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UNOPS Terminates Bax For Buying Anti-Aircraft Gun in Somalia, UN Cagey to ICP

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive series

UNITED NATIONS, August 10 -- 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."  So Inner City Press:

"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."

   Now on August 10, this:

"Mr Lee, Thank you for your message. There have been allegations of misconduct against members of personnel on UNOPS contracts in connection with projects in Somalia over recent years. UNOPS takes such allegations seriously. We have systems and process in place to manage investigations of such incidents.
As a rule, we do not divulge names of subjects of investigations, nor do we make investigation reports public. The reason for that is simply that personnel who are subjects of investigations or interviewed in connection with them should be able to expect full confidentiality.
In this case, the investigation has been completed. We can confirm that the person concerned is no longer an employee of UNOPS.
Jon Lidén | Director | Communications Practice Group | Copenhagen, Denmark | UNOPS"

  The investigation is completed, and Bax is no longer an employee of UNOPS. It shouldn't have to be asked, but given the many (intentional) loopholes in the UN's "zero tolerance" policies, could Bax re-appear, as a directly UN Mine Action Service staffer or otherwise?

 From the UN's August 7 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, I’ve 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 you… can you confirm it now or will you today confirm it or not?

Spokesman Dujarric:  I can’t confirm.  The gentleman you mentioned worked for, was contracted for by UNOPS.  I would encourage you to talk to them.

Inner City Press:  I’ve 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 can’t speak for them... I’m the Spokesman for the Secretary-General and not the UN system.  I do amplify the message from the UN system and I’m always happy to get a promotion, but I’m not sure I can shoulder that responsibility.  I will find you a press contact in UNOPS in Copenhagen.  We can both go there.

  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 harrasment 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 “currently, tender process under way for for years 2016-20. Share UNMAS will depend on quality its proposals.”

  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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