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On Afghanistan, ICP Asks UN's Haysom of Taliban in Sangin, ISIS Radio

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 21, more here Ė With the Taliban said to be taking control of Sangin in Helmand Province, on Monday UN enovy to Afghanistan Nicholas Haysom provide the Security Council and press with his overview of developments in 2015.

He said too much is being made of ISIS presence in the country. Inner City Press asked him if ISIS, as reported, has a radio station now in Nangahar Province. He said hasn't heard it, but in any event there are more radio stations in Afghanistan.

  Inner City Press asked him about Sangin, specifically about the Deputy Governor of Helmand saying on Facebook that his troops don't have enough ammunition.

 Haysom said if Sangin does fall it is significant, but he is not sure that has happened. On the killing of six U.S. soldiers serving with NATO by Bagram base, he said he knew what he heard in the Council: a suicide bomber on a motorcycle.

   The fall of Kunduz for two weeks was raised by nearly every speaker; the U.S. bombing of the hospital there was raised by some. Several diplomat told Inner City Press they found Haysom's breifing surprisingly or too upbeat. But from a press perspective, he remains one of the SRSGs most accessible, tirelessly answering questions.

When for example the UN's envoy on Yemen issues happy talk statements, he has largely banned the press from questioning him. Haysom takes questions, as does his deputy Mark Bowden. This is to their credit.

Back on October 5 aafter repeated airstrikes by the US destroyed the MSF hospital in Kunduz killing doctors and patients, the UN Security Council has been notably silent, apparently waiting for the US investigation.

 The US on October 5 said that Afghanistan chose the target. This recalls the October 2 statement about deadly strikes in Yemen:

"We are deeply concerned about recent reports of civilians killed in Mokha, Yemen on September 28.  We were also shocked and saddened by the deaths of the Yemen Red Crescent Society volunteers in Taiz on the same day. We take all credible accounts of civilian deaths very seriously and again call on all sides of the conflict in Yemen to do their utmost to avoid harm to civilians and to comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law. The United States has no role in targeting decisions made by the Coalition in Yemen. Nevertheless, we have consistently reinforced to members of the Coalition the imperative of precise targeting. We also have underscored the importance of thoroughly investigating all credible allegations of civilian casualties. We call for an investigation into these reported civilian casualties and for the findings to be reported publicly."

  So Yemen is the Saudis' fault; Kunduz is the Afghans'. Meanwhile the President of the UN Security Council for October, asked about the Kunduz bombing, said that Obama has spoken of an investigation. Would this approach be taken to other countries' strikes?

  US-based Associated Press, in reporting on the bombing, corrected its story with this disclosure at the bottom: "This story deletes a reference to weaponry in the hospital windows as seen in AP video after further review of the images cast doubt on whether they were rifles and a machine gun or simply charred debris from the bombing."

  In UN beyond the Security Council, the sequence of statements of condemnation began with Rights Commissioner Zeid, then Ban Ki-moon, then Aid Chief Stephen O'Brien. Some wondered why not the UN Department of Political Affairs, which runs the UNAMA mission in the country, headed by American Jeffrey Feltman.

  Obama chimed in, saying that he's asked the Department of Defense to keep him informed of the investigation. Imagine, some asked, if the new strikes in Syria caused such carnage: would saying "we are investigating" be enough?

  And still, as of 3 am on October 5 in New York, there was no statement by the UN Security Council.

  On US Sunday morning television on October 4, former US military figure Jack Keane said it must have been an "errant missile" or mis-targeting. But why then did the attacks go on for an hour, even as MSF called the US?

 This was followed on October 4 by statement by the acting Kunduz governor that the hospital was a Taliban base. MSF fired back:

"MSF is disgusted by the recent statements coming from some Afghanistan government authorities justifying the attack on its hospital in Kunduz. These statements imply that Afghan and US forces working together decided to raze to the ground a fully functioning hospital with more than 180 staff and patients inside because they claim that members of the Taliban were present.

This amounts to an admission of a war crime. This utterly contradicts the initial attempts of the US government to minimize the attack as 'collateral damage.'

There can be no justification for this abhorrent attack on our hospital that resulted in the deaths of MSF staff as they worked and patients as they lay in their beds. MSF reiterates its demand for a full transparent and independent international investigation."

 So who will do the investigation?

Background: 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 this past summer exclusively provided Inner City Press with yet more damning documents.

   On August 15, 2014 UNDP belatedly specified that "there is an ongoing investigation related to issues raised in documents published by Inner City Press" - but again uses this as a rationale for the lack of response not only by UNDP but also the UNAMA mission and UN Department of Safety and Security.

  On fifty five days later, despite two more requests from Inner City Press, UNDP has nothing on any results of its investigation. It has provided its response to the October 6 release by the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction -- which says (other) audits will be released by the end of the year.

  When will any of these audits, including one promised in early September about Rwanda ghost consultancies, be released?

  Inner City Press asked at the October 10 noon briefing, then in writing: "this is a request for UNDP's response to SIGAR's allegations -- and for the results of the probes UNDP answered on August 15 then in early September, about Afghanistan and Rwanda."

  The latter two have yet to be answered, other than "let me check and I will get back to you." On SIGAR, UNDP says "we will make publicly available an audit of our oversight of the monitoring agent before the end of this year." (The rest should go here.)

  On Rwanda ghost consultancies, UNDP told Inner City Press on September 3, "The results of the investigation will be available once it is complete." It has not been made available; nor has any update yet been provided.

   As to what the documents and "issues raised" regarding Afghanistan are, 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 was 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, had not said whether an audit cited as a justification for not answering is the troubling audit completed in February 2014.

  After Inner City Press asked again on August 15, UNDP's Dylan Lowthian provided this response, which we publish in full:

The 'Security Gap Project' (SGAP) which you have previously referred to was established to enhance security for all United Nations personnel working in Afghanistan. SGAP supported the Government to develop dedicated protection services to the United Nations to enable reconstruction, development and humanitarian activities to be carried out.

SGAP closed at the end of 2013. An audit of the project was carried out by Grant Thornton beginning in October 2013 and was completed in January 2014. Upon completion, the audit was issued in February 2014 and in-keeping with our commitment to transparency and accountability, was subsequently published on the UNDP global website, where it is publicly available to download. Audits are an essential part of our control mechanisms. They are conducted in order to identify both strengths and weaknesses in our programs as a way to increase our overall performance.

There is no second audit of the SGAP project.

As outlined by the Deputy Spokesperson at the briefing on Friday 8 August, there is an ongoing investigation related to issues raised in documents published by Inner City Press. 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 UNDP Independent 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.

  We'll have more on this. For now, 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.

 The 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 was and is unacceptable for this UN to say it will not respond to troubling documents because it is conducting its own audit or "investigation," 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.


  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.

  There was 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. So Inner City Press asked yet again.

 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 investigation that may never be public?

   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 wouldn'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?

  The 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?

  The 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.

 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. We plan to have more. Watch this site.


 

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