Internal investigations of organizations are in the end too often instruments of damage control. They take the truth only so far, in order not to jeopardize the existence of the organizations that pay for them. We have a recent example in the Boccardi/Thornburgh investigation of Rathergate for CBS in which we have the spectacle of a former US Attorney General signing onto a report which can find no definitive evidence the National Guard documents were forged (as if we lived in an alternative universe).
Coming up, however, is a yet more significant report – Paul Volcker’s Oil-for-Food findings for the United Nations. If we are to believe this article by Claudia Rosett and George Russell, who have been following the scandal as closely as anybody in the press, the jury is still out on how definitive Mr. Volcker’s invstigation will be:
Perhaps Paul Volcker, head of the United Nations-authorized inquiry into the U.N. Oil-for-Food program, was speaking solely of graft when he said recently that the internal audits of Oil-for-Food contained “no flaming red flags.” But if he meant anything beyond outright criminality, he was surely wrong.
On that score, previously secret U.N. internal audits of the multi-billion dollar program, finally released last week by Volcker’s own investigating commission, are packed with bombshells enough to shatter any normal business – let alone a U.N. program supplied with $1.4 billion to cover its administrative costs in monitoring $111 billion worth of deals done under UN sanctions by Saddam Hussein.
The problems unveiled go well beyond those in the already much-discussed audits of the Oil-for-Food inspectors hired by the U.N. Secretariat to oversee Saddam’s oil exports and relief imports, who according to the United Nations’ own auditors too often charged too much and inspected too little.