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On Afghan Scandal, Staff Threatened, UN Stonewalls on Negative Audit

By Matthew Russell Lee, Follow Up on Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, August 15, more here Ė Following up on Inner City Press exclusive publication of UN Development Program audits of its Law and Order Trust Fund Afghanistan, including double payments and other irregularities, whistleblowers have exclusively provided Inner City Press with yet more damning documents.

   See for now here, here, here and here, exclusively provided to Inner City Press by now-former UNDP staff. There are more documents, one more of which is being published today, here.

In it, the same Colonel Bashary who threatened he would not tolerate these accusation turns up on the list of double payments.

  This publication follows four days in which UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, formerly UNDP's spokesman, has not said whether an audit cited as a justification for not answering is the troubling audit completed in February 2014. This is called stonewalling. And Inner City Press is informed that now "the heat is on at the Kabul office" -- this is called a cover-up, and retaliation against (the wrong) whistleblowers.

 On August 8, after four days of asking by Inner City Press, UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq said "recent allegations concerning Afghanistan have previously been reported to the UNDP Independent Office of Audit and Investigation.  In order to avoid jeopardizing the investigation process, the details of investigations are kept confidential and very limited information is made available to offices outside the Office of Audit and Investigation, until the process of gathering relevant evidence and fact-finding has been completed."

  But this UNDP Independent Office of Audit and Investigation COMPLETED an audit of this Closing the Security Gap on February 12, 2014, Report Number 1251, here.

  That report noted "incomplete recording of expenditure incurred in 2012. Salaries were not charged to the Project for the first
five months of 2012; lack of appropriate audit evidence on fuel charges amounting to $60,715 and rent expenses of $13,589; overstatement of indirect program support costs by $21,737."

   First, it is unacceptable for this UN to say it will not respond to troubling documents because it is conducting its own audit, with no completion date named and no commitment to make it public. The new Free UN Coalition for Access is opposing and seeking to reverse this UN descent into obfuscation and stonewalling.

 More specifically, was Haq referring to this completed (and troubling) audit, or some NEW audit of the same program? If the latter, how much as paid to Grant Thorton International Ltd for the first audit?

  Inner City Press asked Dujarric on August 11:

Inner City Press: last week there was some back and forth about the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) programmes in Afghanistan that resulted in Farhan [Haq] on Friday saying that an audit is ongoing, and while the audit is ongoing, there will be no comment.  At least thatís how I interpreted it.  But, Iíve looked into it and it turns out that there was an audit that was completed of this very program called ďClosing the Security GapĒ project, finished in February of this year by Grant Thorton.  It made a lot of negative findings, butÖ it wasnít clear to me, since UNDP never directly answered the questions, is this audit thatís being cited the old audit?  Is there a new audit?  If thereís a new audit of the same programme, how much was paid for the former audit?  And can you explain how itís appropriate for the Secretariat to not answer questions about DSS [Department of Safety and Security] and UNAMA [United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan] by referring to a UNDP audit that may already be completed?

Spokesman Dujarric:   My short answer is, show me what you have, what youíre referring to and Iím happy to look into it because Iím a little confused by the number of audits myself.

  Inner City Press immediately emailed the audit to Dujarric, along with these three questions:

1) is this the audit Farhan / UNDP were referring to at Friday's noon briefing and justifying not answering questions about DSS and UNAMA?

2) if a second audit of the Closing the Security Gap Project is underway, why? And, either way, how much was paid for the Grant Thorton Audit?

3) This is a requests for the Secretariat to respond to the references to DSS and UNAMA in the documents Farhan was responding to on Friday.

  Still, no answer. Inner City Press asked Dujarric again on August 13:

Inner City Press: Iíd asked you on Monday about this UNDP audit that was cited as a reason they were not answering a questions about [Department of Safety and Security] and UNAMA [United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan].  Have you been able to find out from them whether this February 2014 audit was the one that theyíre citing now or is there a new audit?

Spokesman Dujarric:  I havenít had a chance to actually follow-up but I will.

 Two day later, nothing. This is called stonewalling.

 Before publishing any of the documents, Inner City Press posed questions to five UNDP spokespeople. But none even confirmed receipt -- including Abdel-Rahman Ghandour, the spokesperson who belatedly responded to Inner City Press' previous LOTFA exclusives.

 What changed, other than Inner City Press' subsequent reporting on UNDP Administrator Helen Clark's layoff campaign, and these new troubling questions?

 The questions were sent on August 5 to the following, without response for 72 hours: lead spokesperson Dheepa Pandian (out of the office from August 1 to 18), Mila Rosenthal and Helen Clark's personal spokesperson Christina Lo Nigro.

  After Inner City Press asked UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq to reply about the UN Secretariat's own role, Haq on August 8 read a statement from UNDP -- there will be no answer pending a UNDP audit. Video here.

   This is pure stonewalling. And can Ban Ki-moon's UN Secretariat's Department of Safety and Security and UNAMA Mission hide behind a UNDP audit that may never be public?

 From the UN's August 8, 2014 transcript, here:

UN Deputy Spokesperson Haq: I was asked questions earlier this week about how the UN Development Programme (UNDP) is dealing with allegations in Afghanistan.

UNDP informed me that it can confirm that recent allegations concerning Afghanistan have previously been reported to the UNDP Independent Office of Audit and Investigation.  In order to avoid jeopardizing the investigation process, the details of investigations are kept confidential and very limited information is made available to offices outside the Office of Audit and Investigation, until the process of gathering relevant evidence and fact-finding has been completed.  Should the matter be substantiated, the evidence gathered by the Office of Audit and Investigation will form the basis of remedial action.

I was also asked about allegations concerning visas in Afghanistan.  Regarding UNDP staff participating in the UN Games in the United States, I can clarify the following:  only three of the four staff members who were mentioned in the allegations travelled from Afghanistan to the United States to participate in the UN Games.  This was private travel.  The staff members applied and obtained their US tourist visas themselves.  They also paid for all travel expenses...

Inner City Press:  Sure, I wanted to, after three days to say basically, that the UNDP is aware of the charges but wonítÖ one of the documents shows basically a threat by Afghanistan to UN staff.  It says, you know, donít make these allegations of corruption.  And so it seems like, it seems kind of imperative toÖ I wanted to know whether in response to the documents that have been published, UNDP provided any, either protection to the staff involved?  I also wanted to know, I know that Helen Clark herself received a letter from the Office of the Special InvestigatorÖ of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction in May, asking for a lot of information.  I wanted to know, whether, I guess, UNDP will only answer through you, so Iíll ask you, because I e-mailed them these questions.  Iíll ask you, did Helen Clark answer thisÖ detailed request from a major donor or did she give the same answer, that UNDP is investigating itself?  When will that investigation be finished?  And will it be made public?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, as I think I just pointed out to you, this is subject to an audit.  Weíll need to wait for that to proceed and the details of the investigation will be kept confidential while that investigation is proceeding.  As I also said, should the matter be substantiated, the evidence gathered by the Office of Audit and Investigation will form the basis of remedial action.  So thatís where we stand on that.  If there are further details once this has proceeded from UNDP, either they will get in touch with you, or I will.

Inner City Press:  Did they answer CGIAR?  Did they answer this?  Iím starring at this pretty lengthy letter, detailed letter sent to Ms. Helen Clark.  Did she answer questions from donor nations?

Deputy Spokesperson:  As youíre aware, because I just said it several times, this is all subject to an audit and, therefore, there wonít be any further details to provide at this stage while the audit is under way.  Yes?

   After Haq refused another Inner City Press question, after the UNTV cameras turned off, Haq told Inner City Press that UNDP refused to answer the August 5 questions, below, due to "your people skills." Inner City Press deals perfectly well with numerous diplomats at the UN and many others -- but UNDP and some UN officials don't like hard questions and think they can simply stonewall, in the UN's Zone of Impunity.

   Seventy two hours in, while the UN Secretariat of Ban Ki-moon said it won't answer about the role of its own Department of Safety and Security and UNAMA mission while UNDP answers, August 6 and 7 video here -- UNDP had provided no answer at all.

   This despite UNDP Administrator Helen Clark having been subject to formal governmental requests about related UNDP irregularities in Afghanistan in May. Is this any way to run for UN Secretary General?

  Today's fourth document, exclusively published here, makes even more clear why Bann Ki-moon's Secretariat must respond. The document describes double payments then introduces one "Colonel Bashary," who threatens not to talk about corruption, "I will not tolerate these accusations." Click here to view.

  In Afghanistan as Inner City Press exclusively dug into, UN Security official Louis Maxwell was killed, presumptively by Afghan Forces -- and the UN has obtained zero accountability for this killed staff member. Inner City Press has put questions about Louis Maxwell to Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson, who to his credit responded, and to current Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura, here.

Now: why would the UN be telling a whistle-blower to "just let it be," then refusing to answer?

  Yesterday's third document, exclusively published here, concerns "'Ghost Staffing' at the UN Protective Force," about which the UN Department of Safety and Security said, "Just let it be for now." Click here to view.

    On August 5, Inner City Press exclusively published this one, linking it to the LOTFA scandal: an official "was again advised that it may be illegal for salaried police officials to take cash payments to augment their salaries" but the adviser was told it was "no longer my priority under LOTFA and that I was no longer to address these issues with DPII or DSS."

  This and the other documents indicate that little was fixed, that UNDP goes after whistleblowers, and does not follow up even when for example it is involved in visa fraud.

   Inner City Press on morning of August 5 asked no fewer than four spokespeople at UNDP, including the personal spokesperson for UNDP Administrator (and UNSG candidate) Helen Clark for their response to the below.

 More than 72 hours later -- there had been no answers. Inner City Press exclusively published the second document, here: about payments by UNAMA / UNDSS to fully salaried Afghan forces. Click here.

  Both UNAMA and UNDSS are run by Ban Ki-moon's Secretariat, so Ban's spokespeople must answer. UNDP's Helen Clark herself has refused official inquiry about these irregularities. So on August 6 Inner City Press asked UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq:

Inner City Press: The payments by UNDSS (Department of Safety and Security) and UNAMA (United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan) in Afghanistan to members of the Ministry of Interior and other Afghan forces that are already under full salary by the Government. Various documents have come out that show an internal UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) whistle blower seeking to raise these issues within UNDP because, I guess, because as the country team, or whatever. But the documents list, they name UNDSS, they name UNAMA, and basically the person was told, ďDonít raise this anymore.Ē So, I was anticipating you to say ďAsk UNDPĒ. And I have more than 24 hours ago. I donít have any answer from them. But I want to ask you, because the documents are not just about UNDP, but about DSS and UNAMA, is itÖ what are the rules? Is it UNís, DPKOís (Department of Peacekeeping Operations), DPAís (Department of Political Affairs) and DSSís understanding that Afghan forces shouldnít receive out double payments. If this information came to light, I think it did, what was done about it? Thatís my question to you. I donít know if you get an answer today. Is it possible?

Deputy Spokesman Haq: As Iím sure youíve anticipated, and indeed you said you anticipated, yes, Iím aware that UN Development Programme is in touch with you on this. Theyíve informed you that they will get back to you. And so, we will first have to wait for what their reply is. First ask them.

Inner City Press: How long --

Deputy Spokesman: No, no. Itís no use trying to get the two of us talk at cross purposes with each other. UNDP will get back to you.

  That UNDP "is in touch with you" was and is not true: there has been no response at all. The statement UNDP "will get to you" remains unfulfilled. This is today's UN system -- even when UN system staff unions wrote to Ban Ki-moon about Helen Clark, and Inner City Press repeated asked about the letter, there has been no response.

  Here is what Inner City Press asked on August 5, no answer:

This is an Inner City Press Press request on deadline for UNDP's comment / response to the following narrative provided to us by UNDP whistleblowers:

UNDP purchased $100,000 in fuel for a special police unit and it was discovered that some or all of the fuel was stolen by the police. The project manager - chief technical adviser for the project refused to purchase another allocation of fuel due to this reported corruption. Refusing to purchase this additional fuel caused problems between the project manager - chief technical adviser and the chief of UN security in Afghanistan.

This followed with reports that several vehicles purchased by this same UNDP project and given to this same special police unit were not being used for the unit but had instead been given as political gifts or other reasons to other offices of the Afghan government. After giving these vehicles to higher ranking officials the Colonel of this special police unit was promoted to General.

The project manager - chief technical adviser reported this and nothing happened. As part of the review which discovered this the corruption of payments made by the UN security office in Afghanistan to the special police unit was also discovered and reported.

 This is also a request for UNDP response / comment on another issue, of visa overstay, also on deadline:

UNDP's staff from Afghanistan have not returned to their duty station after being granted visas to attend/participate in the recent UN Games in the USA. UNDP supported the official/G4 visas for all of these Afghan nationals and now they have remained behind in the USA... How can the organization justify sending a dozen people half-way around the world to compete in 'UN Games'? How many of them were given business class tickets since the travel exceeds the 9 hour standard? Is this a proper use of public monies? How can an office so critical to the development of Afghanistan in this time of change see it as beneficial for a dozen of their staff to go on a paid junket to the USA?

1. Lailuma Shirzad (procurement) - overstay in USA.

2. Abdul Hamid Karimi (procurement) - presumably in UK

3. Idrees Sherzai (HR) - went to US, but crossed the border and is now in Canada

4. Shahkhalid Yousafzai - went to US, but crossed the border and is now in Canada

This is on deadline. This is also a request for UNDP's response to the staff survey and the critique(s) of the restructuring / layoffs.

  On the visas we can for now add: There are 3 more from ELECT Project and 3 to 4 from Information Communications and Technology Unit whom whistleblowers say have also overstayed their visas. No answers from UNDP. We plan to have more. Watch this site.


 

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