Monday, April 12, 2010

In Haiti for UN, Mystery of Bolduc's Quitting, Love Boat Stonewall

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 10 -- In promoting its work in Haiti, the UN veers from loud bragging to quiet resignations. This last appears to be the case of Kim Bolduc.

She had been in Haiti for less than two months when the UN thrust her forward as its public face after the earthquake. Senior UN officials heaped praise on her, she appeared by video hook up to reporters at UN headquarters in New York, and was quoted gushing about how much she loved working in Haiti for the UN. Then, very quickly thereafter, she quit.

Inner City Press was told this by sources, and asked. Earlier this month, the UN terse confirmed that Ms. Bolduc's assignment was over. On April 8 and 9, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's associate spokesman Farhan Haq to explain her resignation and where she had gone next.

"Ask UNDP," Haq said. But since the most senior UN officials in New York had praised Bolduc, Inner City Press asked again. Video here. Again, the buck was passed to UNDP, which in substance answered that Ms. Bolduc

"now feels that the time had come for new colleagues to come in to carry forward the efforts underway to help rebuild Haiti. Interim arrangements are in place while a permanent replacement is found for the Secretary-General to name a new Deputy Special Representative."

The "interim arrangements" were not specified. The other DSRSG, Tony Banbury, was seen by Inner City Press on April 8 speaking at length on the corner of 45th Street and Second Avenue with the chief of UN Peacekeeping Alain Leroy, just before he went on ten days of leave. (While Haq refused to answer who would be in charge during Leroy's absence, Inner City Press later informally learned: Dmitry Titov, now Mister Rule of Law.)

Back in October 2009, ICP exclusively reported that UN's (now-destroyed) Headquarters in Haiti was leased on the basis of a noncompetitive procurement in a contract which cost$94,000 per month.

While that figure seemed a bit extravagant, it has since been exposed that the UN is now paying $112,500 per day for two cruise ships to accommodate UN staff.

Cabin on Sea Voyager, rented by UN for its (international) Haiti staff

WFP originally put out a press release describing these accommodations. But in a mysterious way repeated frequently by the UN agencies when it realizes the potential liability of its announcements, that story was disappeared; removed from the internet. WFP spun: "Photos, text and video material are regularly being added and removed from WFP's Web site as stories are refreshed, restructured and replaced." Thankfully, the original story was saved; we are linking here.

On April 8, ICP asked UN spokesman Farhan Haq about the Love Boat story, specifically about how the procurement was done. Haq refused to answer any questions about the Love Boat contract, and passed the ball over to UNDP, despite WFP's lead role.

Here is what UNDP's spokesman had to say -- he asked that it be published in full:

As you can imagine, working conditions in Haiti are not easy. As result of the earthquake, the main UN building was flattened, killing more than 100 of our colleagues, and the UNDP building, while still standing, is deemed unsafe. Our staff has been working out of the logistics base near the airport. Some of our staff permanently assigned to Haiti can not return to their homes because they have been damaged or destroyed and there is also a lack of available housing for new arrivals. Therefore, some UNDP staff is staying tents at a UN camp, some are sleeping in their offices at the logistics base and others are sleeping in cabins on the ships, often two to a room. It should be noted that the ship has basic amenities but is by no means a "cruise ship". It is intended simply to house staff safely so they can perform their duties. About 12 people with UNDP contracts in Haiti, out of a total of approximately 200, are using the maritime accommodations at any one time.

In the immediate aftermath of the quake, the UN needed to find quickly accommodations to handle the surge of UN personnel coming in to the country in a way that obviously did not tax an already strained housing sector. The accommodations were procured by WFP for the benefit of the UN system. The cost recovery from WFP is being calculated.

While it is unlikely that there will actually be any "cost recovery" in the meaningful sense of the phrase, we will continue to monitor how and why the UN got into this arrangement, and more broadly how it it is putting donor funds to use in Haiti. Watch this site.

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