Crisis-hit German UNICEF aims to regain confidence

7th February 2008, Comments 0 comments

The organization had been hit by a long-running scandal.


Berlin -- The German committee of the UN children's organization UNICEF, which has been hit by a long-running scandal over its use of donated funds, said it aimed to regain the confidence of the public.

"Without a doubt, the German committee of UNICEF finds itself in crisis," the new chairman, Reinhard Schlagintweit, said in Berlin, following reports that some 5,000 members had halted their contributions.

Schlagintweit's predecessor, the prominent politician Heide Simonis, resigned at the beginning of the year after allegations that external consultants had been paid disproportionate sums for their services.

Schlagintweit pledged greater transparency in securing donations and distributing funds.

But he emphatically denied allegations of fraud or misappropriation.

Sabine Christiansen, a prominent German television personality and UNICEF ambassador, said mistakes made by the organization had set its work back "by decades."

"Donations were not abused, but mistakes were made in crisis management," Christiansen said.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has made it known that she is following developments at the organization "very closely."

According to German press reports, UNICEF has lost some 5,000 of its 200,000 German members, who secure donations. Donations to the organization, which totalled 97.3 million euros ($142 million) in 2006, are reported to be in decline.

Last December, usually the best month for donations, saw a fall of 3.5 million euros below expectations.

An auditor's report presented last month revealed no illegal practices but highlighted the payment of large fees to consultants without previous written agreement.

One involved the payment of around 800 euros daily to a previous employee who earned a total of 300,000 euros. Another person who solicited donations on behalf of UNICEF earned fees totalling 191,000 euros.

UNICEF's German manager, Dietrich Garlichs, has come under pressure to resign.

DPA with Expatica

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