Friday, April 22, 2005

Claudia Rosett: Meet the New Boss, Same As The Old Boss

The great Claudia Rosett tells us that the current plans to reform the UN take place just three years after the last great plan to reform the UN, and notes that since that time:
...we have seen the sex-for-food scandal in the Congo, featuring the rape of minors by U.N. peacekeepers, which continued well after press disclosures last year prompted a U.N. internal investigation. We have seen theft at the World Meteorological Association, scandal in the U.N. audit department, the resignation over sexual harassment charges of the refugee high commissioner Ruud Lubbers, turmoil within the Electoral Assistance Division, and allegations of corruption involving the U.N.'s Geneva-based World Intellectual Property Organization. We have seen rebellion by the U.N. Staff Union against "senior management, and a raft of resignations by senior U.N. officials who nonetheless linger on the premises on official salaries of a dollar a year, plus the various perquisites and connections the place affords.

Biggest of all, we have seen the former Oil for Food relief program for Iraq blow like Krakatoa. The program's executive director, Benon Sevan, has been accused by the U.N.-authorized inquiry, led by Paul Volcker, of engaging in a severe conflict of interest. Among other items, Mr. Sevan was found to have been receiving large mysterious payments from his pensioner aunt in Cyprus. The U.N. Secretariat sent out secret hush letters to major U.N. Oil for Food contractors, Saybolt and Cotecna, hired by the U.N. to inspect Saddam's oil and food deals. Congressional investigators and Mr. Volcker's team have since discovered that not only was there far too little inspecting required by the U.N., but that the awarding of U.N. contracts to both parties was done in violation of the U.N.'s own procedures.

We have learned step by step--via details unearthed by the press, not conflict-of-interest disclosures by the U.N.-- that the secretary-general's own son, Kojo Annan, received payments during the course of the program from one of the Oil for Food contractors on the receiving end of last year's U.N. hush letters, Switzerland-based Cotecna Inspections SA. Last month the Volcker inquiry, in an interim report, said these payments routed through various conduits might have totaled more than $480,000.

We have seen signs that Saddam, via Oil for Food, corrupted officials and businessmen worldwide--though apart from legal investigations in the U.S., this aspect of the scandal in countries such as Security Council member states Russia, France and China, not to mention such crossroads of Saddam's commerce as Switzerland and Syria, has barely been scratched.

Now we have the charges by U.S. prosecutors that Koreagate's Tongsun Park shuttled millions in bribe money from Saddam Hussein to two high-ranking U.N. officials, referred to in the complaint as "U.N. Official #1" and "U.N. Official #2." Outside the U.N., the hunt is on to discover the identities of this duo.

Devastating...unfortunately, it appears that, for now, we will get fooled again.

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