Ban or­ders au­dit of U.N. in N. Korea

The Washington Times Weekly - - World - By Betsy Pisik

NEW YORK — U.N. Sec­re­tary­Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon on Jan. 22 or­dere­dathor­oughau­ditoftheU.N.De­vel­op­ment Pro­gram’s op­er­a­tion in North Korea, the first in a sweep­ing as­sess­mento­fallU.N.agen­cies,funds and pro­grams.

The au­dit will specif­i­cally look at hard-cur­rency trans­ac­tions, the in­de­pen­dence­oflo­cal­ly­hired­staff,and the agency’s abil­ity to mon­i­tor on­go­ing projects. UNDP, which spends about $3.6 mil­lion an­nu­ally on a dozen projects inside the re­pres­sive coun­try, wel­comed the au­dit and promised to co­op­er­ate.

Mr. Ban said he wants the UNDP au­dit­com­plet­ed­with­inthree­months, the first phase in an am­bi­tious ac­count­ing that could take years and mil­lions of dol­lars to com­plete. U.N. of­fi­cials could not say how much the ef­fort would even­tu­ally cost.

The United States — which funds 11 per­cent of UNDP’s an­nual bud­get but does not con­trib­ute to the North Korea pro­gram — has raised se­ri­ous con­cerns that hard cur­rency from UNDP may be find­ing its way into the gov­ern­ment’s nu­clear weapons pro­gram.

An edi­to­rial in Jan. 19 edi­tions of the Wall Street Jour­nal sug­gested that hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars had been di­verted by the gov­ern­ment from UNDP pro­grams, and said the agency was un­der­mined by per­mit­ting the Py­ongyang gov­ern­ment­to­choose­lo­calper­son­nelforits pro­grams.

David Mor­ri­son, UNDP di­rec­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions, told a small group of re­porters on Jan. 22 that the pro­gram has four in­ter­na­tional staffers in North Korea. Those staffers have been able to visit 10 out of 11 projects in the coun­try and have few con­cerns over ac­cess and mon­i­tor­ing is­sues, he said.

He re­jected com­par­isons to the Iraq oil-for-food pro­gram, which Sad­dam Hus­sein was able to ma­nip­u­late to siphon hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars into private pock­ets.

“Work­ing in [North] Korea is a tough job,” he said. “We al­ways have to be wary of the pos­si­bil­ity of any kind­ofmis­rep­re­sen­ta­tiono­fac­tiv­i­ties in any coun­try in the world.”

Mr. Mor­ri­son noted that UNDP long ago switched to us­ing euros ratherthandol­larsas­the­con­vert­ible cur­rency in North Korea, in part be­cause of U.S. con­cerns about coun­ter­feit­ing and partly be­cause Py­ongyang prefers it for po­lit­i­cal rea­sons.

U.N. of­fi­cials rou­tinely re­fused to pub­licly crit­i­cize the gov­ern­ments of coun­tries where they are run­ning de­vel­op­ment or hu­man­i­tar­ian work, say­ing that would will only make life more dif­fi­cult for in­ter­na­tional staff on the ground, and pos­si­bly draw new re­stric­tions on their ef­forts.

Many of th­ese is­sues have been iden­ti­fied in UNDP’s three in­ter­nal au­dits of the North Korea pro­gram, in 1999, 2001 and 2004; a fourth will be un­der way shortly.

Those au­dits are not made pub­lic or even shared with the 36 na­tions that serve on UNDP’s Ex­ec­u­tive Board, which met to dis­cuss the North Korea pro­gram on Jan. 25. In­stead, the re­ports are re­viewed by an ex­ter­nal au­di­tor, then dis­tilled fur­ther and pre­sented to the ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee.

Agence France Presse / Getty Images

Spread­ing his wings: Fal­coner Ivo van La­nen holds his ea­gle “Igor” on Jan. 24 on the fair grounds in Essen, west­ern Ger­many, to pro­mote the fair “Jagd und Hund” (Hunt and Dog). More than 570 ex­hibitors from 29 coun­tries will present their range of goods and ser­vices re­lated to hunt­ing and fish­ing dur­ing the fair, which runs from Jan. 30 to Feb. 4.

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