Report slams 'high flying' UN environment chief

The report is particularly critical of the travel undertaken by Mr Solheim, UN Environment executive director since 2016 and former Norwegian environment minister.

According to OIOS Mr Solheim's leave and travel were approved by a member of his office who reported directly to him, in contravention of UN rules.

The report says that Mr Solheim travelled extensively across the continents, making several trips and stops in Paris as well as Norway. On one occasion, "he made an eight-hour trip from Washington DC for a weekend in Paris, before taking another flight to New York city."

The draft audit says the senior management at UN Environment "fostered an organisational culture that defied established internal control systems".

After one request by a UN official for more information about a trip to his home country, the report says that Mr Solheim responded: "We cannot accept this question on holiday vs job. Please tell UN Nairobi it is totally irrelevant..we are not any longer living in the industrial age and they must stop treating me as if I am a 07 to 16 factory worker...the other side of this coin is that they must stop asking this stupid question".

The pattern of travel among senior management, said the auditors, was contrary to the ethos of carbon emission reduction. The report highlighted the former UN Secretary General's statement that "what we demand of others, we must do ourselves."

Environmentalists in Norway said the audit the report was "ironic and sad".

"I strongly believe even UN bodies, as well as everyone else, should be aware of their environmental impact and have policies and routines to reduce them," said Truls Gulowsen, from Greenpeace.

"Solheim has been a very visible UN Environment leader, which is good and clearly warrants travel, but this volume and attitude towards environmental footprints does not set a positive example."

In a statement, Mr Solheim said he wasn't able to comment in detail on the audit as it was a confidential process, but that he had paid back any money owed.

"The Office of Internal Oversight Services earlier this year investigated all my travels in great detail and found three instances of oversight out of all of them. The money was refunded immediately. If any other mistakes are found, we will immediately correct them.

"Where questions have been raised about the authorisation of my travel it should be noted that we have immediately put new procedures in place whereby my travel is approved by the office of the Secretary General."

"Let me underscore that we will work diligently and without question to implement the auditor's recommendations in the final report, and that we welcome any audit process and external oversight that helps improve operational efficiency."