Korea Scandal, Still No WFP or FAO Audit, What Did UNICEF Know and When?
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.
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.
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.
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
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?
City Press has asked the World Food Organization about this issue and when WFP's
audit will come out and was told:
Date: 6/4/2007 11:08:00 AM Eastern Standard Time
From: [NY Spokesperson at] wfp.org
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
' 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
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
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.
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
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?
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."
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?
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
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.
working on it," Ms. Veneman answered.
will be submitting one?"
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
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.
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...
here for Inner City
Press' June 1 story on other UNDP questions.
Again, because a number of Inner City Press'
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.
UN Office: S-453A,
UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439
(and weekends): 718-716-3540 Matthew.Lee [at]
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
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UN Office: S-453A,
UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439
(and weekends): 718-716-3540