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UN Confirms Lockheed's Contracts of $36 Million in Congo, $250 M in Darfur, Questions Multiply

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

UNITED NATIONS, November 30 -- Despite not being the lowest qualified bidder,  Lockheed Martin subsidiary Pacific Architects & Engineers is in line for a $36 million UN contract for airfield services in the Congo, the UN confirmed on Friday after two days of contradictory statements. The irregularities in contracting and in communications take place in the context of the UN's no-bid award to PAE of $250 million for Darfur peacekeeping infrastructure. The lack of competition, and lack of disclosure to the UN Security Council before its July 2007 vote on the Darfur mission, despite leaked documents showing that the "sole source" move to PAE began in April, have given rise the member states' questions, still unanswered, in the UN's budget committee. Thursday night, several Ambassadors spoke with Inner City Press about PAE, saying that the matter should be investigated by the UN's Procurement Task Force or by a Commission of Inquiry.

            On Wednesday, responding to Inner City Press' publication of June 2007 minutes of the UN's Headquarters Committee on Contracts showing that PAE was backing away from the $36 million contract, and demanding $114 million, UN Associate Spokesman Farhan Haq said that those minutes were superseded, that the UN changed its "contract strategy" in October. On Thursday, the outgoing chief of the UN's Congo mission, William Lacy Swing, told Inner City Press that he thought the contract was no longer going to PAE. Video here. Friday, UN Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe gave Inner City Press the following answer:

The status of the MONUC Airfield Service contracts:

1. EHAS has been awarded a contract for:

Air Terminal Group Operations Services;

Air Terminal Passenger Services;

Air Terminal Cargo Services; and

Fleet Maintenance Services

covering the period 1 October, 2007 through 31 March 2009 [base period] with 2 optional extension periods of one year each. The Contract for the base period amounts to $12,218,656. In case both options are exercised the grand total contract price would be $23,718,577.

2. Today, PAE / ES-KO operates Air Terminal Emergency Crash and Rescue (ECR) and Air Terminal Meteorology Services through a partial extension of the previous contract until end of December, 2007.

3. A new performance based contract with PAE / ES-KO is envisaged to be signed prior to the end of the year. It is envisaged that it will cover the period 1 January, 2008 - 30 June, 2009 [base period], with 2 optional extension periods of one year each. The Contact for the base period would amount to $15,405,515. In case both options are exercised, the grand total contract price would be $35,813,579. The services envisaged to be awarded to PAE / ES-KO are:

Air Terminal Emergency Crash and Rescue (ECR) Services;

Remote Search and Rescue Services;

Air Terminal Meteorology Services; and

Air Terminal Security Services.

            That Swing may have misspoken may be understandable: he is leaving MONUC, and is in line to head the International Organization on Migration. But why was the UN's first response, on Wednesday, to say that its "contract strategy" had changed, when the numbers given Friday were exactly those that the minute showed the PAE had bid (then sought to inflate)? Well-placed sources still in the UN, afraid of retaliation, say that the UN got PAE to re-accept its Congo bid with inducements in the no-bid Darfur contract. The matter could be addressed by a question and answer session with the head of the UN's Department of Field Support, involved in both PAE contracts, but such a briefing, though requested nine days ago, has yet to be scheduled.

W.L. Swing of UN's MONUC, Lockheed's PAE contracts not shown

            In the interim Edwin Nhliziyo, who audited PAE's first UN contract in the Congo, told Inner City Press this week that the UN - PAE irregularities began with the then-head of UN peacekeeping's Field Administration and Logistics Division pushing for PAE to get a MONUC air field contract, despite an offer by South Africa to provide the services. Once PAE got the contract, South Africa continued to get paid for providing services, that PAE was also paid for, without doing any work. In one sample instance, according to Nhliziyo, PAE charged the UN for 28 employees to man two fire engines on an airfield which saw only two flights per week.

            In fact, South Africa's inside knowledge of the UN - PAE irregularities gave rise to this speech, still on the South African mission's website:

8. With regard to the provision of airfield services at MONUC, we note with concern the findings of the Board that point towards shortcomings in the performance of the contractor in areas such as computer applications system for passenger services and the lack of maintenance of equipment. The African Group regrets that the relevant departments in the Secretariat did not avail themselves of the provisions of the contract to activate penalties against the contractor for non-performance. In this regard, we wish to inquire whether or not performance reports were forwarded to the Procurement Division before the renewal of the contract of the contractor.

9. The African Group is particularly concerned that non-delivery of essential services could impact on the performance of this important mission, and we urge the Secretariat to closely monitor the performance of service providers at all missions and impose penalties, as appropriate. The African Group intends to further pursue this matter within the consideration of the agenda item on the financial performance of MONUC, and we trust that the Secretariat will be able to provide the Committee with a status report at that time.

10. The African Group shares the concerns of the Board and ACABQ that four out of nine recommendations pertaining to aviation safety, which were made by the Technical Cooperation Bureau of the International Civil Aviation Organisation in July 2000, had not been implemented by June 2002. We urge the Secretariat to expedite the full implementation of the remaining recommendations. We also call upon the Secretariat to take all necessary measures to ensure the safety of air operations in peacekeeping missions, including thorough training of aviation officers, completing risk assessments, implementing mission accident prevention programmes and mission pre-accident plans, completing liability waiver forms and filing checklists. We note that the ACABQ has requested that the Board focus in detail on the important issue of air operations, which may require specialised expertise.

            Despite the ongoing irregularities, PAE has gotten larger and larger contracts from the UN, culminating for now in the $250 million Darfur contract, for which no competition was allowed.  The Ambassadors who spoke with Inner City Press on Thursday night about PAE / Lockheed said not only that the matter should be investigated by the UN's Procurement Task Force or by a Commission of Inquiry, but also that the scope of the review should include PAE's Congo contracts. 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

  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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