The Rosett Report

Whistleblowers and the UN Duplicity Program

We return now to our regularly scheduled UN cover-up, involving the UN Development Program, its top managers Kemal Dervis and Ad Melkert — and their North Korean Cash-for-Kim scandal, their firing of Cash-for-Kim whistleblower Artjon Shkurtaj, their refusal to accept the findings of the UN’s own Ethics Office that Shkurtaj was unjustly fired in retaliation for his whistleblowing, and now… their proposal that the UNDP engage in its own investigation and review of itself.

(Note, this is the flagship UN agency that spends billions every year of public money spreading its ideas of good governance throughout the developing world).

A few members of Congress are still committed to the Herculean labor of cleaning up the UNDP, despite considerable evidence that Dervis, Melkert, and Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon himself could hardly care less about ethics, justice, accountability, and all those good things — as long as they can continue rolling in U.S. tax money. Thursday evening, Senator Coleman tried to address that issue with an amendment (unanimously passed) to a Senate appropriations bill. It would stop the disbursement of U.S. funding to the UNDP until the UNDP adopts a whistleblower protection policy.

And from the House, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen fired off a letter Thursday to Ban about the UNDP’s duplicities, noting that “allowing an entity to define and instigate the sole inquiry into its own alleged wrong-doing is absurd and contrary to all international best practices.” The letter gives a terrific recap of the banana-republic behavior of the UN and UNDP, and the accompanying press release — which goes on to include the text of the letter — provides a handy summary of such UNDP activities as hiding counterfeit U.S. currency for years in its Pyongyang office safe, and reportedly serving as a conduit for deals funneling millions worth of cash and equipment to a North Korean outfit linked to Kim Jong Il’s missile and weapons programs.

Ros-Lehtinen has been corresponding with Ban’s office about whistleblower protection for a while now — with embarrassing results for Ban. In a letter dated July 5, while the UN Ethics Office was still looking into the case of the fired UNDP whistleblower, Shkurtaj, Ros-Lehtinen wrote to Ban asking that he use his authority “to ensure that the whistleblower at issue is not wronged.” On July 16, Ban’s chief of staff, Vijay Nambiar, wrote back, saying that the UN Ethics office was working on the case, and “must be free to conduct its work free from any interference from the Secretary-General’s office.”

In other words, back in mid-July, Ban evidently had no problem accepting that the Ethics Office had the authority to decide the case. It was only after the Ethics office ruled in August in favor of Shkurtaj, and the UNDP rejected the decision (and the jurisdiction), that Ban declined to support the finding of his own UN Ethics authorities, and instead agreed limply to the UN’s newfound policy of ethical apartheid — in which some UN staffers are entitled to whistleblower protection, and others aren’t.

At this point, the UN Staff Union has backed the principle of justice for all, and asked for justice for whistleblower Shkurtaj in particular; so has the United Nations International Civil Servants Federation. And this week a letter surfaced from another former UNDP employee, saying he was fired in exchange for whistleblowing, and asking the UN Ethics Office for help.

Which brings us to the UNDP executive board, which by now appears to have defined itself as the entity solely and exclusively in charge of a UNDP that refuses to account to the Secretary-General, to Congress, to the taxpaying public, or to anyone else on the planet. This UNDP executive board is about to meet and start deciding what to do about the expanding muck patch over which it presides — or, as Ros-Lehtinen put it in her latest letter to Ban, these “recent developments” which “have unfortunately broadened what was originally a North Korea program-specific issue into a larger issue of UNDP management and accountability.”

The man who currently chairs the UNDP executive board is Denmark’s ambassador to the UN, Carsten Staur. This is his to-be-or-not-to-be moment. We now wait to see whether this eminent representative of the good people of Denmark, and their democracy, will cast his lot with the likes of Dervis, Melkert, and such UNDP board members as China, Belarus and North Korea. Or will he use his platform to remind them all, and reassure the rest of us, that — despite all the manhandling of whistleblowers — there is still someone at the UN willing to fight for such principles as integrity, justice, and plain old decency? What’s to lose? — one more job?

Maybe, before deliberating, the members of the UNDP executive board should avail themselves of the UN’s lavish audio-visual facilities to enjoy a bit of entertainment. There’s a movie from the 1970s that would be just the ticket. It’s called “Serpico,” starring a young Al Pacino. He plays a rookie cop assigned to work with a nest of corrupt colleagues. They want him to be corrupt too — that way there’s no threat to their cozy set-up. He’s an honest man, who actually believes he has been hired to uphold the public trust. When he refuses to be complicit in the graft, the other cops turn on him. He finds himself an outcast, his life in danger … for rocking their comfortable boat.