UN, Tales of Removed Hard Drive of Investigator Appleton Trigger EU
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
NATIONS, June 23 -- The removal of the hard drive from the computer
of former chief of the UN Procurement Task Force Robert Appleton has
given rise to an external investigation of the UN by the European
Union's anti-fraud unit, OLAF, Inner City Press has learned.
Mr. Appleton tells Inner City Press that the complaints that gave
rise to the investigation and to a recent memo to Secretary General
Ban Ki-moon and others come from "a party opposed to me, the PTF
and Ms. Ahlenius" -- Inga-Britt Ahlenius, the head of the UN
Office of Internal Oversight Services -- questions are raised by Ms.
Ahlenius' reported insistence that Appleton be awarded a top OIOS
asked former Under Secretary General for Management Alicia
Barcena to pay particular attention to a job application by a friend
of hers. Given a pre-publication opportunity to explain the
request for special consideration, Ahlenius did not.
is particularly dangerous in an investigative body, one which rarely
briefs the press. Who will watch the watchers? Questions exists about
OIOS' purported exoneration of the UN Medical Service -- a day after
Inner City Press was told by the UN that OIOS could not verify
allegations that personnel without U.S. licenses were prescribing
narcotics including to themselves -- and of dirty tricks in campaigns
for reelection to the top posts at UNCTAD and the World Trade
Organization. Click here
for that story, here
for the June 4
complaint to OIOS.
some have hypothesized that the complainant's motive is wanting to
same job that Appleton wants, and Ahlenius wants to give to Appleton,
that is neither here nor there. Nor is the hypothesis that Appleton's
hard drive was removed because the PTF and OIOS could not trust one
of OIOS' senior officials -- this only makes more clear how
dysfunctional OIOS is at present.
this context, Inner City Press is publishing the e-mails below: the
complaint to OIOS, a response to it which Inner City Press requested
from Mr. Appleton, and the complaint's reply -- on which Appleton has
not yet commented. If he does, we will update this space. Back on
October 21, 2008 at the UN noon briefing, Inner City Press asked for a
briefing by Mr. Appleton and Ms. Ahlenius -- neither has briefed
OIOS Ahlenius and then-PTF Appleton, hard drive not shown
Allegation of Corruption
[Name withheld in this format, but see below]
May 28, 2009 4:08 PM
Mr. Ban, Ms. Ahlenius, Ms. Swift, Mr. Dudley,
Mr. Dzuro, Mr.
have been an employee of the United Nations and the Office of
Internal Oversight Services for much of my working life and as such I
have witnessed the very best and the very worst of what this
the most part, I believe that the United Nations management team acts
in the best interests of the Organization, so it is with a heavy
heart that I write to you in relation to an allegation of corruption
involving the Under Secretary General for OIOS.
staff have lost confidence in Ms. Ahlenius's ability to lead the
office. She has made many decisions, particularly with respect to
hiring practices, that have left many staff dismayed and some
wondering whether the poor woman is suffering the early stages of
dementia. As you are no doubt aware, a number of these issues have
been aired in the local and international media.
December 2008, the Procurement Task Force (PTF) was liquidated and
responsibility for the investigation of procurement related fraud
transferred to the Investigations Division (ID) of OIOS. Mr. Vlad
Dzuro, a P4 investigator with ID, was given responsibility to lead a
transition team to effect the transfer of cases and equipment to ID.
part of his duties, Mr. Dzuro was required to check the PTF inventory
to ensure that the equipment assigned to the PTF was fully accounted
for in compliance with liquidation procedures. Mr. Dzuro attended at
the offices of the PTF and attempted to verify the computer equipment
assigned to the PTF. This was a rather mundane and straight forward
exercise until he attempted to gain entry to the office formerly
occupied by the head of the PTF, Mr. Robert Appleton. Mr. Dzuro
found the office locked but after some time was able to gain entry
and check the serial number of the computer located in that
workspace. The number did not accord with the details of the
computer assigned to Mr. Appleton as recorded in the PTF inventory. The
computer assigned to Mr. Appleton was later located elsewhere in
the PTF office. It was connected to the monitor and the local area
network and for all intents and purposes it appeared to be a fully
functioning computer. Attempts to start the computer proved
fruitless and on closer inspection the hard drive was found to have
been removed from the casing containing the CPU.
conducted by Mr. Dzuro and Mr. Michael Dudley, acting director of
ID/OIOS, revealed that AON Consulting had been instructed to remove
the hard drive by Ms. Kelley Swift. Ms. Swift was formerly a PTF
investigator but had recently obtained a P4 investigator position
with ID/OIOS. Ms. Swift has a long professional association with Mr.
Appleton that predates their UN assignment and acted as his defacto
deputy at the PTF. Messrs. Dzuro and Dudley spoke to Ms. Swift who
admitted that she had removed the hard drive at the request of Mr.
Appleton. She also admitted that she had physically swapped the
computer assigned to Mr. Appleton with a computer that had been
assigned to another investigator who had already left the PTF. Ms.
Swift subsequently refused to answer any additional questions and
took three weeks sick leave citing work related stress. Ms. Swift
recently returned to ID and she is now working as a P4 investigator
in the Fraud Unit.
should be noted that at this time that Mr. Appleton was not a UN
staff member or contractor and had no mandate to direct ID/OIOS staff
in the manner described. It should also be noted that Mr. Appleton
was an applicant for the vacant director's position at ID/OIOS. In
fact, Mr. Appleton had been selected for the post however the
selection had not been verified by the Office of the Secretary
General (OSG) due to perceived procedural flaws in the selection
process. The failure to obtain ratification of his selection for
the director position was a point of irritation for Ms. Ahlenius who
had openly and repeatedly stated that Mr. Appleton would be selected
regardless of the merit of the other applicants. OSG directed Ms.
Ahlenius to conduct further interviews for the vacant director post.
These interviews have now been concluded and Ms. Ahlenius has again
told OIOS staff that she is determined to appoint Mr. Appleton to the
Dzuro and Dudley were able to obtain the original hard drive and a
copy was made for examination in accordance with investigative best
his capacity as the Acting Director ID/OIOS Mr. Dudley urged Ms.
Ahlenius to initiate an investigation of the circumstances
surrounding the removal of the hard drive from Mr. Appleton's
computer. Ms. Ahlenius resisted any attempt to investigate and
demanded that she be provided with the original hard drive and copy.
These were subsequently given to her and I understand that they have
now been destroyed.
are a number of issues arising from this incident:
Why was the hard drive removed from the computer?
What was on the hard drive that Mr. Appleton did not want disclosed?
Why did Mr. Appleton direct Ms. Swift to remove the hard drive from
As a UN staff member why did Ms. Swift accede to Mr. Appleton's
Why was the computer with the hard drive removed configured to appear
as if it was a fully functioning unit?
Why was Mr. Appleton's computer swapped with the computer of a former
Why did Ms. Ahlenius refuse to initiate an inquiry into the
circumstances surrounding the removal of the hard drive?
Why did Ms. Ahlenius seek to cover up the allegation?
Why is Ms. Ahlenius so determined to recruit Mr. Appleton as the
director of ID/OIOS?
Ahlenius has made it clear that she wants to recruit Mr. Appleton and
it is widely believed that she sought to cover up misconduct in order
to remove any obstacles to his appointment to the director's
position. I have had very little contact with Mr. Appleton however I
find his actions in this case to be incompatible with that expected
of a UN staff member, let alone one who may hold a senior position in
the UN's primary oversight agency.
urge to you to initiate an investigation into the issues arising from
also urge you to critically assess Ms. Ahlenius's suitability to
perform the duties of the USG OIOS.
After obtaining the above on June 18, Inner City Press
Appleton to respond to it. To his credit he obliged:
Re: UN Procurement Task Force
Inner City Press
6/20/2009 7:18:01 P.M. Eastern Standard Time
allow me respond to this most unfortunate email. What is represented
in this email is wholly inaccurate, and has in fact been sent in a
fraudulent manner by a person using a fictitious name (as explained
below). It is not legitimate, and fraught with false and misleading
information, as well as failing to mention many significant and
regard to questions about my computer:
I separated from the UN on 31 December 2008 at the conclusion
of the Procurement Task Force, and have not had any involvement with
my office space, my computer or the PTF or Investigations Division
office premises since my departure from the United Nations. I had no
involvement in the removal of the hard drive from my computer.
I never, at any time, gave instructions to Ms. Swift, or
anyone else, to remove the hard drive. Ms. Swift has stated
repeatedly that she has never received any instructions from me in
this regard. The allegation in the anonymous email to the contrary
is wholly untrue. Again, the fraudulent manner in which this email
was sent also undermines the credibility of the representations in
it. I would invite you to contact Ms. Swift about the circumstances
of the hard drive removal, and this issue as well.
Please understand that the representations set forth in the
email you received are designed to make the details of the incident
appear much more ominous than they are, most likely from someone with
an interest in the matter and perhaps a motive to malign at a
sensitive time. My understanding, from learning later about the
circumstances from those in the office space once occupied by PTF, is
that the hard drive was removed to preserve and protect its contents,
as the PTF/OIOS office space at the time was not secure and safe.
Best practices are to preserve and protect sensitive information and
data, including hard drive computers in office space occupied by
investigators and to secure such information once an investigator
leaves as it can contain sensitive case information. (The PTF shared
office space on a floor with a UN department it was investigating). As
I understand it, the representation that my office was locked is
Contrary to the false assertions in the email message, the
hard drive has since been preserved by OIOS, by packing it in a
secure pouch and sealing it, and has not been destroyed. Outside
professional computer experts were asked to forensically examine it.
The results of the examination are that the drive had not been
accessed, altered or tampered with since I left the UN. It still
exists and has been secured and packaged in a sealed envelope, and is
being maintained by OIOS.
Out of an abundance of caution, this matter was referred to
OLAF (European Anti-Fraud Office), chosen by the Department of
Management, for an independent investigation. I understand there
investigation has concluded, and I was interviewed as a part of it.
I have never had any objection to an examination of the hard
drive, the computer or its contents, and I communicated my consent to
review its contents to the investigators.
It is my understanding that OLAF’s investigation has
completely exonerated me of any involvement in this matter, and
categorically refuted any allegation that I caused the hard drive to
be removed, altered or in any way tampered with, or have done
Most importantly, the email was sent by individual purporting
to be a UN staff member by the name Shiva Vishnu
(firstname.lastname@example.org). There is no staff member employed by the
UN by this name. I have never met anyone by this name, and no one by
this name has ever worked for OIOS. Further, the email was not sent
from a UN email account, but from a gmail account. The author’s
assertion, therefore, that he is a UN staff member, is categorically
false. Such falsity undermines his/her credibility, and the contents
of the message. The email is fraudulent, and therefore not worthy of
regard to the vacant director’s position at ID/OIOS, the email’s
statement that there were procedural flaws in the selection process
is also completely unfounded. A panel of three external judges
outside of OIOS was constituted, and as I understand it, unanimously
recommended me to the Under Secretary General of OIOS for the post,
after a full recruitment process in which more than 70 applications
were submitted, and after all eligible candidates were interviewed
and evaluated. Notwithstanding this, in order to ensure that the
selection process was credible, and above reproach, there has since
been a second full recruitment in which the post has been
re-advertised, further applications encouraged and accepted, and a
second panel constituted to review, interview and recommend a
candidate. As I understand it, this process is still under way.
I find it most unfortunate that a party opposed to me, the PTF and
Ms. Ahlenius, has resorted to anonymous, vicious ad hominem attacks
without any basis in fact. It is clear that whoever sent this email
is hostile to the goals of greater transparency and accountability
within the UN, a goal my colleagues and I have tried so hard to
pursue. I truly hope you will not allow this person to utilize you
in furthering his agenda.
yours, Robert Appleton
receipt of the above from Mr. Appleton, Inner City Press sent it to
the complainant, if there were any reply. There was:
Re: Allegation of Corruption
[Name withheld in this format, but see above]
Inner City Press
6/22/2009 5:52:15 P.M. Eastern Standard Time
is not best practice to remove and preserve a hard drive because it
contains sensitive information. Sensitive information should be
stored on the OIOS servers and secured with appropriate
has a secure server in Vienna that all OIOS/PTF staff use to store
their investigative material. The server is accessed via Citrix
software and each staff member is required to upload material to the
server on on ongoing and immediate basis for review by OIOS
management. This is also to ensure that links between cases can be
identified and so that the material (where appropriate) is accessible
to all investigators. OIOS/PTF does not store information on
individual computer hard drives as it is contrary to OIOS
instructions. If the material was not uploaded to the Vienna server
there would be a substantial risk that the material would be lost
should the computer suffer a permanent failure.
their very nature the types of investigations conducted by OIOS are
sensitive. It has never been the practice of OIOS to remove computer
hard drives because of the sensitivity of the data contained within a
are routinely rotated out of OIOS as part of computer upgrades and
normal maintenance. Old computers are replaced with newer models. When
an individual staff member resigns their computer is returned to
the ICT unit in the duty station in which they were working.
would be totally inappropriate and a waste of UN resources to remove
the hard drive when those hard drives can be cleaned using
commercially available software. The use of this type of software
is widespread throughout OIOS and is routinely used when computers
are returned to ICT units.
example OIOS has recently downsized the number of staff in the
African peacekeeping missions and returned a significant number of
computers (desk tops and lap tops) to the mission ICT units. These
computers were cleaned and returned to the mission ICT units. No
hard drives were removed.
PTF investigations were / are no more sensitive than investigations
conducted by the OIOS investigators in the field or in the other duty
stations (Nairobi and Vienna).
if you accept that the hard drive was removed to protect its contents
wasn't the information stored on the OIOS Vienna secure server (with
the appropriate level of security if it is so sensitive)?
weren't the hard drives of the other PTF computers removed?
wasn't the whole computer removed rather than just the hard drive?
did Ms. Swift take the hard drive home rather than secure it in a
secure location on the UN building such as a lockable cabinet or
was the computer set up to appear as if it was fully functioning (if
not to deceive those who were examining the computer)
did Ms. Swift refuse to answer questions about the removal of the
hard drive and then take sick leave citing work related stress? Ms.
Swift is still on sick leave.
authorised the removal of the hard drive?
was OLAF called in?
does the hard drive need to be forensically examined if it was
removed to preserve and secure sensitive information and data? The
email you received states that the examination found that the hard
drive had not been accessed, altered or tampered. But was the hard
drive examined to identify the data that was so sensitive it couldn't
be secured or deleted by any other means?
stand by my belief that the hard drive and copy were destroyed. I
don't know what the outside computer experts examined but it couldn't
have been the original hard drive.
also believe that OLAF was only called in recently because senior
OIOS staff referred the matter to the Department of Management
AGAINST the instructions of Ms. Ahlenius. Ms. Ahlenius was furious
that the matter was referred to the DoM.
content of the email you received also indicates that the author has
made up his or her mind that there is no foundation to the complaint.
This seems premature given that OLAF has not completed their
the question still needs to be asked. What is the role of Ms.
Ahlenius in this incident and why is she so protective of Mr.
hope you are able to pursue this case.
City Press sought a reply to the above from Mr. Appleton, but as of
deadline none has been received. If and when one is, it will be
published on this site.
* * *
UN, Complaint of Hiring of Mistress at WTO, Tricks in UNCTAD
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: Exclusive
NATIONS, June 22 -- The seamy underbelly of UN system politicking is
laid bare in a filing
to the UN's top investigator Inga-Britt
Ahlenius from the Officer in Charge of the UN Conference on Trade
Development Division on Management Khaililur Rahman.
campaign by UNCTAD's senior advisor against a Ivory Coast diplomat
competing to head UNCTAD or to beat out Patrick Lamy for the next
term at the World Trade Organization, Rahman quotes that Lamy "has
campaign funds from the French" and hired the Ivorian diplomat's
"mistress at the WTO."
Inner City Press has obtained a copy
of the UN document, and places it online here.
June 4, Rahman asked Ahlenius' Office of Internal Oversight Services
to take action. But UN Spokesperson Michele Montas on June 19 told
Inner City Press she and the UN are unaware of the complaint.
memo, Rahman recounts how pressure was brought to bear on UN
staff to lobby for the incumbent at UNCTAD Supachai Panitchpakdi to
get a second term. Mr. Supachai's special advisor Kobsak Chutikul
wrote a "Game Plan e-mail" which identified the Permanent
Representatives to the UN of Sudan, Cuba, Libya and Nicaragua as
"undermining the practice / tradition of two consecutive terms"
for the top job at UNCTAD.
Rahman recounts to the Office of Internal
Oversight Services that "Mr. Chutikul also mentioned he would
'continue to press the Executive Office of Secretary General' [Ban
Ki-moon] while noting that 'we can't just wait for them to act.'"
Group was pushing as a candidate Ambassador Gauze of Cote d'Ivoire to
replace Mr. Supachai. That campaign appears to have ended. On June
19, Inner City Press was shown by one of the above-mentioned
Permanent Representatives a message from Ban Ki-moon's senior
advisor, leading to the dropping of the competing African candidacy.
Ban and his advisor previously moved to cut the Office of the Special
Advisor on Africa, a decision the General Assembly has ordered Ban to
seamy side is contained in Paragraph 6 of
Rahman's memo to OIOS, in
which he writes -- in a UN document about which Inner City Press
asked the UN spokesperson on June 19 -- that
email from Mr. Chutikul dated 29 May 2009... made a number of
allegations against Mr. Gauze, a former Minister of Trade of Cote
d'Ivoire and currently Permanent Representative of Cote d'Ivoire in
Geneva as a contender for the post of SG of UNCTAD along with Mr.
Supachai, as well as against Mr. Pascal Lamy, Director General of the
World Trade Organization. Mr. Chutikul alleged in this email that Mr.
Gauze 'in fact last year offered to be on Lamy's campaign team.' Mr
Chutukul also alleged that Mr. Lamy 'had campaign funds from the
French' and got Mr. Gauze's 'mistress in the mission hired by WTO.'
alleged further that Mr. Gauze 'is now facing a paternity suit for
child born to another Ivorian mistress. The woman is married to a
white man but the baby was born completely black.' He adds: 'Seems
Gauze in desperate need of source of income to settle the suit and
Rahman's memo refers all of the above -- beyond the UN's total denial,
let us take item by item denials for granted and at face value -- "to
OIOS for appropriate
action." But is OIOS the right venue?
Copies of the complaint
were alsosent to Department of Management chief Angela Kane and her
Human Resources Assistant Catherine Pollard, as well as UN Ethics
Officer Robert Benson, Jan Beagle in Geneva, Ms. A. Djermakoye and
Mr. I Koulov.
all this, the UN in New York, through its spokesperson Michele
Montas, purports to know nothing about this formal complaint. Inner
City Press asked at the June 19 noon briefing:
City Press: there’s this controversy about UNCTAD, about
reappointing or not reappointing Mr. Supachai. And it said that the
G-77 there has written in support of him, but the African Group
within that has said they didn’t support the recommendation, that
they have other candidates from the Ivory Coast and Kenya, and
finally, it’s been written to miscellaneous of OIOS that there’s
been pressure put on staff to support the current head to be
reappointed. One -- has the Secretary-General gotten this letter
from G-77, and does he acknowledge it as the position of the full
group, or does he know of this African Group counter-position?
Montas: He has received the different letters and the different
positions and, as you know, he still supports his reappointment.
City Press: And what about this claim that staff are being pressured as
condition of keeping their jobs?
Pressured by whom?
City Press: Pressured by senior members within UNCTAD.
I’m not aware of that. I’m
not aware of that at all.
that the "miscellaneous" in the transcript is Ms. Ahlenius. And that no
update has been provided by the Office of the
Spokesperson for Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, including his view on
Supachai's future and special advisor's campaigning as reflected in the
must-credit exclusive above. Watch
* * *