part of the debts of the forum. Switzerland also agreed to pay the outstanding salaries and social security benefits of the staff. These funds reportedly came from the foreign ministry’s normal humanitarian budget.

Vuillemin criticised the fact that the forum paid out large sums of money which it didn’t have: “If you organise big events whose financing is not secured then insolvency is foreseeable.”

The cabinet declined to request funds back from the forum, which had been considered, he added.

The forum began operations in 2007, and Switzerland committed SFr1 million annually to support its activities.

However, it was unable to drum up enough funding from other donors and folded in 2010.

Its most concrete project was to install weather data collectors on mobile phone towers in Africa to provide better climate data to impoverished communities.

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