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Defending Ban, UN Official Says No FOIA Needed, Myanmar & Sudan No Comment

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 22 -- Ban Ki-moon's desire for a second term as UN Secretary General was on display on Thursday, when two separate press conferences were held to rebut the critique of outgoing Under Secretary General for Investigations Inga Britt Ahlenius.

At noon, USG Angela Kane and her human resources Assistant SG Catherine Pollard provided a dense, some say misleading defense of Ban's reaching down to determine Ahlenius' choice of a deputy.

  Ms. Kane says it would be improper, however, for her as USG for Management to answer Inner City Press' request for Team Ban's response to Ahlenius' statement that Ban has failed on such issues as Myanmar and Sudan.
  Inner City Press asked who would take questions on Myanmar and Sudan, and Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky said you may have an opportunity shortly.

From 5 to 6 pm that afternoon, a self described “senior UN official,” whom we'll refer to as SUNO or as “he,” while it may have been a woman, took questions off camera from the Press.

When Inner City Press asked for example about Ban, despite the centrality of gender balance to his defense, having named of High Level Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing consisting of 19 people, all men, until one was replaced by Minister Lagarde of France, the Senior UN Official said the criticism by the Presswas “unfair,” since a woman was added to the 19 member Group in the end. A Ban advisor -- to play by the rules, we cannot say whether the same or a different one -- similarly this week blamed the media.

  Inner City Press began by asking for a defense of what Ahlenius and others call Ban's failure on Myanmar and Sudan. The Senior UN Official deflected this by saying that on some issues you move favor and some slow.

  But in South Sudan there is the deadline of a planned referendum. The Official countered that he only wanted to talk about Ms. Ahlenius' critique -- which, of course, included Myanmar and Sudan, as well as Congo and Cyprus, but who's counting?

So Inner City Press asked about the division of powers question at the heart of Ahlenius' critique, that under the rules she should had the independence, as UNDP does, to appoint her own D-2 level officials. The UN Official responded first that in practice, “systematically,” Helen Clark of UNDP checks on such appointments with Ban.

But Clark doesn't have to, and Clark is also not in charge of investigating Ban Ki-moon and the Secretariat. The founding documents of OIOS say that it should have the same hiring independence as UNDP.

The Official disagreed, surreally. It can't be the same, he said, “mutatis mutandi... you should know... what applies to [you] does not apply to [another journalist]... you have a beard.” Then the Official turned to take other questions.

UN's Ban and Ahlenius at farewell, per UN, 50 page memo not shown

After the Official bragged about Ban's UN's transparency, Inner City Press asked why the Compacts Ban signs with his officials -- now to their credit including the heads of peacekeeping missions -- are only placed on the UN's intranet, and not for the public, or “we the peoples,” and why the UN under Ban stopped moving toward, or even talking about, a Freedom of Information Act.

On a FOIA, the Senior UN Official replied, “ask the member states, let them legislate, then we'll do it.” He pauses. “If the member states insist, our way of decision making would have to be modified” for “this kind of perfect transparency.” So, no UN FOIA. So much for transparency. Watch this site.

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UNder Fire, Ban's Hiring Staff Spin, Decline Myanmar Comment, Doss No Action

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 22 -- In purported rebuttal of criticism of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for lack of leadership on Myanmar, Darfur, Afghanistan and other issues, the UN on July 22 presented on camera two officials, neither with any political responsibility.

  Angela Kane, the Under Secretary General for Management, told Inner City Press that she could not rebut outgoing official Inga Britt Ahlenius' criticism regarding Myanmar, where Ban allowed dictator Than Shwe to take part of UN aid in foreign exchange manipulation, because “in my current perch” as USG for Management it would be “inappropriate to comment on the political situation in one country.” Video here, from Minute 18:19.

Even as to human resources questions, Assistant SG Catherine Pollard evaded most of the questions, in essence blaming Ahlenius for not have set up her own Senior Review Panel to obtain the independence to which she and the Office of Internal Oversight Services are entitled.

Ban's Spokesman Martin Nesirky had begun by saying that for all UN posts at the D-2 level, there must be three candidates and at least one must be a woman. But as Inner City Press reported earlier this week, Horst Heitmann was removed from his Security Council Affairs post and parked atop the Middle East and Western Asia unit of the Department of Political Affairs, without any three candidates or woman.

Ms. Pollard said this was an exception, a lateral hire, but that the post Heitmann was removed from will be advertised and filled in the usual way. The usual pre-selected way? Sources say that Karina Gurlach, a favorite of DPA chief Lynn Pascoe, will get the post under a Temporary Vacancy Announcement, and then permanently.

Under the rubric of accountability, Inner City Press asked about the case of Alan Doss, who after initially being exposed by Inner City Press for pushing UNDP to show him “leeway” and hire his daughter, was the subject of a report of impropriety by OIOS that Ban let languish on his desk until Doss retired.

Pollard said that “G-2s and USGs are subject to the same rules” -- this despite Doss being allowed to bring his wife and children to “non-family” posts in West Africa and the Congo, as UN Volunteers -- and that the OIOS report “as presented” justified the “action” taken.

What action, Inner City Press asked. Ban's Assistant Spokesman Farhan Haq had said the Doss report was still being considered, and that the outcome would be announced.

No disciplinary action was deemed warranted, Pollard said. So: lack of accountability, and total lack of transparency, as to when and why this decision was taken.

UN's Ban and Kane, Compact only on intra-net, but SRSGs too now

Here is more on the issue of hiring rules to which the UN has sought to confine the story -- we present this without forgetting that Ms. Ahlenius herself tried improperly to get her friend Danielle Coolen hired, refused to answer questions about it, nor why she and Robert Appleton never investigated the UN's $250 million sole source contract with Lockheed Martin for Darfur “super camps” that were never built. Nevertheless:

Catherine Pollard cited an obscure Secretariat document called ST/AI/401 and claimed that Ahlenius never created the necessary "appointment panel" which would have allowed her to select her preferred candidate to head OIOS' Investigations Division.

When it was pointed out to her that it is actually the responsibility of the Secretary-General to create the panel, she dodged the question, saying maybe this will happen in the future.

According to ST/AI/2003/4, issued 21 March 2003, "the Secretary-General, in consultation with the Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services, shall establish an OIOS Review Body to advise the Under-Secretary-General on the appointment, promotion and termination of all staff members up to and including the D-2 level.

When questioned about the actual provisions of relevant UN rules, Pollard deflected the question with mumbo-jumbo about an ongoing review of all Administrative Instructions.

ST/AI/401, titled "Personnel Arrangements for the Office of Internal Oversight Services", says that the Head of OIOS shall exercise "latitude and control" over personnel and resources of OIOS, and "shall have powers of appointment, promotion and termination similar to those delegated by the Secretary-General to the heads of programmes, funds or subsidiary organs enjoying special status in these matters."

Pollard was not able to adequately explain why the appointments within OIOS are thus not treated the same as the appointments within UNDP, where the SG does not exercise veto rights over the hiring of D-2. Helen Clark can hire whoever she wants, without her selections going to Ban's Senior Review Group for vetting and approval.

Also unanswered by Kane was the obvious conflict of interest inherent in Team Ban having in effect veto power over Ahlenius' personnel selection process. These would be the subject of future reviews by the Fifth Committee, ACABQ, and Internal Audit Committee, in a properly functioning organization.

Another document, ST/SGB/2002/7, titled "Organization of the Office of Internal Oversight Services", quite clearly establishes that "The Under-Secretary-General is responsible for all the activities of the Office of Internal Oversight Services, as well as its administration." Team Ban didn't adequately explain this inconsistency.

The same document says that the OIOS executive office is responsible for "submitting OIOS appointment and promotion cases endorsed by the Panel to the Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services for his or her approval on behalf of the Secretary-General."

So there is a clear indication that the head of OIOS is responsible for approving appointments "on behalf of the Secretary-General". Both of these documents -- ST/AI/401 and ST/SGB/2002/7 -- were prepared and issued by the Department of Management.

And so it seems that Team Ban did not have the authority to reject Ahlenius' proposed selection for the D-2 position in her Investigations Division. What story will they try to spin now? Another “senior UN official” is scheduled to appear later on July 22. Watch this site.

From the July 20 UN noon briefing transcript:

Inner City Press: I’m sure you are aware of this controversy of the exit memo by Ms. Ahlenius and Mr. Nambiar’s response. At least as of now, Nambiar’s response to it says, makes various criticisms, but presents as a defence of the Secretary-General that he has been, among other things, on accountability, that he has strengthened whistleblower protections and held people accountable. Maybe you could describe what the strengthening of the whistleblower protections are, and state, for example, if Alan Doss, with an OIOS [Office of Internal Oversight Services] report sitting on Ban Ki-moon’s desk for a while now, was he held accountable? Was Shabaan Shabaan, with a pending case, and the court decision, I guess, is there some opportunity, seeing now Mr. Nambiar’s response to the press on these issues, to dig into them a little bit and either have them come give a briefing, or to substantiate what is said in his memo? And also to get a copy of the 50-page Ahlenius exit? Only the cover page is online.

Spokesperson Nesirky: That’s presumably thanks to the journalistic endeavours of the Washington Post correspondent. There is the three-page summary there that you’ve been able to read.

Inner City Press: Nambiar’s thing is a public document, right?

Spokesperson: Mr. Nambiar’s, the Chef de Cabinet’s, document is out there, it’s also linked on the Washington Post and the sites — as you quite rightly say, that this is the Chef de Cabinet on behalf on the Secretary-General, addressing specific points that had been raised by Colum Lynch in his researching and writing of the pieces that he did. So the response from Mr. Nambiar very specifically is geared to the questions that Mr. Lynch had raised. And as you also mentioned on accountability, there are any number of different measures that had been undertaken, not just by the Secretary-General. I think this is an important point, that this is part of a process that is constantly evolving. Accountability is something that has been there from the start, and successive Secretaries-General have sought to improve it, to strengthen it, in different ways. This Secretary-General came into office with precisely that aim, to strengthen accountability and transparency. He has been doing that; the specific examples that Mr. Nambiar has quoted speak for themselves. I will relay your request to him. He’s probably watching now and has heard it himself....

Inner City Press: It seems like a lot of this revolves around Robert Appleton, who used to be the head of the Procurement Task Force?

Spokesperson: One fifth of it revolves around that.

Inner City Press: This isn’t the softball I’m throwing you, Martin. Is it true that Russia and Singapore have opposed Mr. Appleton being considered for any post within OIOS? And if not, could this be, is the Secretariat aware of opposition by Russia, Singapore, and other countries investigated during Mr. Appleton’s tenure?

Spokesperson: First of all, we wouldn’t necessarily be privy to any country’s preference or opposition necessarily, I’m certainly not aware of that kind of pressure being brought to bear, and what I can say is that this one case that is repeatedly referred to, and as I said takes up a large chunk of this end-of-assignment report, which is an internal management tool; a very valuable management tool is the way that one likes to look at these end-of-assignment reports, when they are put together in the right constructive fashion. But what one also has to stress is that this is not one particular individual, this is about due process, about the rules for recruitment within the Organization as a whole, not just for one division, department, one part of the Organization. This is a standard rule that applies to all appointments throughout the system, within the different departments and divisions and so on, that there are. That’s the way it is.

Watch this site.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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