"....The staff is sick and tired of the impunity extended by the office of the Secretary-General to senior managers for their failings especially in situations where it has led to death and disability....."
- UN Staff Union
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Chicago Tribune: Did UN agency serve as ATM for North Korea?
The United Nations Development Programme office in Pyongyang, North Korea,sits in a Soviet-style compound. Like clockwork, a North Korean officialwearing a standard-issue dark windbreaker and slacks would come to the dooreach business day.
He would take a manila envelope stuffed with cash–a healthy portion of theUN’s disbursements for aid projects in the country–and leave without everproviding receipts.
According to sources at the UN, this went on for years, resulting in thetransfer of up to $150 million in hard foreign currency to the Kim Jong Ilgovernment at a time when the United States was trying to keep North Koreafrom receiving hard currency as part of its sanctions against the Kim regime.
“At the end, we were being used completely as an ATM machine for theregime,” said oneUN official with extensive knowledge of the program. “Wewere completely a cash cow, the only cash cow in town. The money was going tothe regime whenever they wanted it.”
Earlier this month, the development program, known as UNDP, quietlysuspended operations in North Korea, saying it could not operate underguidelines imposed by its executive board in January that prohibited paymentsin hard currency and forbade the employment of local workers handpicked by theNorth Korean government.
But some diplomats suspect the timing of the suspension was heavilyinfluenced by a looming audit that could have proved embarrassing to the UN.
Documents obtained by the Tribune indicate that as early as last May, topUNDP officials at headquarters in New York were informed in writing ofsignificant problems relating to the agency’s use of hard foreign currency inNorth Korea, and that such use violated UNregulations that local expenses bepaid in local currency. No action was taken for months.
Then, under pressure from the United States, UN Secretary General Ban KiMoon on Jan. 19 ordered an audit of all UN operations in North Korea to becompleted within 90 days, or by mid-April.
The Board of Auditors, the UN body tasked with the audit, made no movementon the audit for 40 days after Ban’s order. It sent out its notificationletter for the beginning of the audit on the same day the development programannounced the closure of its office–March 1.
That timing, combined with past concerns about the UNDP’s transparency, hasraised suspicions that suspending operations would be a way to hamstring theaudit, the results of which may prove damning to the organization.
“The office was closed precisely for that reason,” said another UN officialwith extensive knowledge of the program. “With no operations in place, firstof all, you have no claim to get auditors into the country. Second, it willtake months and months to get documentation out of the office there, totransfer to somewhere else like New York.”
The UN sources who spoke about the development operations in North Korearequested anonymity either for fear of retribution or because of thediplomatic sensitivity of the subject.
The saga of the UNDP in North Korea provides more fuel for critics who havecomplained that the UN is a sprawling bureaucracy with few safeguards andlittle accountability. The Bush administration has been particularly outspokenabout the UN’s need for reform.
The oil-for-food scandal, which erupted in 2004, involved corruption in aprogram designed to provide humanitarian aid for Iraqis, whose country facedeconomic sanctions. Ultimately, it emerged that the program had resulted in$1.8 billion in kickbacks and surcharges paid to Saddam Hussein’s regime. Ban, a South Korean who took office in January, has sought to presenthimself as a fresh-faced reformer.
Nuclear talks in background
All this occurs against the backdrop of intensifying talks with Pyongyangover its nuclear weapons capacity, the most recent of which took place lastweek in New York. Last month, the U.S. and four other nations signed a dealwith North Korea promising aid in exchange for the shutting down of a nuclearreactor and a series of steps toward disarmament and normalized relations.
A spokesman for the U.S. mission to the UN, Richard Grenell, said the U.S.supports the audit going forward to find out the extent of the problems at theUNDP office in Pyongyang. North Korean officials could not be reached.
Despite the closure of the UNDP office in North Korea, the audit is movingahead. UN officials say they expect the audited documents to show not only thehard currency transfers to representatives of Kim’s government, but also theinability of staff on the ground to confirm that the money was going to itsprograms. According to sources familiar with UN operations in North Korea, theinternational staff of the development program and other UN agencies were notallowed to leave the compound without a government escort. They were not allowed to go outside Pyongyang without receiving specialpermission from the military at least a week in advance. They were not allowedto set foot in a bank. And under no circumstances were they allowed to makeunrestricted visits to the projects they were supposed to be funding.
These rules mirror the restrictive conditions set by the U.S. government ondiplomats from North Korea who must stay within 25 miles of New York City.
The UNDP, whose mission is to help the country develop economically, wasone of several UN agencies operating in North Korea, including UNICEF and theWorld Health Organization. The United Nations is one of few channels forforeign aid in the secretive, authoritarian country.
One of the UNDP projects, sources said, involved the purchase of 300computers for Kim Il Sung University. The computers supposedly arrived inPyongyang, but the international staff was not allowed to see the equipment ithad donated.
Finally, after a month and a half of pressuring their North Koreanhandlers, staffers were led to a room in which two computers sat. They weretold the others were packed in boxes, which they were not allowed to open.
And while the UNDP’s programs–which have included projects such as “HumanResource Upgrading to Support Air Traffic Services” and “Strengthening of theInstitute for Garment Technology”–cost anywhere from $3 million to$8 milliona year total, the development program also acted as the administrative officerfor all the UN agencies and wrote checks for tens of millions of dollars worthof programming every year. The UNDP’s financial officer and its treasurer in Pyongyang, who issuedthose checks, were both North Korean.
UN officials privately describe a vivid scene playing out at the agency’scompound each day. A driver in a UN-issued Toyota Corolla would pull out of the compound’sgate, taking UNchecks to the bank. A short time later the driver, a NorthKorean employed by UNDP, would return with manila envelopes stuffed with tensof thousands of dollars in hard currency.
Then the windbreaker-clad North Korean official would show up and take thecash away. UNDP spokesman David Morrison said the use of hard currency and the hiringof staff through local governments was standard practice in authoritariancountries like North Korea. Morrison said his understanding was that theagency had never had problems with site visits, and that in 2005 its staff hadvisited 10 of its 11 monitorable projects.
The agency was complying with the audit, Morrison said, “in order to takeaway even the perception that anything was untoward.”
But others believe the development program has no choice but to cooperatewith the audit.
In January, a letter written to the head of UNDP by Mark Wallace, the U.S.ambassador to the UN for management and reform, was leaked to the U.S. media.The letter, which drew on Wallace’s review of internal audits dating back to1998, accused the program of having been “systematically perverted for thebenefit of the Kim Jong Il regime.”
These claims by the United States, supported by Japan, the two biggestdonors to UNDP, pressured the secretary general to quickly order the audit.
“If there were simply the use of hard currency, or simply no site visits,that’s one thing,” said a UN diplomat familiar with the issue. “But when youcombine the fact that large cash payments were made directly to officials ofKim’s government with the fact there were no site visits to verify how thecash was being used, that’s a great cause of concern.”
The first phase of the audit is scheduled to begin Monday in New York. Itremains unclear whether the auditors will attempt to visit North Korea. It ispossible that even if the UNDPoffice were still open, Pyongyang would nothave granted them visas.
Even with its limited scope, the audit could yield significant revelationsabout how the agency worked in a dictatorial, tightly controlled society.
“There wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that they’d allow us to see whatthey did with all the cash they received,” said a member of the diplomaticcommunity in New York. “ButUNDP headquarters and the country office should beable to tell us what kinds of checks they were making, were they paid in cash,what, who, where the money was going to.”
The Board of Auditors had no comment for this article, but Morrison, theUNDP spokesman, said the organization was making arrangements to safeguarddocuments by transferring them to one of the other UN agencies in Pyongyang.He said that those necessary for the initial stages of the audit would becopied and carried to New York in electronic form by theUNDP chief in Pyongyang, who is due to leave North Korea within days.
But some suggest the mid-April deadline does not leave enough time toproduce a thorough review. “I don’t think this is an audit you can whip through in 30 days; this maytake some time,” John Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the UN until the end oflast year and a staunch critic of the world body, said when contacted by theTribune for a reaction to the newspaper’s reporting of the cash payments. “ButI think for the reputation and integrity of the UN system, it’s critical thatit proceed without delay.”
637 UNDP Staffers are Millionaires, and another 1041 UNDP staffers have enough salary (income) to justify million dollar homes in New York (or tri-state area NY/NJ/CT).
UN/UNDP's budgets are untransparent !
U.N. budget is “utterly opaque, untransparent and completely in the shadow” and would benefit from being consolidated and audited from the outside. MMB from NyTimes
JOSE RAMOS HORTA - PRESIDENT OF EAST TIMOR
‘‘You know how many layers of bureaucracy there are when the European Union wants to help East Timor? Well, they don’t provide the funds to us, the funds allocated are managed by world bank. And the world bank has its own layers of bureaucracy. And they charge for that. The project is then managed by UNDP. But UNDP is only good at doing studies, they don’t execute projects.’‘
Boutros Boutros-Ghali on UN:
"perhaps half of the UN work force does nothing useful"
Can Helen Clark be trusted on Climate Change ?
President Obama's answer to Helen Clark's appeal for US to do more on climate change was : "I think the American people right now have been so focused, and will continue to be focused, on our economy and jobs and growth that ... if the message is somehow, we're going to ignore jobs and growth simply to address climate change, I don't think anybody's gonna go for that," he said. "I won't go for that."
In 2011 Rami Makhlouf - a trusted development partner of UNDP in Syria
In 2008 U.S. Treasury designation: Rami Makhluf Designated for Benefiting from Syrian Corruption (Click on photo to see US Treasury page)
"Screwed" How Foreign Countries Are Ripping America Off
A full chapter (7) dedicated to UNDP and UN Secretariat. But it today at Amazon.com (click above picture)
There was an error in this gadget
Asma al-Assad is UNDP's champion of reform in Syria
UNDP's special relations with dictators and terror is well documented. Yet, they continue to operate covered by UN Immunity. Click on immage for story.
Aicha Gaddafi You are Fired !
UNDP continues to be in bed with other dictators. Will clean it one at a time.
Where is NETAID money David Morrison?
UNDP Transparency Censored
UNDP's moto is: - eliminate the uncomfortable, frighten those who disagree, "educate" the perplexed..
UNDP Chief Finance Officer
The UNDP is a secretive organization and so far has kept in the dark every information related to its Chief Finance Officer and Deputy Assistant Administrator, Mr. Darshak Shah. Click on the picture for more on Finance Office of UNDP.
UNDP Belarus - best breast corner
Should tax-payers dollars be used to photograph beautiful breasts - even when making a valid point?
Uncle Helen turning UNDP into a cove of corrupt NZ labour politicians
CLICK ON PICTURE TO SEE Chris Carter's latest Credit Card scandal - can he work at UNDP after that? It seems YES he is full tested!!
Helen Clark says: "No more cars"
Thinking about buying a new car this year? Why, you evil Westerner! You don’t need that. You are demanding your new car off the sweat, toil, and exploitation of the world’s poorest people in developing countries.
Eveline Herfkens belongs to Jail - she should return imemdiately Dutch Taxpayers money.
if anyone else would have done what Eveline Herfkens did, would have long been in jail. We denounce this impunity and demand justice.
Andrew Mitchell - says Helen Clark is up to no good!
1. UNDP’s partnership with the World Bank needs to be more effective, particularly in fragile and crisis-affected countries. 2. UNDP’s near universal mandate means its technical resources are spread very thinly. The Board does not provide strategic direction. HR management is weak. It has a weak results chain. 3. There is limited evidence of active senior management consideration of cost control. Country evidence points to mixed progress on demonstrating cost-efficiency. 4. The Executive Board is politicised and there is a lack of consensus on the key areas for reform. It is not clear that current plans for change will deliver the required depth and breadth of reform. 5. Evidence gathered at country level was highly critical of UNDP’s ability to deliver results. Its delivery can be undermined by staffing issues and bureaucratic processes. 6. Its performance in fragile states is mixed. It has reasonable training and a range of guidance and analytical tools but struggles to fill posts. 7. There is no evidence that the Climate Strategy was directly guiding resource allocation decisions
Mark Malloch Brown outraged over Aicha Gaddafi
“I hope she's not a UNDP Ambassador,” ...“I don't think it's UNDP. I was surprised when I saw that... she was an Ambassador to any part of the UN system.”
Travel Palestine - Rediscover Your Senses
Get ready to a sensual feast of ...sounds...scents of The Land of حماس Ḥamās Documentary sponsored by UNDP Funds (click on picture for video)
Helen Clark on UNDP's own corruption (Can she be trusted?)
“When funds intended for life-saving treatment and prevention are stolen, that theft is tantamount to murder.” CLICK ON PICTURE FOR MORE
Scandal in Rwanda with Human Development Report
Aurelien Agbenonci, UNDP's RR in Kigali accuses Khalid Malik of making up data without UNDP Rwanda's knowledge. Rwanda Government is unhappy !!!
H.E. Dirk Niebel - German Development Minister
"I take the accusations made in the media concerning corruption and breach of fiduciary duty at the Global Fund very seriously and I am sure that the Fund will clarify the matter without delay. Germany is one of the biggest donors to the Global Fund. I have therefore seen to it that a special review will be held. I have frozen all further disbursements to the Fund until matters have been fully clarified, and I will ask a representative of the Fund to come to the BMZ to discuss the matter."
US Amb. Joseph Torsella blows the whistle on UN budgets
U.N. Secretariat’s proposed $5.2 “regular” budget for 2012-2013, was “simply loosening our belt a little less than we originally planned.”
The U.N. Exposed
How the United Nations Sabotages America's Security and Fails the World (Click in picture to purchase the book)
Share now information about illegal dealings at United Nations
If you are in possession of UNDP or any other United Nations Agency' contracts, correspondence, financial records or databases, which you believe detail wrongdoing such as fraud, mismanagement and abuse of authority, and you have failed to have UN's internal control, oversight and justice systems respond and/or react to your claims, you can send them to UNDP-WATCH and we will make them public keeping your identity anonymous and confidential.
Send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Helen Clark is watching you!
Gaddafi aint got nothing on UNDP - Click on the picture for more!
Malakia: A Turk advises Greece on Economy
Kemal Dervis (Turkish) and George Papandreou (Greek) share many late-night phone calls together (Click on picture to read story)
Where does Ban stand on Libya?
C'est vraiment ce que tu veux pour ta carriere?
United Nations Dispute Tribunal finds Ethics Office decisions Appealable
Because UNDT is the first level of the UN’s two-tiered justice system, there is a possibility that this decision may be appealed. Hopefully, the Secretary-General will not be “absurd” enough to do so. Click above to go to GAP page.
Andrew Mitchell Demands Transparency from United Nations
And I promise you as well that in future, when it comes to international development, we will want to see hard evidence of the impact your money makes. Not just dense and impenetrable budget lines but clear evidence of real effect
YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT UNITED NATIONS
Ban Ki Moon supports Ethics Decision on UNDP North Korea
Question: He recommends strongly that UNDP pays 14 months back pay to the whistleblower. Does the Secretary-General stand behind that recommendation? Should UNDP in fact pay that money, or are they free to rebuff that recommendation? Spokesperson: We will see what is going to happen. The Secretary-General of course is behind Mr. Benson on his report. There is no doubt about it. What UNDP will do, we will be seeing this; how they will implement that report.
UNDP Watch is a grouping of United Nations Staff committed to openness. We believe that everyone has the right to access information held by United Nations.
Despite a stated commitment to openness, UNDP remain a highly secretive agency.
Although a wealth of information is available on some UNDP websites, its Executive Board operate behind closed doors, much important programme and administrative information is never made available and, as a rule, information that is disclosed is provided only after relevant decisions have effectively been taken.
While UNDP has adopted “internal policies” on information disclosure, they in fact operate on precisely the opposite presumption. For the most part, they list which documents will be disclosed and when, and there is a presumption against the disclosure of all the other information they hold. They do not establish right of access, the lists of documents subject to disclosure is limited, they do not set out clear and narrow grounds for refusing access and they do not provide for independent oversight mechanisms to ensure proper implementation of the policy.
The UNDP WATCH is calling for the complete overhaul of these policies.
"...We believe that without accountability, there is impunity. We ask that you (Secretary General) not be complicit in cover-up of what happened prior to 11 Dec attack. The staff is sick and tired of the impunity extended by the office of the Secretary-General to senior managers for their failings especially in situations where it has led to death and disability."