The Rosett Report

Why Kofi Annan Needs to Open His Books

There are loads of reasons why Kofi Annan should file a financial disclosure form, not least to set a good example for UN staff, and a precedent for the next Secretary-General.

But among the Annan-specific reasons, too many to detail here in full, let’s focus for the moment on the highly peculiar judgment Annan displayed this past February in accepting, along with the honors of Dubai’s Zayed environmental prize, a $500,000 purse . Annan finally announced he would relinquish the half-million bucks, but only after it came to light, more than two months later, that since receiving the prize he had appointed as head of the UN Environment Program a member of the prize jury — which also included two senior UN officials who already owed their jobs to Annan.

Annan never acknowledged that it is a conflict of interest for a sitting UN Secretary-General to personally accept big cash prizes, especially from high officials of UN member states. Nor does it appear that Annan has peopled his inner circle with folks inclined to keep him in check. His deputy, Mark Malloch Brown, advised him to take the prize money. With judgment like that in the UN executive suite, there’s a rich case to be made that Annan should disclose his finances — and not only to the UN “Ethics Office,” but to the public.