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UN's Rehab Plan Might Drive Press Out, From Bid Openings to Cost Overruns, Master Planner Speaks

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

UNITED NATIONS, February 2 -- As the plan to renovate the UN's headquarters plods forward, it remains $97 million over-budget, not counting $160 million in late-arising "associated costs." The director of the UN Capital Master Plan, Michael Adlerstein, briefed the press on Monday, reading the $97 million figure from notes and acknowledging the associated costs only in response to questions.

  At least he answered that question. When Inner City Press asked Adlerstein about the proposal that the UN for the first time impose rent charges on journalists, which would have the effect of driving smaller, independent and developing world media out of the UN, he said he would not comment on camera, nor take a position on the matter. Video here, from Minute 44:52.

  Likewise, after he had described ostensibly transparent procurement actions by the UN's general contractor, Skanska, he was asked if the Press can observe the bid openings. "We don't invite the press to bid openings," Adlerstein answered. Video here, from Minute 57:44.

  But the Procurement Division allowed Press attendance at the bid opening for the privatization of a portion of the UN Pension Fund. How much more so the expenditure of $1.87 billion in global taxpayers' funds, overseen by a UN-selected contractor not only described as "Skanska scandal" in Argentina, but more recently sued for by a worker for lung cancer? Click here for that.

Adlerstein with UN's Ban, exclusion of press not shown

  While not asked of Adlerstein during his press conference, the UN's expenditure for a ventilation system for cigarette smoking in its basement Vienna Cafe -- where Adlerstein said the Security Council stakeout will be -- now seems all the more wasteful when signs have gone up directed smokers to their designated area, down a long hall and overlooking the East River. Smoking has continued, with no end in sight. Under the CMP, regular staff will work in bullpens while high UN officials will get private offices. All the better to smoke in. Adlerstein called the UN's relations with the City of New York complicated but positive. We will continue to follow this.

Footnotes: Inner City Press first reported on this move by Ban Ki-moon's UN to charge rent to the press in connection with the head of UN Management, Angela Kane, click here for that. At the time, the Press was told that such a move without not be made without agreement by the chiefs of the Department of Public Information. Now Adlerstein is in the mix, but won't comment on camera. Who then will be making this decision? We will continue to follow and report on it.

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

Click here for Inner City Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo

Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on UN, bailout, MDGs

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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