Ban's Hands-Off Approach to UNDP, on Ethics Office and Audits, Draws Criticism
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
October 3 -- While the UN Development Program has failed to provide any update
on what it claimed would be its moves to accept the jurisdiction of the UN
Ethics Office, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has now received a detailed letter
from the Washington-based Government Accountability Project, which in 2005 gave
technical assistance to the UN to improve its "internal oversight and
transparency." Inner City Press has
online the letter, in which GAP tells Ban that
"We would appreciate your written
clarification of the basis upon which a troubled programme, such as UNDP, can be
allowed to avoid independent scrutiny of the propriety of its conduct. Mr.
Secretary General, we wish to second the appeal of the Redesign Panel; we ask
that you respond positively and urgently apply the rulings of the Ethics Office
to the UN Funds and Programmes."
failure so far to apply the UN Ethics Office to UNDP is one of the counts
against him cited by the president of the UN Staff Union in a October 1
communique which accuses Ban of adopting an "ends justifies the means"
approach which has "undermined... moral and ethical processes" at the UN.
the now-concluded UN General Debate, Ban is said to have conducted over 129
bilateral meetings; his team say that he showed to Member States his energy and
earnestness. But the Staff Union letter, which Inner City Press is putting
portends badly. Ban's failure, at least until now, to apply the Ethics Office to
UNDP, like his apparently failure to follow-up on his call for UN auditors to
have access to North Korea, threaten to become dual albatrosses. It doesn't
have to go this way, but for now, it does.
Mr. Ban and UN Staff Council: can
this relationship be saved?
The North Korea
issues arose again at
Wednesday's noon briefing:
Question: I think Matthew
followed up with the question yesterday
on the meeting that Secretary-General Ban had with the North Korean
representative and, out of that meeting, it became evident that
Secretary-General Ban did not address the issue of auditors being allowed into
Pyongyang. Why is it that the Secretary-General has called for a thorough
investigation and audits of various activities at the United Nations, yet he’s
not pushing for something that he espouses to be something that he believes in?
Spokesperson: I didn't say he was not
pushing for it. What I said is that that simply did not come up during that
conversation with the Foreign Minister. This is all I said.
Question: Is there a reason why it
didn't? It seems like an issue of...
Spokesperson: No, because there were
other issues, like the summit, the Korean summit, which, as you know, the
Secretary-General welcomed yesterday. I mean there were other issues on the
table that they felt were to be discussed as a priority.
Question: I think the question, then, is
why wouldn't he... I mean you've got the man's attention; you're sitting in the
room with him. This is one of the outstanding issues that has existed between
the United Nations and his country. The United Nations has deep involvement in
his country of various programs. Why not?
Spokesperson: Well, he has been engaging
them on that on other occasions, not on that one, specifically. That's all...
Inner City Press: Yesterday, the
Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of North Korea, Mr.
Choe Su Hon, said in an interview that
he did with three of our colleagues that there was no need for the UN to send
any auditors to North Korea and that they're not accepting them. And we’ve also
heard that a letter to that effect has gone to the Board of Auditors, so I
guess, since Mr. Ban himself had called for this and now the Vice-Minister of
the country is saying we don’t want it, what is the next step? First, can you
confirm that the Board of Auditors got a letter and, two, what would the
Secretariat say, now that a country has sort of pretty much openly rebuffed what
Spokesperson: I have to say that efforts
are continuing on that process. That's all I can say.
Question: Is it on the letter thing, is
it a legitimate question, to know if the Board of Auditors got a letter from
Spokesperson: That, I cannot find out for
you. The Board of Auditors, as you know, is an independent body. I don't know
whether they got a letter. I will try to find out, but I don't know whether I
Question: And remember the old request of
having them actually come at some point? Either the Board of Auditors or the...
can we get them in here now that everything's cooling down?
Spokesperson: Well, they keep on saying
the same thing. While an investigation is under way they will not comment.
This is all I am getting at this point.
wasn't this a priority? Wasn't UN reform? The GAP letter in part states:
October 3, 2007
Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General
The United Nations, New York, New York
Dear Mr. Secretary General:
...When the Secretary-General issued the
bulletin entitled "Protection against retaliation for reporting misconduct and
for cooperating with duly authorized audits or investigations" (SGB/2005/21) on
December 19, 2005, GAP publicly praised the United Nations for applying best
practices in whistleblower protection. However, since that time, serious
concerns have arisen regarding the effective implementation of the policy.
We were deeply dismayed to learn of the
treatment of Artjon Shkurtaj, a whistleblower who was retaliated against by UNDP
management after disclosing misconduct in the UN office in North Korea. The
Washington Post ("Reprisal Indicated in a U.N. Program, August 21, 2007)"
reported that the UN Development Programme refused a request from the UN Ethics
Office to submit to an investigation of Mr. Shkurtaj's disclosures.
Instead, Kemal Dervis, Administrator of
UNDP, announced that he would name candidates for an ad hoc panel to investigate
the matter, effectively asserting that UNDP will define its own separate ethical
standard. At GAP, we are surprised and troubled to learn that UN Programmes
apparently can opt out of the whistleblower protection policy and reject Ethics
This ad hoc decision-making comes,
unfortunately, as no surprise to those who have watched the reform process at
the United Nations closely. In their wisdom, the members of the Redesign Panel
on the United Nations System of Administration of Justice anticipated the
"confusion" that would surround the scope of the rulings of the Ethics Office
and, calling its functions "[A]n essential component of the reform of the
Organization," urged the Secretary General to clarify its jurisdiction more than
a year ago.... The "UN Delivering as One" initiative cannot be achieved with
each unit applying a different set of ethical standards, nor can "One UN" be
implemented at the country level if led by a UNDP that insists on its own
institutional autonomy in the face of General Assembly resolutions.
To remove all controversy and place the
United Nations firmly on the road to reform, we appeal to you, Mr. Secretary
General, to invoke your authority to oblige the United Nations system to abide
by a single code of ethics and to address immediately the plight of those staff
members who sought to protect the mission of the United Nations and instead
exposed themselves to injustice and retaliation at the hands of unscrupulous
* * *
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.
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