Monday, September 14, 2009

UNDP Zimbabwe report said to be missing

by The Insider

The report on a special investigation of the operations of the Harare office of the United Nations Development Programme carried out last year is alleged to have disappeared.

UNDP Director of Communications Stephane Dujarric, however, brushed off the claim but insisted that the report could not be released to the public.

The UNDP headquarters in New York ordered the special investigation into the operations of the Harare office from July to December last year following allegations that UNDP registered vehicles had been used to smuggle diamonds from River Ranch Mine near Beitbridge.

The investigation is believed to have been much wider focussing on the operations of the UNDP because of the alleged closeness of the resident representative Agostinho Zacarias to ZANU-PF.

The investigation was carried out by Frank Dutton, a former South African police officer. Dutton uncovered the Third Force and hit squads in apartheid South Africa and exposed apartheid's military destabilisation machinery.

He was head of the investigations unit of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and set up South Africa's crack police unit, the Scorpions, before retiring. He worked for the International Court in The Hague where he headed the investigation unit in Sarajevo and was commander of field operations in Kosovo.

Dutton completed his report at the end of January but the UNDP has refused to release it saying it does not share investigation reports, regardless of the outcome.

"We do not share investigation reports, regardless of their outcome," the UNDP said in response to queries fromThe Insider.

"This is - among other things - to preserve the due process rights and the reputation of a staff member who may have been accused of wrongdoing. Disclosure of investigators' reports could result in irreparable harm to a person accused, but against whom no subsequent disciplinary action may be warranted."

The investigation, however, established that UNDP registered vehicles were used by River Ranch but these vehicles were "fraudulently registered". The UNDP declined to say who had fraudulently registered the vehicles adding that any action that needed to be taken had to be taken by the government of Zimbabwe.

A letter from the then Secretary of Transport, George Mlilo, which The Insider believes was part of the evidence given to Dutton, blamed the error in the registration to two junior officers at the Central Vehicle Registry.

The letter, however, leaves even more questions unanswered. It does not say, for example, how the name of the UNDP came up because it must have appeared in some of the papers for the vehicles for the junior officers to believe that the organisation was the owner of the civilian registered vehicles because they could not just dream this up.

The UNDP was involved at River Ranch through a company called African Management Services Company (AMSCO) which it owns jointly with the International Finance Corporation, the commercial arm of the World Bank.

AMSO is registered in the Netherlands but its operations head office is in Johannesburg. It is supposed to help small to medium sized African companies.

River Ranch is owned by Saudi Arabian billionaire Adel Aujan with former army commander Solomon Mujuru as a junior partner.

The investigation into the operations of the UNDP office in Harare was ordered after complaints from Bubye Minerals, which claims to own River Ranch Mine, that the mine was smuggling diamonds to South Africa using UNDP registered vehicles because there was no way the mine could be operating without selling its product.

River Ranch was barred from selling its diamonds on the open market because of the ownership dispute with Bubye Minerals.

Bubye argued that there was no way the mine, which said it employed more than 300 people and was engaged in various community projects, could survive unless it was smuggling diamonds.

A Kimberley Process Review team that visited the country in May 2007 cleared River Ranch and the UNDP but said in its report, Bubye Minerals lawyer Terrence Hussein had "denied having said that a UNDP vehicle was ever involved".

Hussein was incensed because the KP team had refused to interview his clients and other people they had lined up when the team visited the country. He wrote then KP chairman Karel Kovanda demanding that the report be corrected to indicate that he had never withdrawn the allegations arguing that only his clients could withdraw them.

Kovanda said Hussein's letter of protest would be attached to the report but Hussein was forced to take the matter up with the UNDP headquarters in New York in January 2008 when River Ranch sued him for US$1 million for defamation.

News about the disappearance of the Dutton report was broken to The Insider when it started probing into what would happen to River Ranch and Murowa diamond mines if Zimbabwe was banned from selling its diamonds as demanded by various human rights organisations.

The civic organisations and representatives of diamond trading organisations have called for Zimbabwe to be banned from selling its diamonds because of its handling of illegal diggers at Chiadzwa in Marange.

Zimbabwe deployed soldiers to clear the area which had been flooded by as many as 40 000 diggers. The soldiers are reported to have indiscriminately killed scores of illegal diggers during the clean-up which was dubbed Operation Hakudzokwe (There is no coming back).

According to a former UNDP employee with connections at the UNDP head office, Dutton's report, which is wanted by several organisations, was nowhere to be found. His "back-to-office" report was also missing.

The back-to-office report is a brief summary of the consultant or investigator's activities and observations. According to the former UNDP employee the back-to-office report "is usually fairly informal and a good place to mention things too controversial or unsubstantiated to put in a formal report".

"BtO (back-to-office) reports are often more informative than official reports," the former employee said.

Contacted for comment about this, Dujarric said: "The assertion that Mr. Dutton's report has disappeared from our offices together with his "back to office" report is completely false."

He did not elaborate.

The alleged disappearance of the report has raised questions as to what is so sensitive in the report that it should not be available even to head office staff.

A UNDP source said it was naïve for The Insider to expect Dujarric to say otherwise. He said even if the report was not available to the public it had to be available on the intranet for staff, but it was not there.

"Dutton's report/s (both with his back-to-office-report) are totally buried and what's most interesting, all parties involved have either been promoted or seconded in other positions away from the 'crime scene'," the source said.

Zacarias has been transferred to South Africa and bade farewell last month.

Though this is a bigger office, the former UNDP employee said he could not say whether this was a promotion or not.

"It is difficult to say if the transfer is a promotion or demotion. Theoretically SA is bigger and is the regional office so it may be a promotion, but internal politics are such that it is difficult to say. Generally in the UN people get promoted out of the way rather than demoted," the former employee said.

This view is supported by UNDP Watch is fighting for accountability within the organisation.

"Our problem is that UN has become a real anti-democratic institution in a sense that you have to have lost an election or be "unpopular" or "under investigation" in your own country to get appointed to a high level UN job," a writer said recently and named several people that fit this criteria who have been given top jobs in the UN.

Zacarias has been in Zimbabwe since 2005 and was at one time accused of being too close to the ruling ZANU-PF.

A member of Britain's House of Lords, Baroness Park of Monmouth, told the house in April last year after Morgan Tsvangirai's parliamentary victory: "Unless the present head of the UNDP is withdrawn, there will not be very much confidence in the UN's role in the future of Zimbabwe. Two successive UNDP leaders have been far too close to Mugabe and indeed, in one case, have taken land from him."

Zacarias took over from Victor da Silva Angelo who was resident representative from 2000 to 2004.

Posted- 12 September 2009

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