Inner City Press


In Other Media-e.g. Somalia, Ghana, Azerbaijan, The Gambia   For further information, click here to contact us          .

Home -

Search is just below this first article

How to Contact Us


Support this work by buying this book

Click on cover for secure site orders

also includes "Toxic Credit in the Global Inner City"

In N. Korea Scandal, Still No WFP or FAO Audit, What Did UNICEF Know and When?

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, June 12 -- While the focus of investigations into UN system irregularities in North Korea remains on the UN Development Program, which since late 2006 has resisted releasing audits of its work and has refused to answer basic question such as "when did local staff finally lose access to UNDP's computer system," it has emerged that several involved UN agencies have yet to have been subject to even preliminary audits.

    While the World Food Program at least has an audit in progress, a sister UN agency reported spending $5 million per year in the country, the Food and Agriculture Organization, is for now escaping any scrutiny at all.

            The UN's largest spender in North Korea, UNICEF, has yet to determine and announce how it will respond to the preliminary audit released on June 1.  In the interim, Inner City Press has obtained a copy of UNICEF's own "Office of Internal Audit" report on the "DPR Korea Country Office," dated October 2006. A sample finding:

Monitoring of project activities by staff with inadequate technical skills and tools limits the office capacity to identify and address program effectiveness and implementation issues. 

The program section had five Government seconded national project officers who had to be accepted by the office without any assessment of their technical skills in the relevant program areas, and moreover, who were seconded for short periods of time. the basic cooperation agreement signed between UNICER and Democratic People's Republic of Korea did not provide for any arrangement for seconded staff and the office did not have a record to support the current arrangement: therefore, there was no formal agreement with the Government on the roles and responsibilities to be assigned to seconded staff... The office indicated that the issue of the secondment of staff without adequate or required technical skills had been discussed with the Government with little progress.

            This finding was made available to UNICEF well before the North Korea seconded staff and hard currency scandal broke. But what was done?

            Meanwhile, two UN agencies are now operating in North Korea with no authority at all. The UN Population Fund, which along with UNDP current has its Executive Board meeting at UN Headquarters, "was part of UNDP when the original 1979 [Standard Basic Assistance] Agreement was signed, and there is no evidence that UNFPA has subsequently entered into a specific Standard Basic Agreement with the DPRK," according to the preliminary audit released on June 1.

   UN agencies generally may not operate in a country without an agreement with its government. Whatever the wisdom of UNDP having "piggybacked" on  UNDP's agreement, now that UNDP has left North Korea, UNFPA has no agreement at all, and should negotiate one or leave, according to observers who add that to continue to operate with no agreement or standards at all is a set-up for additional problems.

Mr. Ban at ACABQ on June 11, audit expansion not shown (has not yet occurred)

            Of the UN Office of Project Services, the preliminary audit says that "UNOPS does not have any basic agreement with the Government of DPRK," noting that UNOPOS usually "works under the specific agreement of the UN Resident Coordinator of other UN entity." That was UNDP, which has left the country. Now what?

            Inner City Press has asked the World Food Organization about this issue and when WFP's audit will come out and was told:

Subj: dprk 
Date: 6/4/2007 11:08:00 AM Eastern Standard Time
From: [NY Spokesperson at]
To: Inner City Press
 Dear Matthew,  thanks for your question about the audit on DPRK.

We do not know when our external auditor's report will come out. As you know the UK National Audit Office is conducting the audit which is still going on. The Executive Board of WFP at its first regular session from 19-21 February, took the following decision:

' Noting the Secretary General's proposal, the Executive Board decided to request the WFP external auditor to carry out a special audit of the WFP operations in the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea as a matter of priority and report its findings to the Board. The WFP external auditor might wish to consult and coordinate with the UN Board of Auditors which may be undertaking a special audit of United Nations organizations in the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, including the United Nations Funds and Programs that fall within its mandate.'

Once the audit report is done, it will go to the WFP Executive Board which ordered it... and then it will become a public document.  And we certainly will be available for all of your questions on the audit report once it comes out. If we hear anything about the progress of the audit at this week's Executive Board meeting, I will pass it on to you. But the audit report will not be ready for this week's EB meeting.

            The prospective offer by WFP to be available for questions once their preliminary audit comes out is to be contrasted with the non-availability and non-response of UNOPS, UNFPA and, for now, UNICEF.

            UNICEF has reportedly been the UN system's biggest spender in North Korea. While UNICEF did and does have a separate agreement with the DPRK government, its response to the preliminary audit is not yet known. Inner City Press one week ago asked

 On the DPRK audit, here's are three initial questions, on deadline for close of business Tuesday:

--will UNICEF be submitting a management response, and if so will it make the management response public, as UNDP did?

--are there any provinces of DPR Korea where UNICEF does not / will  not provide services, or will provide only some of its services? If so, what are the provinces, when was the decision made and why?

--In remarks for UNICEF's Executive Board meeting on June 4, [a Board member] said

"The Board of Auditors released its report late last week and we would like to know when the Executive Board can expect a full  report from UNICEF... We believe that reports of the Office of Internal Audit and the Evaluation Office should be available to the Executive Board."

   What is UNICEF's position on making internal audits available at least to members of its Executive Board and, separately, to the press and public? To the degree that the "full report from UNICEF" alluded to above it different from the management response asked about, when might this full report be produced, and will it be available to the Press and public?

 Also, beyond the outstanding India question, what about the question, raised on April 16 in connection with the Moro National Liberation Front, regarding which groups in control of territory, but not recognized governments, UNICEF has agreements with? Finally, is it possible to get list(s) of UNICEF Executive Board meeting attendees?

            Having received answers to none of these questions, Inner City Press on June 7 approached  UNICEF executive director Ann Veneman and asked her if UNICEF will be submitting a management response to the North Korea audit.

            "We're working on it," Ms. Veneman answered.

            "But you will be submitting one?"

            "I don't know exactly. I have to talk to my people. I don't know if they're going to do a management response. I don't know what the appropriate resp--" Ms. Veneman trailed off. "I don't know if they're going to do one yet. They're working on it."

            Apparently, five days and several news cycles later, UNICEF is still working on it.  UNFPA director Thoraya Obaid also responded to Inner City Press' question about any management response with an "I don't know." UNOPS Director Jan Mattson has simply not responded at all. Then again, Mr. Obaid's and Mr. Mattson's agencies don't have an agreements to be operating in North Korea.

            The Food and Agriculture Organization, named by UNDP spokesman  David Morrison in his June 11 press conference, is apparently not even subject to a preliminary audit. One wonders now if Ban Ki-moon, who narrowed the scope of his audit-call between January 19 and January 22, will now finally re-widen the scope, and assign the task to an outside firm. Mr. Ban met with the UN's Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions on  Monday, but according to his spokesperson did not raise this issue. When will he? Developing...

Click here for Inner City Press' June 1 story on other UNDP questions.

    Again, because a number of Inner City Press' UN sources go out of their way to express commitment to serving the poor, and while it should be unnecessary, Inner City Press is compelled to conclude this installment in a necessarily-ongoing series by saluting the stated goals of the UN agencies and many of their staff. Keep those cards, letters and emails coming, and phone calls too, we apologize for any phone tag, but please continue trying, and keep the information flowing.

Feedback: Editorial [at]

UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540  Matthew.Lee [at]

Search WWW Search

Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service.

            Copyright 2006-07 Inner City Press, Inc. To request reprint or other permission, e-contact Editorial [at] -

UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540