22 March 2007With a global appeal for $1.06 billion for 2007, the United Nations needs all the funding it can get, and it is making its own small contribution through a garage sale – literally. Over the past year the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) agency made $3.7 million from the sale of second-hand vehicles – and old computers and other assets – with a quarter being ploughed back into its operations overseas and the rest going to the central budget. “We are very pleased with the returns, which are way beyond most expectations,” UNHCR Supply Officer Rita Richter said, adding that the agency will continue and expand such sales this year. UNHCR decided on a change of course after internal and external audit reports criticized its asset data and management, finding that many of its 12,000 vehicles were given to implementing partners or local institutions once they had reached the end of their serviceable lives, while others were just left idle. A considerable number were looted or stolen in the course of operations, many of which take place in high-risk environments. The sell-off started in December 2005 and the purchasers of around 300 UNHCR vehicles were mainly private users and scrap metal merchants. After a successful first three months, other used assets started to go under the hammer, including computers, furniture and telecommunications equipment. The agency also made considerable gains in secondary savings by reducing expenses on warehouses, parking lots, spare parts and vehicle maintenance. These savings are still being calculated. Today, UNHCR is helping some 20.8 million people in 116 countries. The total value of its 107,000 registered assets is $92 million.