Wednesday, July 21, 2010

U.N. "falling apart" under Ban Ki-moon: ex-official

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By Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The former head of the United Nations' internal oversight office has accused U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of poor leadership, saying that the world body was "falling apart" and becoming irrelevant.

The latest criticism of Ban's performance at the helm of the United Nations, first reported by the Washington Post on Tuesday, comes as his aides weigh the former South Korean foreign minister's prospects for a possible second term.

The former head of the U.N. Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), Inga-Britt Ahlenius of Sweden, said that under Ban's watch "there is no transparency, there is (a) lack of accountability."

"I regret to say that the (U.N.) Secretariat now is in a process of decay," Ahlenius said in what she described as an "end-of-assignment report." She left the job last week and no successor has so far been named.

"It is not only falling apart ... It is drifting into irrelevance," she wrote.

Ahlenius said Ban had undermined the independence of OIOS, which investigates suspected wrongdoing at the United Nations, by preventing her from making the U.S. head of the disbanded U.N. Procurement Task Force head of OIOS investigations.

The 15-person task force, which former Connecticut attorney Robert Appleton led until its mandate was allowed to lapse at the end of 2008, was created in the wake of a corruption scandal involving the former oil-for-food program in Iraq.


Some developing countries backed by Russia pressured Ban not to re-hire Appleton because they felt the task force was on a crusade against poor countries, Western diplomats said. This led to a falling out between Ban and Ahlenius, the envoys said.

One diplomat said Ban and Ahlenius each had behaved like a "spoiled child" -- Ban for not choosing Appleton, who was the best candidate, and Ahlenius for not getting over the fact that her preferred candidate had not gotten the job.

Ban spokesman Martin Nesirky said his boss had improved accountability and transparency at the United Nations as he had promised when he took over from Kofi Annan in January 2007.

Ban's chief-of-staff, Vijay Nambiar, said in a response to the Washington Post that "many pertinent facts were overlooked or misrepresented" in Ahlenius' note.

He said Ban had not hired Appleton because a review board chosen by Ahlenius had advised him that appointing the American would not be "in accordance with the United Nations' policies on geographical and gender distribution."

Last year, Norway's Deputy U.N. Ambassador Mona Juul blasted Ban as absent, passive and helpless in an internal memo that was leaked to a Norwegian newspaper.

U.N. diplomats expect Ban to run again next year for a second term that would begin in January 2012.

(Editing by Bill Trott)

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