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UN Terminates Bax For Buying Anti-Aircraft Gun in Somalia, ICP Is Informed, Asks UN & UNOPS

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive series

UNITED NATIONS, August 7, updated -- Two months after Inner City Press asked UN envoy to Somalia Nicholas Kay about the UN Office of Project Services report(s) on UN figure David Bax on which it has exclusively reported, this time that Bax while in Somalia purchased an anti-aircraft gun SA-7 (video here), Inner City Press was told by sources on August 7 that Bax has been terminated for "unauthorized purchase of a weapon."

 Given how this makes the UN system look, Inner City Press thought the UN spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, would at least confirm, or try to deny, this report and provide the UN's perspective. Instead, when Inner City Press asked, Dujarric repeated said to "ask UNOPS." When Inner City Press asked who that UN "logistics" agency's spokesperson is, Dujarric said he would check. From the UN's transcript:

Inner City Press: one is about UNMAS.  David Bax who used to be the Somalia guy for UNMAS and was moved to Gaza for demining, I wanted to ask you straight up, Iíve heard that UNOPS after this investigation has decided to terminate his contract based on a finding of improper purchase of weaponry, which would be an anti-aircraft gun.  Given the imperative of the UN personnel not being perceived as buying anti-aircraft guns, will youÖ can you confirm it now or will you today confirm it or not?

Spokesman Dujarric:  I canít confirm.  The gentleman you mentioned worked for, was contracted for by UNOPS.  I would encourage you to talk to them.

Inner City Press:  Iíve heard there is a communication from UNOPS to UNMAS since all the work that he did was for UNMAS?

Spokesman Dujarric:  That I understand, but his contract was with UNOPS... I canít speak for them... Iím the Spokesman for the Secretary-General and not the UN system.  I do amplify the message from the UN system and Iím always happy to get a promotion, but Iím not sure I can shoulder that responsibility.  I will find you a press contact in UNOPS in Copenhagen.  We can both go there.

 Update: Inner City Press has been informed that the UNOPS spokesperson is Jon Liden, who has been asked:

"At today's UN noon briefing I asked the spokesman to confirm or deny that Mr Bax's contract has been terminated / is over, and that there has been a finding on the alleged purchase of a weapon in Somalia. I was told to 'ask UNOPS' and was later by the Spokesperson's Office provided with your email as UNOPS' spokesperson. The above question is on deadline, thanks."

Update: On August 13 UNOPS' Jon Liden responded to Inner City Press' follow up, which was:

"For reasons that should be obvious - alleged anti-aircraft gun purchase etc - would like to know if Mr. Bax could simply reappear under an employment contract with UNMAS instead of UNOPS. Also, if other(s) from UNMAS in Somalia are similarly no longer working for UNOPS?

  "I'm also interested in UNOPS work on bridges in South Sudan - unclear if the work is funded by the South Sudanese government, from within the UN system or otherwise?"

UNOPS' Jon Liden wrote on August 13, 2015:

"On the first question, just to be absolutely clear,  by answering this question UNOPS is not affirming or denying that Bax is no longer with UNOPS due to any malfeasance on his part.
"In general terms, it is always up to a hiring unit to do background checks on applicants, and if an applicant has been fired from a previous job but does not disclose it and the hiring unit does not do background checks, that applicant could be hired.  However, should an applicant be untruthful in submitting a UN personal history form, and that would include not disclosing the reason for leaving a position, that act in and of itself would constitute serious misconduct warranting termination.
"On South Sudan, the article you linked to refers to bridges that are being rebuilt by UNOPS. UNOPS became aware that one bridge collapsed at the final stages of construction (it was not yet open to the public). It immediately checked the two other bridges built with similar design and found that these were also not of satisfactory quality. These bridges have therefore never been put in use. UNOPS prides itself on delivering excellence. Regardless of how difficult the circumstances are (in this case, war and the natural conditions of the sites) , its work should be of high quality. Therefore, UNOPS is rebuilding all three bridges Ė which were originally financed by USAID Ė at its own cost. It has also strengthened its quality control procedures, not only in South Sudan, but across its African portfolio."

  Meanwhile a senior UN official has told Inner City Press it was internally disclosed that Bax contract was over. Others say the finding include "abuse of authority, sexual harrassment as well as unauthorized purchase of weaponry." This is something on which the UN system, whether UNOPS or UN Mine Action Service with which Bax worked not only in Somalia but also Gaza, should speak. Watch this site.

   Back on June 8, after Inner City Press asked about Bax, Kay was handed a piece of paper and read out that this allegation is under investigation and therefore he can have no comment at this time.

  Inner City Press replied it has heard the UNOPS report is finished, and asked in any event if it or a summary will be made public. Kay said what he had read was all he could say.

 Inner City Press also asked Somalia's prime minister and Maman Sidikou, Special Representative of the Chairperson of the AU Commission for Somalia about the geographic scope of the AMISOM mission, including in Somaliland and Puntland (there was no answer on either) and about US stated plans to send an ambassador. Watch this site.

  When the UN Mine Action Service held its annual press conference on April 1, Inner City Press wanted to ask UNMAS Director Agnes Marcaillou about landines in South Sudan and UNMAS' promotion of multiply-accused deminer David Bax from Somalia to Gaza.

  But also at the press conference were Japan's Deputy Permanent Representative and the Dutch Permanent Representative Karel van Oosterom, who it was said had to leave early, to meet with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

  So Inner City Press first asked van Oosterom if Dutch Queen Maxine, in Myanmar, would be raising the landmine issues in that country.

   No,  van Oosterom said, the Queen is in Myanmar in her capacity as UN Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development. But he (and UNMAS' Marcaillou) assured that she and other Dutch official raise the landmine issue wherever they go.

  Later, Inner City Press asked Marcaillou about the reported use of landmines in South Sudan and about the disposition of the investigation(s) into David Bax, who whistleblowers in Somalia alleged shared DNA information about Somalia bombers with US intelligence, as well as engaging in conflicts of interest. (Video and background here.)

   Marcaillou spoke passionately about South Sudan, where UNMAS found cluster bombs were used but could not find by whom. She said UNMAS coordinated a statement on the landline allegation, by IGAD with the UN Mission UNMISS. Later she said that UNMAS dogs were used to check if explosives were being brought into UNMISS protection of civilians site.

  On Bax, the answer was less convincing.  Marcaillou as she did last year pointed to an investigation by the UN Office of Project Services - but this time acknowledged that she had not seen the whole UNOPS report.

This is the case even though Bax is a UNMAS employee - it's that UNMAS outsources its human resources activities to UNOPS. But shouldn't Marcaillou as UNMAS director have access to investigative reports about UNMAS staffers? We'll have more on this.

Footnote: After the briefing, Inner City Press mused whether the Netherlands, running for one of two Western European and Other Group seats on the UN Security Council against Italy and Sweden, would be upping its contributions to UNMAS.

    Karel van Oosterom replied that ďcurrently, tender process under way for for years 2016-20. Share UNMAS will depend on quality its proposals.Ē

  This level of detail is appreciated. And wouldn't one think that assessment would include UNMAS' transparency, including whether it demands and gets access to investigative reports about UNMAS staff like Bax and the issues raised? We'll have more on this.


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