Impunity (not peace and prosperity) is what the UN is by now all about, and in the case of whistleblower Tony Shkurtaj, fired this spring by the UN Development Program, there appears to be no way to call anyone at the UN to account (see three previous posts).
But at the U.S. Mission, U.S. Ambassador for UN Management and Reform, Mark Wallace, is still trying to do exactly that. He has now written a must-read letter to the head of the UN Ethics Office that brilliantly summarizes a great deal of what’s wrong not only with the UNDP, but the UN itself. The letter surfaced this morning on Inner-City Press; you can pull it up here, and Fox News now has a story summarizing the case.
“The epitome of institutional impunity,” referring to UNDP’s rejection of the UN Ethics Office, is just one of the spot-on phrases in Wallace’s letter. Here are a few more:
“Counter to good governance”…”contrary to UN rules”… “failure of the UNDP to further cooperate”… “untenable”…”your findings appear to directly implicate the very same UNDP leadership that now refuses to cooperate in your independent investigation”… “no amount of self-created forum-shopping can relieve the UN of its ethical obligations”…”no staff member at UNDP (or any other UN Fund, Program or Specialized Agency) will feel free to come forward with whistle-blowing information when they have no protection from retaliation” … “irresponsible amd unaccountable behavior”…”You did however omit some rather obvous facts”…”We have seen the UNDP act with impunity before when its leaders have rejected making financial disclosure, refused to release internal audits and rejected the adverse findings of the UN Board of Auditors.”
Wallace urges the head of the UN Ethics Office, Robert Benson to investigate further, even without the UNDP’s cooperation. That’s a great idea. Wallace also urges Benson to convey strong concerns about the UNDP’s actions to the Secretary-General, and ask him to insist that the UNDP cooperate. That’s also a great idea, but one starts to wonder what Ban himself, former foreign minister of South Korea, might have to hide in this scandal swirling around UN operations in North Korea.
The head of the UNDP, Kemal Dervis, has given only two press conferences at UN headquarters in NY since taking charge of the UNDP two years ago, and there has been no announcement to date that he is willing to face the press over any of this. Instead, in bureaucratese you could use to grease your car axles, the UNDP has a statement posted that says, in effect, “trust us.”
As for Tony Shkurtaj, the fired whistleblower — now hung out to dry by Ban Ki-moon, meaning Shkurtaj has been left to the tender mercies of the same UNDP managers on whom he blew the whistle — I reached him by phone this morning. Speaking of the UNDP, and the $5 billion we trust this swollen UN agency to hand out around the world every year, he asked: “Didn’t we learn anything from Oil-for-Food?”