Thursday, September 2, 2010

UN tribunal orders UN anti-poverty agency to pay 14 months salary to whistleblower in NKorea

A U.N. tribunal ordered the organization's anti-poverty agency to compensate a former staffer who claimed his contract was not renewed after he made serious allegations regarding financial transactions in North Korea.

In its decision obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, the Dispute Tribunal ruled that Artjon Shkurtaj's due process rights were violated by a U.N. Development Program investigative panel questioned his credibility and trustworthiness but never gave him the opportunity to respond.

The tribunal said this damaged Shkurtaj's career prospects and professional reputation and caused him emotional distress and he should be compensated with 14 months salary in line with a recommendation by the director of the U.N. Ethics Office in June 2008. It also ordered the development agency, known as UNDP, to pay an additional $5,000 for failing to promptly compensate Shkurtaj following the Ethics Office recommendation.

Shkurtaj called the decision "a major victory" after a three-year effort, adding that the compensation for 14 months salary amounts to $160,000.

U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said "we're studying the decision," which can be appealed.

Shkurtaj, a native of Albania, told AP in 2007 that when he asked what to do with counterfeit U.S. dollars he found in the office safe on his first day working for UNDP in Pyongyang in November 2004, he never got a response. He said that when he complained that paying all North Korean salaries and program expenses in hard currency instead of local currency was against U.N. rules he was told "not to rock the boat."

Shkurtaj said UNDP rules require that counterfeit money be reported to the embassy of the country involved, and since it was U.S. dollars he went to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations when he returned to New York in May 2006, which UNDP's administrator didn't like.

His contract was not renewed in March 2007 and he claimed he lost his job because of his whistleblowing. But UNDP's investigative panel said in May 2008 that Shkurtaj was not a victim of retaliation.

The Dispute Tribunal did not consider that issue, but it ruled that Shkurtaj's due process rights were violated because he was not informed and allowed to respond to the panel's adverse comments about him.

No comments: