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Reuters AlertNet 8/17/07

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At UN, Official Sent to Rebut Scandal Declines Lockheed Questions, Confirms Toh Job

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

UNITED NATIONS, December 19 -- The UN turned off its briefing room cameras before making available on Wednesday a person who insisted on being called "a senior UN official" to address charges of corruption and procurement irregularities in connection with UN peacekeeping operations. This person then repeatedly said that he could not defend or explain the UN's $250 million no-bid contract with Lockheed Martin's Pacific Architects & Engineers, but that he would ask his boss, Jane Holl Lute of the Department of Field Support, to come and give a briefing. "We are completely transparent," said the official who insisted on anonymity and said he was unable to answer. Inner City Press asked if DFS would make available at least part of its response to questions raised in the UN's Fifth (budget) Committee about the PAE contract. "It's not in our province to give it out," the official said. "They own the information now."

            But a check with delegates to the Fifth Committee on Wednesday night found that they still did not have relevant information about the sole source contracts. "That's the main sticking point," one delegate told Inner City Press, before heading back down to the meeting in the UN's basement.

Airfield in the DR Congo, Masri, Klopp and PAE contracts not shown

            The purpose of the noontime background briefing, it appears, was to minimize recent reports of corruption. $610 million has not been wasted, the official emphasized. Rather, contracts worth $610 million have been impacted by irregularities. It is impossible to say how much money was lost. As to Abdul Karim Masri's reported extortion in connection with a Congo airfields renovation -- PAE has the UN's Congo airfields contract -- the official said that Masri's supervisor, Barbara Klopp, has reported irregularities by her staff to the Office of Internal Oversight Services in 2005 and 2006. "Barbara... is now with another mission," he said (sources say it's in Sudan).

            On the situation of Andrew Toh, Inner City Press asked the second senior UN official, reputed to soon be retiring, about reports that Toh has been asked to work for DFS. That's true, the first official said. He had been asked to go work in the field, but "he has health problems, and so we are working up terms of reference for him to work at headquarters." We'll see.

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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.

Feedback: Editorial [at]

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

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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