Maybe the UN should just make it official, set up a Conflicts-of-Interest-R-Us program, and staff it with all the sons, daughters, wives, husbands, uncles, aunts, cousins and landlords of high-level officials at Turtle Bay.
In what certainly qualifies as a step forward from the days of Kofi Annan, the new secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, on Friday became — as far as I know — the first UN official to actually disclose to the public his filled-in UN financial “disclosure” form. You can read it here. But Ban’s office then took half a step back. Ban notes on his form that he has a daughter and son-in-law, Ban Hyun Hee and Siddarth Chatterjee, working for UNICEF in Nairobi. When the online editor of The New York Sun, Daniel Freedman, phoned Ban’s office for details such as what Ban’s kin are doing for UNICEF, he was told the UN “can’t give out details.”
As Freedman points out, that is more than a little disquieting, especially after the Kojo experience, involving Oil-for-Food business and a Mercedes Benz — never yet fully explained.
As top officer at the UN, Ban is entrusted with setting the standards for a $20 billion global system that has proven so prolifically corrupt it gets hard to keep track of the scandals. One of the best antidotes is daylight. Ban was already required to file a financial disclosure form in his previous incarnation as a public official in South Korea. It’s good he has been willing to have the basic information translated into English and reviewed by Price Waterhouse. But that shouldn’t translate into a license to brush off good questions, especially with the bland and brief format of the UN’s financial questionnaires. UNICEF, where his daughter and son-in-law work, was one of the UN agencies that double-dipped under Oil-for-Food, and is now among the agencies in trouble over the Cash for Kim scandal in North Korea. It’s going to be hard enough cleaning that up, without throwing family ties into the mix. What Ban should be doing now is not brushing off The New York Sun, but answering the questions and calling for the rest of his senior staff to disclose and do the same.