In a switch — sort of — Kofi Annan has finally agreed to fill out one of the financial disclosure forms now required of UN senior staff. But before anyone gets too excited about finally learning, as Roger Simon neatly put it, “How Rich is Kofi?” — or how, when, or if the Secretary-General might have parted ways with the Mystery Mercedes bought by his son in his name — remember that the UN is home to some of the world’s biggest veracity gaps.
1) At the UN, “disclosure” does not necessarily mean the public gets told anything at all. Whatever financial information Kofi might produce will be “disclosed” only in-house, inside the same UN that managed to cover up for years such matters as billions in graft under Oil-for-Food, hundreds of millions worth of allegedly bribe-tainted and/or questionably-allotted procurement contracts, and a variety of odd doings still not well-explained inside its own audit department.
2) The UN office receiving Kofi Annan’s “disclosure” form will be the same toothless “Ethics Office” that Kofi himself engendered inside his own Secretariat, meaning the folks vetting Kofi’s disclosure form report to the Under-Secretary-General for Management, who reports to Kofi. A beautiful setup, in its way — at least for Kofi Annan.
3) Kofi has not said when he will file a form. He retires in less then four months, he has already stonewalled almost that long, and he disclosed his decision to “disclose” by way of a Friday night message about three levels removed from a direct and transparent “Yes — here it is for the world to see.” Instead, we got the news from a story in The New York Times , which had an interview Friday night with Kofi’s deputy, Mark Malloch Brown, who said he had received a phone call from Kofi (then in Cuba, glad-handing the Castro brothers and other stars of the Non-Aligned Movement), who had decided to file after his refusal to do so, according to the Times, “emerged Wednesday in a press conference” — a phrase that implies the issue had only just come up, and Kofi had responded at speed. Actually, a number of reporters, myself included, have been asking Kofi Annan’s office about this matter for months, and getting no meaningful reply. Here’s an excerpt from an article I wrote for NRO July 11:
Since June 19, I have been asking Annan’s spokesman’s office whether the secretary-general has complied, at least internally, with his own promise of transparency. Has he filed a disclosure form? And if so, who is in charge of reviewing it, or addressing any irregularities? First I was told, “Someone will get back to you.” Then, “I am awaiting answers to give you.” Three weeks passed, and this Monday I was told, “I just haven’t gotten a response.”
Much more along these lines can be found at Inner-City Press.
It’s one of the special arts of the UN, that even “disclosure” can become a way of covering up. So, let’s try it again: Why won’t Kofi Annan disclose to the public his financial disclosure form?