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For Darfur, Lockheed Martin Gets UN Sole Source Contract, Questions Raised

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

UNITED NATIONS, October 15 -- Two weeks after notifying the UN General Assembly that he had "exceptionally authorized" himself for "entering into non-competitive single-source contracts" for the Darfur hybrid force, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday announced, through his spokesman, at $250 million contact with Pacific Architect Engineers, Inc. (PAE).

    Not included in the press release was the name of PAE's corporate parent, U.S. military contractor Lockheed Martin, nor that until now half of PAE's revenue has come from the U.S. State Department, nor how Lockheed's PAE was selected. Inner City Press asked, at the UN's noon briefing, if the process had been competitive. "It was competitive," the spokesperson said.

            Later in the briefing, an aide brought in a note, which the spokesperson read and said, no, it was sole-source. [Video here, from Minute 15:17, and see below.]

            Inner City Press asked Sudanese Ambassador Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamad for his country's view of the contact award. "We are very concerned about the UN going outside its own rules," he said. "Who knows, maybe a Sudanese company would have been qualified to do this work. We will be raising it in the General Assembly."

            While some in the Ban Administration express skepticism at the Sudanese Ambassador's skepticism, the question remains: why didn't the UN follow the normal procedures and take bids for this contract? Or at least, wait for the General Assembly or its budgetary Fifth Committee to have a chance to give assent to the waiving of procurement rules?

            Inner  City Press asked the spokesman for the General Assembly president about Ban Ki-moon October 2 waiver letter. This spokesman, Janos Tisovszky, responded that "the President of the GA received [the letter A/62/379 and] Member States within the Fifth Committee when they review the UNAMID budget proposal will have a chance to also consider this aspects and voice their views on it."

            As Inner City Press reported last week, the Fifth Committee is not slated to have a chance to speak on the UNAMID (Darfur Mission) budget and, now, Ban Ki-moon's assertion of waiver authority for another week or more. UN's Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions is holding closed-door consultations, and has yet to accede to anything.

by Lockheed Martin

  After Monday's noon briefing, the UN Spokesperson's Office clarified:

Subj: your question on contract in support of UNAMID
To: matthew.lee [at]
Date: 10/15/2007 12:50:24 PM Eastern Standard Time

The contract awarded to PAE is a sole source contract in accordance with the Financial regulation 105.16, which provides for an exception to the formal methods of solicitation when the United Nations is faced with an exigent requirement. The nature and the complexity of the requirement, coupled with the challenging timeline mandated by the Security Council, have made so that the PAE was the only contractor which could be selected.

However, the negotiations on the contract were completed by the Procurement Service, and the Contract was subsequently reviewed by the Headquarters Committee on Contracts.  As an intermediary measure, PAE was awarded a contract for 6 months to allow for a more complete solicitation exercise, which has started with the Expressions of Interest.

News analysis: Diplomats consulted by Inner City Press questioned whether this contact could legitimately be described as "exigent," given that the Secretary-General has been speaking for months about the Darfur hybrid force and its requirements. Some more conspiracy-minded UN insiders, who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation, speculated that a sole-source contract to an American military contractor might be viewed as "pay back" for the U.S.'s support for Mr. Ban as Secretary-General, or at a minimum, might provide Sudan's al-Bashir government with more fodder with which to complain about Westerners' designs on and profits from Sudan.

   Beyond providing needless fodder for the "U.S.-payback" theorists, more nuanced observers said they now understood why the U.S. was pushing the Darfur funding timeline, to "get this [PAE] off the U.S.'s books and onto the UN's."

            At a demonstration Monday six blocks from the UN on Park Avenue, protesting JPMorgan Chase's investments which support oil extraction and profits in Sudan, a demonstrator who requested anonymity as a financial services employee, when asked by Inner City Press about Lockheed Martin's $250 million contract, said, "See? Money can be made by doing the right thing."

            We'll have more on this. Developing.

* * *

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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