Corruption among UN senior staff, says inquiry
London Times | September 7 2005
By James Bone
THE Volcker inquiry into the Oil-for-Food scandal called for a significant overhaul of the UN yesterday as it prepared to reveal details of “serious instances of illicit, unethical and corrupt behaviour” at the world body.
The three-member committee, led by Paul Volcker, the former chairman of the US Federal Reserve, released the preface to a 1,000-page report that is to be presented today to the UN Security Council.
“The main conclusions are unambiguous,” the panel declared. “The organisation requires stronger executive leadership, thoroughgoing administrative reform and more reliable controls and auditing.”
The five-page preface contained no details of the investigation into Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary-General, and his predecessor, Boutros Boutros Ghali, or other UN officials. But its conclusion that stronger executive leadership is required will add to pressure on Mr Annan to stand down.
“The reality is that the Secretary-General has come to be viewed as chief diplomatic and political agent of the UN,” the panel said. “The present Secretary-General is widely respected for precisely those qualities. In these turbulent times, those responsibilities tend to be all-consuming. The record amply reflects consequent administrative failings.”
Mr Annan, who was in London yesterday for a meeting of the Global Fund on HIV/Aids, planned to fly to New York last night and has asked to address the Security Council after Mr Volcker presents his report today.
The preface confirmed that there were “instances of corruption among senior staff as well as in the field”.
The panel noted that the Oil-for-Food programme, set up in 1996 to allow Iraq to sell oil and buy humanitarian supplies while under UN sanctions, did succeed in staving off a potential crisis. But it said that the programme’s “real accomplishments” were marred by “wholesale corruption” by private companies, manipulated by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
It criticised UN member states that it said had “aided and abetted grievous weaknesses in administrative practices within the (UN) secretariat.”
The “politicisation of decision-making”, “managerial weakness” and “ethical lapses” were all symptomatic of systemic problems at the UN, it said.
“When troublesome conflicts arose between political objectives and administrative effectiveness, decisions were delayed, bungled, or simply shunned.”
The Volcker committee, which spent more than $30 million (£16 million) of Iraq’s oil money on its investigation, proposed that the UN appoint a chief operating officer, nominated by the 15-nation Security Council and approved by the 191-state General Assembly.