NEW YORK — U.N. procurement chief Andrew Toh has been placed on leave pending the completion of an internal probe into suspected fraud in U.N. purchasing, officials said yesterday.
Mr. Toh said he has done nothing wrong.
Mr. Toh, the assistant secretary-general for central support services and a Singapore national, was the highest ranking of eight individuals suspended with pay earlier this week as part of an investigation by the U.N. Office of Internal Oversight Services, the officials said.
The suspensions raise the question whether the United Nations is on the brink of another scandal after extensive probes into the defunct U.N. oil-for-food program in Iraq.
U.N. procurement division chief Christian Saunders, who works for Mr. Toh, has also been put on leave with pay, the officials said.
The names of the others suspended have not been announced pending completion of a final report.
Mr. Toh, a 25-year U.N. veteran, said he was mystified why he had been suspended when the investigation was looking into procurement by the U.N. peacekeeping department, “which I am not responsible for.”
“I think at the end of the day, they will have a lot to apologize for,” he said.
He said he has seen the report, which mentioned his name once in connection with a comment in 2001 that the government of Peru was interested in providing the United Nations with military equipment.
The internal probe grew out of an investigation into contracts in the U.N. peacekeeping department, which fields about 85,000 troops, police and civilians in missions around the world. Names of companies involved in wrongdoing are expected to emerge when the inquiry is officially made public.
Four of the suspended managers are in the U.N. Procurement Service and four were recalled from peacekeeping missions, the United Nations has previously announced. Placing the staff members on leave was an administrative rather than a disciplinary measure.
The internal inquiry began after a purchasing officer, Alexander Yakovlev, pleaded guilty in U.S. federal court in August to wire fraud and money laundering.
A U.N.-appointed commission investigating the defunct oil-for-food program had accused Yakovlev of pocketing more than $950,000 in illegal payments from companies seeking U.N. contracts. The commission was headed by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul A. Volcker.
In October, the United Nations said it was suspending British caterer Compass Group PLC as a registered vendor, pending the outcome of an investigation into purported contract-bidding irregularities.
Compass’ subsidiary Eurest Support Services has contracts worth $350 million to provide food rations for about 30,000 peacekeeping troops in seven different U.N. missions.
Mr. Toh was suspended from his procurement duties in August as the internal investigation got under way. This week marked his suspension from all his U.N. responsibilities, including the management of computer systems, security and facilities, officials said.