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Top 10 '07 UN Stories

These reports are also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis

Reuters AlertNet 8/17/07

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UN's Investigator Ahlenius Just Starting In on Lockheed, Results to be Confidential, Questions Unanswered

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

UNITED NATIONS, January 10 -- The UN's $250 million no-bid contract with Lockheed Martin will be reviewed, including by still-to-be-hired auditors in Darfur, it was announced Thursday. But there is no deadline for the review, and its outcome will quite possibly never be made public. The head of the UN's Office of Internal Oversight Services, Inga-Britt Ahlenius, in her first press briefing in six months, said she could not speak about particular cases. Despite two questions from Inner City Press, for example, about OIOS' delayed investigation in the allegations that UN peacekeepers in the Congo traded guns back to rebels for gold, there was no clear response. Video here, from Minute 56:43.

    The head of the UN's Procurement Task Force, Robert Appleton, referred to the due process rights of corporations and acknowledged that the PTF's reports often "never see the light of day." Nevertheless, he sought to explain how difficult it is to estimate losses due to fraud and corruption. Ms. Ahlenius referred to incalculable "reputational loss," which threats now to flow from the UN's stonewalling about the no-bid Lockheed contract. The spokesman for the official who pushed for this contract since April 2007, Jane Holl Lute, has taken to trying to reign in reporting about the contract and about the controversy, rather than making his client available for questions.

            Ms. Ahlenius at the end of Thursday press conference took a question about an e-mail she wrote in September 2007, presenting for consideration as a procurement official at a UN department she audits the resume of a person she knew. Inner City Press, which first reported on the story, asked how this was appropriate. "I know every Under Secretary General," Ms. Ahlenius said. "They are my colleagues. That does not prevent me from auditing" their departments. But can't an e-mail from your auditor, forwarding a candidate's resume, raise questions of conflict and coercion? Ms. Ahlenius doesn't think so. Video here, from Minute 56:43. One reporter opined afterwards, if she doesn't see that as raising issues, maybe she isn't the right auditor.

UN's Inga-Britt Ahlenius and Robert Appleton, action on Lockheed not shown

            But Ms. Ahlenius to her credit called again for greater transparency, making much of the fact that her audits, once completed, become available to member states. This can be contrasted with the new more limited policy of the UN Development Program, announced on December 18, 2007, that while member states may look at some UNDP reports, they may not make copies, and have to "maintain confidentiality with respect to issues that might affect staff, third parties or a country government/administration" -- that is, always. The policy is online here; see especially paragraphs 73-75. We will have more in short order on a particular OIOS audit -- watch this site.

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These reports are also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

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

  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.

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Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

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

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