Would you believe, here comes yet another scandal surrounding the UN Development Program, or UNDP, home to the North Korea Cash-for-Kim scandal, and flagship agency of the UN. In that case, the UNDP ejected the whistleblower, Artjon Shkurtaj, who called attention to the problems that led to the shutdown in March, 2007 of the UNDP office in North Korea. The UNDP then rejected the recommendation of the UN Ethics office that he be given whistleblower protection.
The Cash-for-Kim saga entailed a great many sub-scandals, including counterfeit U.S. cash stored in the safe of the UNDP office in Pyongyang, UNDP transfers of money on behalf of other UN agencies to accounts linked to North Korea’s weapons proliferation network, and North Korea laundering funds through UNDP-related accounts. But let us fast-forward to the matter at hand –
– Where the setting is the UNDP in Somalia. Now, there are reports of another whistleblower, Ismail Ahmed, a British national, kicked out by the UNDP. Ahmed claims he was trying to sound alarms about UNDP support for a Somali money transfer company with what Reuters, in a dispatch about his claims, calls “suspected links to Islamic militants.” And what militants would those be? Let us browse on to the details on this case provided by the Government Accountability Project, or GAP, which in a dossier on its web site says that Ahmed’s allegations include information about UNDP support from 2003-2005 for a Somali remittance company, Dalsan, which collapsed in 2006, with $30 million disappearing in the process. The problems with Dalsan went beyond alleged fraud. GAP also notes that Dalsan was “co-founded by a former spokesman of Al-Ittihad al-Islamiya (AIAI), an organization placed on a list of terrorist organizations by the U.S. in 2001 and by the UN Sanctions Committee.” That would be the UN list of “Entities and other groups and undertakings associated with Al-Qaida.” GAP further notes that Dalsan’s chairman when it collapsed in 2006 was Abdilkadir Hashi Farah “Ayro,” who is “the younger brother of Aden Hashi ‘Ayro’ ” – who was a top al-Qaeda commander in Somalia, reportedly killed two weeks ago by an American missile strike.
The GAP dossier further alleges that the UNDP helped Dalsan obtain the release of frozen funds, get visas and travel documents for senior company officials, and secure the appointment of a Dalsan company officer as chairman of the Somali Financial Services Association (Europe), handling the rule-making for the Somali remittance industry. According to the GAP, all that fed into the set-up in which “the UNDP Somalia Office provided Dalsan critical support that may have helped the company to flout international regulations and commit a major fraud in which hundreds of Somali migrants and remittance recipients lost an estimated $30 million.”
What do the folks at the UNDP headquarters in NY have to say about this? According to Reuters, the UNDP is promising to look into this “completely” and “get to the bottom of this as thoroughly as possible.” To that end, reports Reuters, a UNDP spokesman says an investigation team will ”fly in mid-June to Nairobi, where the UNDP’s Somalia programme is based.” Hmmm. Mid-June. For the UNDP this is so urgent that it will take a month before a team can even head for Nairobi. Maybe they have to get in line behind the UNDP’s much-delayed investigation into its own handling of Cash-for-Kim and the attendant whistleblower issues. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon promised in January, 2007 that the UN would get to the bottom of that one right away, and 16 months later, we’re still waiting. Come to think of it, when Cash-for-Kim broke, Ban-Ki-Moon initially promised a world-wide audit of all UN systems — an idea he then scrapped the following week. Too bad. Ismail Ahmed’s allegations about UNDP support for a company linked to Al Qaeda might have surfaced sooner.
As it is, the questions proliferating around the UNDP, and what Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is calling its “immutable corruption,” become ever more urgent and disturbing. As the UN’s flagship agency, the UNDP now has an annual budget of $5 billion and disburses another $4 billion per year worldwide on behalf of other UN agencies and donor programs. In countries such as North Korea, Somalia, and beyond, what exactly has the UNDP been developing?