An­nan or­ders probe of U.N. of­fice; fraud, crony­ism among claims eyed

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Betsy Pisik

NEW YORK — U.N. Sec­re­tary­Gen­eral Kofi An­nan, re­act­ing to an ar­ti­cle in The Wash­ing­ton Times, asked U.N. in­ves­ti­ga­tors on Dec. 13 to look into claims of fraud, fa­voritism and in­tim­i­da­tion inside the U.N. De­part­ment of Eco­nomic and So­cial Af­fairs.

The DESA di­vi­sion, re­spon­si­ble for pro­mot­ing ac­count­abil­ity and good gov­er­nance in mem­ber states, ha­sused­con­tri­bu­tions­fromtheI­tal­ian gov­ern­ment to fund du­plica­tive pro­grams and un­nec­es­sary con­sul­tants, many of which ben­e­fit Italy or its na­tion­als, The Times re­ported.

The story also said the de­part­ment had made un­usual use of con­trac­tors and taken rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion off its Web site af­ter re­porters­be­ganask­ingques­tions.It saidDESAstaffer­shave­com­plained about in­tim­i­da­tion.

“The sec­re­tary-gen­eral’s of­fice has asked [the Of­fice of In­ter­nal Over­sight Ser­vices] to look into al­le­ga­tions raised this morn­ing in the press,” said Stephane Du­jar­ric, spokesman for Mr. An­nan. He re­fused to spec­ify which ar­eas Mr. An­nan is con­cerned about.

OnDec.11,theU.S.Mis­sion­tothe United Na­tions trans­mit­ted a let­ter to the U.N.’s chief in­ter­nal in­spec­tor, Inga-Brit­tAh­le­nius,ask­ingOIOSto look into con­tract­ing im­pro­pri­eties and re­ports that staff had been in­tim­i­dated in an ef­fort to halt leaks.

U.S.of­fi­cial­sal­so­havere­ceived­in­for­ma­tion that of­fi­cials within DESA’s in-house hu­man re­sources de­part­ment have been de­stroy­ing doc­u­ments re­lated to con­tracts is­sued by the de­part­ment in re­cent years.

“We have be­come aware of al­leged im­pro­pri­eties re­lat­ing to the award­of­con­sult­ing­con­tracts­bythe Di­vi­sion for Pub­lic Ad­min­is­tra­tion and De­vel­op­ment Man­age­ment,” wrote U.S. diplo­mat Mark Wal­lace, whose let­ter was copied to Deputy Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Mark Mal­loch Brown. DPADM is a sub­di­vi­sion within DESA.

“We­haveal­sore­ceive­dreport­sal­leg­ing that the DPADM has threat­ened to re­tal­i­ate against staff mem­bers who have brought this mat­ter to light,” said the let­ter, which urged OIOS to con­duct a “com­pre­hen­sive re­view.”

“We con­sider this an im­por­tant and ur­gent mat­ter,” the let­ter said.

A spokesman said Ms. Ah­le­nius was trav­el­ing but ex­pected back in New York this week.

The Ital­ian gov­ern­ment, which has vol­un­tar­ily con­trib­uted some $80 mil­lion to DESA over the last four years, has not re­quested an au­dit of its funds. The Ital­ian Mis­sion to the United Na­tions did not re­spond to calls for com­ments on Dec. 13.

Sources within the United Na­tion­shavedescribedanat­mo­sphere of un­cer­tainty and in­tim­i­da­tion inside DPADM, which has been re­spon­si­ble for cre­at­ing sev­eral in­ter­na­tional pro­grams and cen­ters of du­bi­ous value.

“I have no com­ment be­yond what the spokesman said this morn­ing,” said Marie Oveissi, the of­fi­cer in charge of DESA’s Tech­ni­cal Co­op­er­a­tion Man­age­ment Ser­vices sec­tion.

DPADMDirec­torGuidoBer­tucci did not re­spond to calls on Dec. 13.

News of the DPADM use of Ital­ian money prompted anger on Capi­tol Hill.

Re­tir­ing Rep. Henry J. Hyde of Illi­nois, who as chair­man of the HouseIn­ter­na­tion­alRe­la­tion­sCom­mit­tee held nu­mer­ous hear­ings on the oil-for-food scan­dal and other U.N.is­sues,de­manded“trans­par­ent in­ves­ti­ga­tions that hold vi­o­la­tors of the pub­lic trust re­spon­si­ble for their mis­con­duct.”

“Ia­maware­ofnewre­port­sof­cor­rup­tion and crony­ism within the Unit­edNa­tions’Depart­mentofE­co­nomic and So­cial Af­fairs,” he said. “The U.N. has a his­tory of build­ing scan­dals on top of its scan­dals. Mis­man­age­ment thrives un­der poor over­sight, which is then of­ten lost un­der at­tempted cover-ups.”

OIOS has al­ready con­ducted an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into a DESA cen­ter in Thes­sa­loniki, Greece, af­ter the Greek gov­ern­ment de­manded to know how its $5 mil­lion con­tri­bu­tion was be­ing spent. Athens has since shut the cen­ter down, say­ing that its ef­fec­tive­ness was un­der­cut by a du­plica­tive ef­fort based in Naples.

That re­port will not be re­leased un­til at least Jan­uary, OIOS of­fi­cials said re­cently, be­cause DESA of­fi­cials have not yet re­sponded to an early draft. Some have sug­gested that the de­part­ment is de­lib­er­ately de­lay­ing the re­port’s re­lease, at least un­til Mr. An­nan is suc­ceeded by Ban Ki-moon.

“I will leave the in­ter­pre­ta­tion to you, but clearly in any [. . . ] in­ves­tiga­tive process, peo­ple have a right to re­but,” Mr. Du­jar­ric said. “That needs to be done within a cer­tain amount of time.

“The de­part­ment in ques­tion has a right to an­swer the is­sues raised. We very much hope it will be com­pleted very soon.”

The spokesman added: “We of course ex­pect that no doc­u­ments in any de­part­ment will be de­stroyed. There are rules and reg­u­la­tions re­gard­ing the de­struc­tion of doc­u­ments which are pub­lic.”

Mr. Du­jar­ric also said that staff mem­bers who feel in­tim­i­dated can avail them­selves of the U.N. whis­tle-blower pro­tec­tions, which in­clude the right to file com­plaints anony­mously.

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