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On FAO in North Korea, No Audit Despite Hard Currency, Murky Seconded Staff

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

UNITED NATIONS, August 1 -- On January 19, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for an audit of all UN agencies, starting in North Korea, to address reports of payments in hard currency to staff chosen by the Kim Jong Il government.

            Wednesday, Inner City Press asked the Food and Agriculture Organization's executive director Jacques Diouf if any audit had been completed or even begun of FAO in North Korea. Mr. Diouf said no, and that what FAO has done in North Korea is entirely in line with the applicable "legal framework." Video here, from Minute 36:32.

            Previously, however, FAO answered Inner City Press' question by belatedly disclosing that

"Staff are paid in Euro by the UNDP on behalf of FAO. UNDP charges FAO for every transaction it carries out on behalf of the Organization. As to the Assistant FAO Representative, upon instruction from FAO Headquarters, with copy to FAO-China, the UNDP Pyongyang releases the money directly to the staff member, in cash. As to seconded staff, FAO China prepares Agency Services Requests (ASRs) for payment of the two seconded staff, and send them to the Regional Office in Bangkok, which in turn, forwards them to the UNDP in Pyongyang."

            Six months after his agency acknowledged using and paying staff seconded from the government in North Korea, FAO's Jacques Diouf said "we do not get government giving us staff and saying we pay them... we do not do that." But that's what seconded staff are. FAO back in January also told Inner City Press:

"The salaries of the two seconded staff are composed of two lines: service charge and 'meal allowances.' I am informed that UNDP in Pyongyang releases the amount related to the meal allowances directly to the staff members in cash, while paying the service charge to the GSB by check."

            Earlier this week, in response to Inner City Press questions, the FAO spokesman stated that "The information provided to you earlier this year on FAO's activities in DPRK remains valid. I have no information regarding any audit."

Jacques Diouf and Azeri president - don't worry, no audit

            On Wednesday Inner City Press also asked FAO's Jacques Diouf, have you seen the Board of Auditors' report on UNDP, UNICEF and UNOPS?

            Mr. Diouf answered, "I haven't seen any report from my Inspector-General or from the internal auditors of FAO." Maybe that's the problem... Developing.

* * *

Click here for today's environmental story, including Jacques Diouf on food and biofuels. Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from a still-undefined trust fund.

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UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540