Dervis Disregards Ethics Office, Threatens to Tarnish Reputation of Accusers
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
August 24 -- One week after the UN Ethics Office wrote to Kemal Dervis stating
that within the UN Development Program there is "an absence of an applicable
protection against retaliation policy," Dervis on Friday wrote to UNDP staff to,
among other things, threaten them with retaliation. See Dervis' letter below.
Dervis writes that it is only the press that is claiming that UNDP does "not
have such systems in place." But that finding was made by the Ethics Office's
Benson, in his August 17 memo to Dervis,
copied to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
Dervis shifts to his concern for, or about, those who raise complaints. Dervis
writes that "allegations of misconduct have the
potential to severely and unfairly tarnish the reputation of both the accused
allegations tarnish the reputation of the accuser? Well, within UNDP the
practice is that a complainant is subject to close investigation, to find any
scintilla of discrepancies with which to try to target the accuser. This is
done, at UNDP, through gossip and leaks to the press. And then a hiding from
the press -- Dervis has not held a press conference in UN headquarters in all of
2007, and only two in all his time at UNDP.
Dervis and Turkish reporter Dogan Ulucun (Melkert and Dutch press not shown
Dervis' #2 Ad Melkert has
adopted the same evade-the-UN-press approach. From the transcript of
Friday' noon briefing:
Press: We are told that today, the Associate Administrator Ad Melkert is meeting
with the press, but not here, and only in Dutch. So I guess I want to emphasize
that there have been a lot of requests here to ask about this, and I think it
would be easier for you if someone came. But since we can't speak with them --
I get no answers from them -- we are told that in the terms of reference, the
Administrator, Kemal Dervis, is the one that will nominate whoever the reviewer
is. So I am wondering -- I'll ask them as well -- if you can get a confirmation
or denial on that?
I think this is wrong. I think what was said to us, what was said in the letter
that you received -- that was distributed yesterday -- signed by the President
of the Board, was that they would themselves name someone.
Press: From what I heard about the terms of the reference they prepared, the
Administrator nominates three individuals, and then the Executive Board chooses
the one. Is there a way to find out if, in fact, UNDP is the one nominating,
you know, creating the shortlist? It is just a factual question, I am not
saying if it is right or wrong, I am just wondering [inaudible]
I donít know, this is a matter for the Board to tell us. Whenever they are
ready to tell us, they will tell us.
Ban Ki-moon question on this. Yesterday, apparently, the
whistle-blower wrote Ban
Ki-moon and asked him to refer his case to the UN Administrative Tribunal
for a legal ruling on whether the Ethics Office applies to UNDP or not. So I
want to know, did Mr. Ban get the letter, and is he going to turn that over to
the Administrative Tribunal?
I donít think he has gotten that letter.
This is strange, since
the letter was
e-mailed to, among others, Ban advisor Kim Won-soo, Vijay Nambiar, Alicia
Barcena, and others.
Dervis encourages staff to raise their
complaints to their staff representatives. But the above-referenced
whistleblower who did was referred to the UN Ethics Office, and the UNDP Staff
Union itself has so little confidence in UNDP's internal reviews that it also
took its complaints across First Avenue to the Secretariat.
Who then is the audience for Dervis'
letter of August 24? Apparently the goal is to allow Ban Ki-moon to say, despite
the findings of Ban's own Ethics Office after a 72 day investigation that UNDP
has no protection against retaliation, that Dervis is propounding the right
"norms." Many of those receiving Dervis' letter simply don't believe it. And he
won't publicly stand behind it. Television, print and Internet journalists have
all this week called for an opportunity to question Mr. Dervis, only to be told
that once again he is "traveling." Then again, even when he was in UN
Headquarters, Dervis said "I am not going to answer any of your questions."
Dervis' message to staff? Don't ask any
questions, or we'll work to tarnish your reputation. Close observers of and in
UNDP note that this most recent Dervis missive is a follow-up to his December
27, 2006 letter to all staff, which under the heading "Some Thoughts on How We Should
All Work Together," blathered that
" if you think the emperor is wearing no clothes, you
really have an obligation to let me know. I'll welcome the criticism as long as
it is intended to be constructive. At the same time, we do need to make
decisions and, once those decisions are made, even when they're controversial,
I'm counting on you to support them."
UNDP staffers who provided copies of
Dervis' greeting to Inner City Press opine that the reference to "you really
have an obligation to let me know" refers specifically to those UNDP
sources who had identified to Inner City Press projects that are abuses of UNDP's mandate
(for example, only in Russia and only from this week, the water purification /
tax avoidance scheme in our
article of Dec. 26 as
well as the rehabilitation of the Moscow planetarium), waste (see our
Dec. 27 story
on UNDP's Global Environmental Facilities'
junket to Goa), and outright fraud (which UNDP admits took place in the Russia
office, while still refusing to release the follow-up audit of the office.
Following Dervis' Dec. 27, 2006 letter, further UNDP scandals broke. And after
here for more on
Dervis' December 27, 2006 letter.
Dervis' August 24, 2007 Letter, Inner City Press
24 August 2007
The United Nations was founded not in the
belief that all conflicts can be avoided, but rather with the determination
to resolve disputes peacefully and constructively, supporting progress in
human development and with fairness and justice for all. Our own internal
justice systems aspire to those ideals, and I want to make sure all of you
are aware of its key features, including in regard to reporting grievances
or alleged misconduct and protection against retaliation. As you may have
seen, there have been some recent claims, in the press, which have implied
that we do not have such systems in place, and I therefore wanted to remind
you of the resources that are available to all individuals, staff and
non-staff alike, in these respects.
Grievances or issues regarding
ethical standards can be raised informally through the Office of the UNDP/UNFPA/UNICEF/UNOPS
Ombudsperson as well as through staff representatives. These channels offer
an independent means for discussing concerns without triggering formal
proceedings, and are appropriate for helping to address many
staff-management issues. If you are not already familiar with
thesechannels, please consult the Ombudsperson's website(http://www.jointombudsperson.org
/) or members of your local staff association.
Formal complaints or allegations
should be raised through the Office of Audit and Performance Review which
maintains an e-mail address (firstname.lastname@example.org
) and phone hotline (+1-212-906-5050) where they receive allegations of
fraud or misconduct, including harassment, retaliation or other abuse of
authority, and determine the appropriate action to be taken, including a
possible investigation. In addition, the Office of Information Systems and
Technology receives and investigates allegations (through
email@example.com ) of the
fraudulent use of our IT resources. You can also find the answers to many
frequently asked questions regarding accountability and incidents of
wrongdoing, as well as related resources, on the corporate intranet.
I emphasize that you are not only entitled to raise grievances and report
allegations of misconduct through these channels, you are encouraged (and in
some cases obligated) to do so when the situation calls for it. At the
same time, as a colleague, I ask for your assistance in ensuring that UNDP
retains its professionalism and protection of individuals by exercising
discretion with regard to matters of official business. I trust you all
agree that false allegations, by those who wish us ill, should not be
allowed to hinder the women and men of UNDP from pursuing our collective
mission. Allegations of misconduct have the potential to severely and
unfairly tarnish the reputation of both the accused and accuser as well as
the United Nations system. For that reason, they must be handled (and where
necessary investigated and documented) in a thorough, confidential and
professional manner, using the internal mechanisms established for these
I want to emphasize that UNDP will protect all staff and non-staff personnel
who, in good faith, report allegations of misconduct, and will do so
vigorously. Retaliation for reporting grievances, or alleged misconduct
is, itself, misconduct and abuse of authority, and will not be tolerated. I
expect managers and supervisors to ensure that no staff member or non-staff
personnel is retaliated against. Damaging action, whether taken or merely
threatened, against an individual because he or she reported a grievance,
alleged misconduct, or cooperated with an investigation is retaliation.
Procedures for raising allegations of retaliation can be found in the policy
for Workplace Harassment, Sexual Harassment and Abuse of Authority, approved
UNDP has already investigated several allegations of retaliation and where
those allegations have been confirmed, disciplinary actions have been
taken. This is an integral part of the larger ongoing effort, actively
supported by Ad Melkert and myself, to provide a framework for and support
accountability and ethical standards within our organization. You'll hear
more from us on other aspects of that ongoing effort in the weeks and months
* * *
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