Sunday, January 18, 2009

UNDP Moved on 30,000 Boxes of Records Mid-Investigation, Dervis' Successor Must Answer

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, January 17 -- Just after the sudden departure announcement of its Administrator Kemal Dervis, the Iran-led Executive Board of the UN Development Program is slated to meet this week in New York. Dervis' tenure was steeped both in secrecy and controversy -- clickhere for Inner City Press' farewell to Dervis -- and these two come together in an emerging story the Board should be considering this week. 

   In the midst of the so-called Nemeth Committee's investigation into UNDP's dealings with the Kim Jong-il government of North Korea, UNDP quietly sought bids to move 30,000 boxes of documents out of its headquarters to private locations until at least 2011. Inner City Press has obtained a copy of UNDP's "Terms of Reference" and, beyond the prevalence of mis-spellings not usually found in such formal document, finds therein no argument about why wider UN system restrictions on document outsources are not complied with. Click here for the document.

  Earlier this month, Inner City Press asked outgoing US Ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad a number of questions about unfinished reforms at the UN and UNDP. Khalilzad said that access to past audits remains a problem at UNDP, but claimed that "going forward," UNDP audits will be available on the same terms as those of the UN Secretariat. We'll see.

Dervis speaks of Algiers bombing: a role in his departure?

  The US Mission also said that Ban Ki-moon would have preferred having a single unified UN Ethics Office, the one run by the now-isolated Robert Benson, covering UNDP. Why then shouldn't acceptance of this desire of the UN Secretary General be a condition for nomination to succeed Dervis? There are Scandinavian names being thrown around, a Norwegian minister and others. Associate Administer Ad Melkert is said to have disqualified himself. This will be a litmus test.

Footnote: also indicative of UNDP's lack of transparency is the agency's role in the disappearance of the UN's envoy to Niger, Canadian Robert Fowler. He was visiting a UNDP-funded, Canadian-owned gold mine in a remote region of Niger not related to his purported mandate. There was reportedly a UNDP driver, but no security. The UNDP vehicle was found its with doors open and lights on, cell phones still in the car. Inner City Press posted basic questions to UNDP's spokesman, who responded that there will be no comments or information until the "denouement." That was more than three weeks ago.

 There are UNOPS issues into which we are and will be separately reporting.

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

Click here for Inner City Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo

Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on UN, bailout, MDGs

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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