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By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive
UNITED NATIONS, June 11 -- The "Arab Spring" was cited Monday by the UN Development Program as an excuse for financial opacity and loss. Inner City Press was the only media covering a June 11 session about UNDP and audit, which was once a hot topic at the UN.
UNDP's audit droned on in the front; an audio connection from the field could not be hooked up. Then this factoid emerged: the "loss of supporting documentation in Egypt, where $27.3 million in project expenditures could not be audited due to the destruction and loss of documents following the political crisis."
Hearing this, Inner City Press went to the front of the large conference room and asked for a copy of the audit. It was not there.
UNDP fell under fire in the past for withholding the audits of its program in North Korea. It promised to do better. Monday the proposal was to essentially presume that audits would be public -- but to give "the country concerned" the right to argue for redaction or even withholding in full. We'll have more on this.
UNDP is run by Helen Clark, who has not held a Q&A press conference in UN headquarter for a very long time, like Ban Ki-moon's top lawyer O'Brien.
Ban's Peacekeeping chief held a press conference, but refused to answer Inner City Press' questions about he and Ban accepting as an adviser an alleged war criminal, Sri Lankan general Shavendra Silva, and his department introducing cholera to Haiti.
Ladsous told Inner City Press: "Well, Mister, I will start answering your questions when you stop insulting me and making malicious and insulting insinuations." That video, at Minute 28:10, is online here. On June 11 he told Inner City Press, regarding his French nation's former colony Cote d'Ivoire, "I'm not talking to you, sir," Ladsous told Inner City Press. Perhaps "sir" is progress from "Mister."
Earlier on June 11 in the North Lawn conferenc room there was the surreal claim that having two UNDP auditors in Kuala Lumpur could help stop corruption at UNDP... in Afghanistan.
On May 11, Inner City Press asked about corruption in Afghanistan:
Question: On Afghanistan? There is a report that the Monitoring and Evaluation Committee, the Afghan Government, and the international donors have said that the UN system's role in funding the Afghan national police may involve false receipts, what is the UN system’s response? Does it believe that there are problems with the program or that everything is running well?
Spokesperson: Seen the story; speak to UNDP [United Nations Development Programme]. Thanks very much.
And here's from the response UNDP put out, and the UN sent to Inner City Press:
UNDP has a zero tolerance policy towards any form of mismanagement or corruption for its entire country program in Afghanistan. Your article refers to the Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan (LOTFA), which is part of our program and helps increase security by training the Afghan National Police—including through payment of salaries. It is audited every year by a globally respected and independent third party auditing firm.
A financial audit recently conducted by KPMG of the 2011 project’s expenditure concluded that there were no financial irregularities. In addition, a comprehensive evaluation of the previous LOTFA phase, also conducted by an external evaluation firm, found no cause for concern.
UNDP notes with concern a statement in your report, which describes a "pattern of bad behavior" at LOTFA – comments you have attributed to an anti-corruption body set up by the Afghan government, the Monitoring and Evaluation Committee. However, their report was released the day before your article was published and makes no reference to “bad behavior”. It does recommend improved oversight and monitoring and UNDP is committed to diligently following up on this.
Moreover, we would like to set the record straight on the following additional allegations in your piece:
1/ For example, a 10-seater sofa set and four tables costing $6,000 -- which the article refers to as “luxury furniture” that might not even have been purchased – were procured with full procedural checks and are still being used by the head of the Afghan Border Police.
2/ The purchase order of a paper shredder, mentioned in your report, matched its $800 price. The purchase was in line with our procurement policy and was only approved after the project justified its need for a more robust product...
Yours truly, Satinder Bindra, Director of Communications - UNDP
So why the long -- if factually challenged -- response to the WSJ about Afghanistan, including 10-seater sofa set and "robust" $800 shredder?
Are these the audits which would be redacted or withheld? Watch this site.