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At UNDP, Hiring from Melkert's Dutch Labor Party, Sudden Retirements and Consultancies

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

UNITED NATIONS, March 26 -- The UN Development Program, which procures over $2.3 billion a year in goods and services, is widely described as being run and managed by Ad Melkert, formerly a politician with the Dutch Labor Party. As Assistant Administrator of UNDP, Mr. Melkert was assigned an assistant, Georgina Fekete. This wasn't enough, so brought into UNDP as Mr. Melkert's second assistant was Mr. Eelco Keij, who just happens to be the New York secretary of the Dutch Labor Party. Click here for that, and here for Mr. Keij's Labor Party blog.

            It was raised to Inner City Press that there might be some issue, with Mr. Melkert hiring with UNDP money, and seemingly outside of the normal, competitive channels, the New York secretary of the political party he used to serve. And so Inner City Press directed an e-mail requesting an explanation to Mr. Melkert, Mr. Keij, UNDP's spokesman David Morrison, Administrator Kemal Dervis, and others, stating that the question was on deadline.  Still no response, even after the question was reiterated to Mr. Melkert and Mr. Keij, and request was made at Monday's UN noon briefing to put the question to Mr. Melkert in person before or after he met with Deputy Secretary General Migiro on Monday afternoon.

Ad Melkert: he's hiring

From Monday's noon briefing transcript:

Inner City Press: And the other thing is: I noticed on the Deputy Secretary-General's meeting with Ad Melkert of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) this afternoon... I guess I want to know the purpose of that, and whether we could speak to either or both of them before or after, given the North Korea-UNDP situation, and we also have a question for the UNDP about some hiring by Mr. Melkert.  So, it would be very timely if you could at least put in a request for a brief stakeout.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Sure.

            It was later explained to Inner City Press that Ad Melkert's meeting with Deputy Secretary General Migiro concerned the Millennium Development Goals, and not irregularities in hiring or the North Korea audit. But as usual with UNDP, the silence was and is deafening: no Q&A opportunity was provided, nor any response to the request for one, nor any comment from the agency's spokesman. 

   Also unanswered are questions about the March 23 retirement party of Luis Gomez-Echeverri, which was announced to staff only two hours before it occurred, and a simple yes or no question whether Nora Lustig, who abruptly left UNDP's Poverty Group, has now got a UNDP consultant's contract.  By seven p.m. deadline, there was no response. All we can do is ask. This was sent:

Subj: Questions on deadline re Eelco Keij, Luis Gomez-Echerverri, Nora Lustig, retaliation 

Date: 3/25/2007

From: Inner City Press

To: david.morrison, ad.melkert, kemal.dervis [at]

CC: Eelco.Keij, luis.gomez-echeverri [at]

 Hello.  Even with numerous questions outstanding, these are a few, on deadline:

Please describe the process and legitimacy of UNDP's hiring of Eelco Keij, NY secretary of the Dutch Labor Party of which Mr. Melkert was leader, as second assistant to Mr. Melkert at UNDP;

Please explain the sudden retirement (party) for Luis Gomez-Echerverri;

Please confirm or deny that Nora Lustig is now in line for a consulting contract with UNDP...

            There were and are more questions. We will have more on UNDP immanently.

    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.

Feedback: Editorial [at]

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On 4th Day of N. Korea Audit, UNDP Spins From Leaked Minutes

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

UNITED NATIONS, March 22 -- As the delayed "urgent audit" of the UN Development Program's operations in North Korea went into its fourth day, UNDP spokesman David Morrison dismissed the leaked minutes of a meeting of UN Operation Management Team in North Korea, which specifically asked that cash payments in hard currency stop. "We are clear on the record that we don't deal in cash," Mr. Morrison said.

            Minutes of a December 8, 2005 meeting in Pyongyang involving local officials of UNDP and five other UN agencies clearly stated that "CASH payments should be eliminated." Click here to view. While in the online version of the minutes, the names of meeting participants were whited-out, Inner City Press today in this article, below, publishes the names of operations managers. All of these individuals, each of whom, unlike spokesman David Morrison, has direct knowledge of UN practices in North Korea, has yet to be interviewed by the UN Board of Auditors.

   Meanwhile, for two weeks after UNDP ostensibly ordered the suspension of its operations in North Korea, staff members seconded by the Kim Jong Il government were still allowed access to the computer files and ATLAS financial records needed for the audit. As acknowledged Thursday by UNDP's Morrison, four such seconded staff still have access to UNDP's computer system. These include ostensible drivers, who according to published reporters cash checks into hard currency, so such access may be hard to defend. Concerns about destruction of and tampering with evidence have been raised to the agencies and to the auditors. The response has been retaliation.

Dervis: 1st of 2 press conferences in 19 months

            Since UNDP sent its spokesman David Morrison to the UN's televised noon briefing on Thursday, Inner City Press asked that he take questions on camera. From the transcript:

Inner City Press: I noticed the Spokesman for UNDP is here and I'm assuming this is about these memos that have surfaced showing that requests were made earlier than previously recorded about cash payments and seconded staff.  Is he going to come to the podium?

Spokesperson:  I understand that we do have Dave Morrison here and he is willing to take questions.  I actually don't know whether he is coming to the podium but we do have a guest first.  So, maybe you can talk to him immediately after the briefing....

...Inner City Press: I guess I just want to say on the UNDP thing, it will work much better that Morrison come to the podium, whatever we're calling it, just because on procurement, I know that you did... by Friday, they came, but they did it in the hall and today they’re coming back.  So it just seems it’s just more efficient to just do it on the record or whatever.

Spokesperson:  Okay, well let's ask him after we finish.

            Despite a second request, David Morrison declined to speak on camera, but rather waited in the hall. At 1 p.m., Inner City Press asked him if UNDP fires or suspends staff for providing documents to the press. Mr. Morrison responded, "I don't know, I don't know enough about the intricacies of UNDP's human resources policy.... I can look into it." Ten hours later, no information had been provided.

   During those ten hours, UNDP management continued on what staff describe as a "witch hunt," demanding to know who has spoken to the media, to Inner City Press, by name. Ban Ki-moon has spoken of transparency and of rooting out corruption. Suspending and threatening to retaliate against those who blow the whistle on irregularities is inconsistent with this -- it is "criminal," in the words of one UNDP staff member.

            The local UN staff in North Korea raised their concerns about cash payments and seconded staff to the UN's Resident Coordinator Timo Pakkala in January 2006.  Thursday Inner City Press asked David Morrison how and when this information was conveyed further up inside UNDP. "I don't know what is our standard procedure with minutes of country team meetings," he said. "Can we find out?" There was no answer. Meanwhile, the practice is that minutes of country team meetings go to Regional Directors of each UN Country Team member -- in the case of UNDP, to Hafiz Pasha.

            Inner City Press is told that the warning was conveyed to officials including UNDP Director of Finance Darshak Shah, to Treasurer Julie Anne Mejia and to Jan Mattsson, the head then of UNDP's Bureau of Management and now the Executive Director of UNOPS. Thursday, Inner City Press asked again that UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis take questions. Morrison said that he is the spokesman, and that "Kemal Dervis, as I think is established, meets with the press on a very regular basis."

  At UN headquarters, Dervis last took questions in December 2006, before this North Korea scandal broke, and before that not for sixteen months. Even to the UNDP Executive Board session about the North Korea issues, Dervis did not appear. Sources say that Dervis will not last long on the job. But the scandal will not go away.

The attendees of the December 8, 2005 meeting in Pyongyang, calling for reform: Wannee Piyabongkarm (WFP); Lorraine Lamtey (WFP); Tony Shkurtaj (UNDP), Charles Lolika (UNICEF); Toe oung (WFP); Umesh Gupta (WHO); Withers U (UNFPA).


As Audit Starts in NY, UNDP Management Official Leaves Town, Sale-of-Jobs Questions Left Unanswered

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

UNITED NATIONS, March 19 -- As the delayed "urgent audit" of North Korea programs called for by Ban Ki-moon on January 19 begins today at the UN Development Program, the director of UNDP's Bureau of Management Akiko Yuge has conveniently left town, internal UNDP e-mails obtained by Inner City Press show.

            Sources say that UNDP's legal chief James Provenzano and finance director Darshak Shah may also have left. (Since UNDP no longer answers even basic questions, this cannot be confirmed. As to Ms. Yuge, see the intra-UNDP email below.)

          Mr. Shah and Ms. Yuge were among the six UNDP officials to whom the Executive Secretary of the UN Board of Auditors, Swatantra Goolsarran, sent his March 1 memo scoping out the audit including requested interviews, their absence from headquarters during the audit has raised questions about staff. So has the fact that the scope of audit memo was not sent to UNDP's Asia chief, Hafiz Pasha, but only to his ostensible deputy, David Lockwood. The credibility of the audit is increasingly doubted by knowledgeable sources inside UNDP.

            UNDP's large but recently lethargic (at least on this issue) communications office has not helped dispel the doubts. A series of questions about the audit and UNDP's North Korea program have done unanswered. Even two non-North Korea questions asked on camera then in writing last week, regarding UNDP's reported support of a gold mine in Romania and the selling of jobs and promotions alleged by UNDP staffers, have been entirely ignored.  UNDP's David Morrison was asked these questions at the March 13 noon briefing filmed by UN TV, click here for video, from minute 40:30 to 42:39.

  Inner City Press followed this up with an email:

Subj: Follow-up to today's UN noon briefing, & some long-outstanding questions, thanks 

Date: 3/13/2007 2:05:40 PM Eastern Standard Time

To: david.morrison [at], ad.melkert [at], kemal.dervis [at]

CC: [cc's deleted in this format]

 From: Inner City Press

Hello -- This follows up on questions asked at today's UN noon briefing. On  deadline,  need a yes or no answer on whether the previous head of the Department  of  Management ever imposed conditions appointments or promotion (or in  cases of demotion / re-classification downward). We are told that this was  sometimes explained as being akin to a "headhunter's fee."

  Because we are on deadline, we are also cc-ing some of the  individuals, who we have been told may on this question have knowledge. [Ed.'s note: cc's deleted in this format.]

I am attaching for your comment and explanation three documents  concerning the controversy regarding UNDP's position on, and involvement in, gold mining project in Romania.  Also, a breakdown of the $10.88 million  you cited today, and your response to Ben's question about the $151 million  figure in OCHA's consolidated appeal. I am pasting below yesterday's reminder email, and note that a  long-ago asked question -- how many people work for UNDP? --  message, which  included other still-unanswered questions, pasted below -- has yet to be  answered. Ad Melkert is cc-ed because he indicated such answers would  become faster.

 And again, we believe that Mr. Dervis as Administrator should come  and give a briefing in 226, given the issues that have been raised. 

  Still, no response whatsoever. Therefore, for now, here is an edited version of one of the UNDP staff complaints that has been directed to Inner City Press, despite David Morrison's counter-story that procedures and whistle-blower protections exist in UNDP such that no one should go to the press:

Subject: Re: Attn: Mr. Matthew Russell Lee
Date: 3/2007 [Date and time omitted due to last line of 2d email, below]
From: [Name withheld, entitled to all whistle-blower protections]
To: Inner City Press

 ...on jobs for favors first. I know some people to whom Brian Gleeson offered promotions or appointments in exchange of the cash equivalent of the first salary. He mentioned this option to me as well when my post was re-classified downwards. I pretended it was a joke, but afterwards the relations became very strained. For quite some time I was kind of sidelined...

   Then --

Subject: Re: Attn: Mr. Matthew Russell Lee - many thanks, some [follow-up] questions
Date: 3/2007 [Date and time omitted due to last line of this email]
From: [Name withheld, entitled to all whistle-blower protections]
To: Inner City Press

...Usually $10,000 or first salary. Brian was quoted to say that as UNDP was becoming corporate-like, it would be normal to charge as head hunter agency would charge.

...Our I.T. manager said that the management could track what we do on the Internet at any instant. So much for our rights, which could be another topic for you to explore.

  Yes, that will be another topic. And on the Romania gold mine controversy, we have tried another route, which we hope will soon bear fruit, at least a response of some sort. But why would UNDP made no response at all for six days to questions about these sale of jobs and promotions allegations, questions raised in a formal UN-televised press briefing and then also in writing, with additional names provided?

  This was sent out, Friday after close of business:

From: Bernadette Jones

Sent: Mar 16, 2007 18:10

Subject: O-I-C of BOM

Dear All,

This is to advise that Ms. Akiko Yuge will be away from Headquarters from 18 to 31 March 2007, inclusive.   During her absence Ms. Jocelline Bazile-Finley will be the Officer-in-Charge of the Bureau of Management. Please also note that Ms. Bazile-Finley is the Acting Chief Procurement Officer for this period.

Thank you

Bernadette Jones , Executive Assistant to the Assistant Administrator and Director, Bureau of Management

            We will have more about UNDP's procurement. But why would UNDP send its new director of Management, Brian Gleeson's successor, away from headquarters precisely during the two week New York period of the "urgent audit" of UNDP's management of its North Korea program? Questions, questions...

Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service.

            Copyright 2006 Inner City Press, Inc. To request reprint or other permission, e-contact Editorial [at] -

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

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