Exclusive: India Re-elected as WHO External Auditor; Cost is $1 Million More Than Previous Term
India describes its candidacy for the post of WHO external auditor – WHA approved despite the steep price hike attached.

The World Health Assembly has re-elected India to serve as WHO’s external auditor for the next four years – but there was a steep price tag attached to this year’s appointment.

WHO will pay nearly $1 million for India’s services over the coming three-year term of 2024-2027  – amounting to US$ 2.268 million, according to India’s bid, disclosed in an annex of audit “fees” that accompanied the appointment documents. 

That is as compared to $1.35 million ($450,000 annually) that India received for performing the same audit service between 2020-2023 – for a difference of $918,000, according to the same report by the WHO Director General.

Three competing offers were all much cheaper

India’s bid was also by far the most expensive for the audit service. In an era when member states have talked constantly about the need for WHO to streamline and economize, competing offers for audit services by Egypt ($1.708 million; Kenya (1.862 million) and Tanzania, ($1.8million), would have saved the Organization $500,000 or even more – had any of them been accepted.

But in a secret ballot by WHA member states, India prevailed over all of the other candidates – garnering  114 votes against 42 for Tanzania – amongst the 156 member states that voted. 

India’s offer was by far the most expensive among the candidates

European Union and United States calls for more scrutiny

Following India’s reelection, Sweden on behalf of the European Union (EU) called on the external auditor to be more proactive in its role – monitoring efforts to make WHO more efficient, transparent and accountable in its use of the public funds provided by member states.

“We call on the newly elected external auditor to actively monitor these activities and work with the Secretariat and the Independent Oversight and Advisory Committee for the WHO Health Emergencies Programme [IOAC] in order to develop the necessary corporate practices in these areas and ensure implementation,” the EU noted.

Recent IOAC reports have highlighted the importance of the external auditing role, describing it as relevant to ensure in-depth knowledge and understanding of the work of the WHO. The report’s findings should be taken into account in the finalization of the formal arrangements that will follow the election, Sweden added. 

In its remarks, the United States called for further elaboration of WHO appointment procedures. It noted that the UN inspection unit has long recommended that a subsidiary committee of an organization’s governing body should screen external auditor candidates against established criteria and requirements as a requisite stage in the appointment process. 

“We understand this is also a best practice used across UN system organizations now,” the United States told WHA’s Committee B, which deals with WHO administrative matters..

It suggested the WHO Executive Board’s Programme, Budget and Administration Committee (PBAC) as an appropriate subsidiary body to screen and help guide the health assembly on making efficient and formed external auditor appointments in the future.

“We would also recommend in this regard that the Secretariat propose amendments to its relevant financial regulations and external auditor Terms of Reference as necessary to clarify and formalize such a role for the PBAC in future external auditor appointments,” the US added.

Stefan Anderson contributed to the reporting on this story.

Image Credits: WHO.

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