By George Russell
The United Nations Development Program’s procurement of airport body scanners last year on behalf of the Hugo Chavez government in Venezuela is generating controversy within U.N. Headquarters, as UNDP attempts to justify its actions.
On Thursday, UNDP posted a letter on its own web site from the scanners’ American manufacturer which ostensibly confirmed that the Venezuelan company which won UNDP’s procurement contract had purchased the scanners for UNDP’s project on August 30, 2007.
The problem is that the date and purchase order number cited in the letter do not match those in an official document from the same manufacturer that UNDP posted on its website two weeks ago. The older document, a notarized “certificate of origin” UNDP says was used to ship the equipment to Venezuela, asserts that the purchase was made on August 8, 2007 — three full weeks before the latest letter says the scanner purchase even existed.
Casting even more confusion into the case, a letter from the Venezuelan company, Setronix C.A., to FOX News cites another date for UNDP’s purchase order: August 1, 2007 — putting the alleged deal a full month earlier than the manufacturer now says it took place.
The same letter claims that the number of scanners involved in the order had dropped from 19 to 17 — despite UNDP’s previous confirmation of the higher number in communications with FOX — because the company had tacked on an expensive three-year service package onto the deal after UNDP approved the procurement.
Yet copies of confidential UNDP headquarters procurement documents obtained by FOX News, which waived competitive bidding on the procurement, specifically note that the 19-scanner deal already included such a three-year service package.
The letter posted yesterday by UNDP from the scanner manufacturer, L-3 Communications, is only the latest in a blizzard of documentation UNDP has been posting to justify the “objectivity, transparency, efficiency” of the $2,375,000 scanner procurement, which UNDP says took place as part of an effort to modernize the customs service of Chavez’s radical leftist regime.
On April 1, FOX News questioned the deal on the basis of the UNDP headquarters waiver of competition, and after the highly respected U.S. defense contractor that manufactured the equipment, L3 Communications, declared that it had only shipped 17 scanners to Venezuela, and these were for the country’s correctional system, not the customs and tax authority cited by UNDP.
Two days later, UNDP posted documents on its website which FOX News pointed out contained different totals for the scanners, offered two different dates for the same purchase order, and produced a “project document” for the deal that terminated 3 1/2 years before the purchase was made, and never mentioned airports or scanners at all.
As part of its latest documentation drive, UNDP yesterday produced additional documents on its website, which it said made clear that the original project document had been extended several times, into 2008.
The website emphasized that “had [FOX] checked with UNDP before publishing, we would have been pleased” to point out that fact.
The internal properties of the electronic PDF file that UNDP posted show that the project extension documents were not assembled as an electronic file until April 9, 2008, or five days after FOX pointed out the deficiencies of the initial “project document.”