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Bax Bought Anti-Aircraft Gun in Somalia, Could Reappear Elsewhere?

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive series

UNITED NATIONS, August 10, 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."

But terminated throughout the UN system?

 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 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."

   Then 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?

 So at the UN's August 10 noon briefing, Inner City Press asked, video here:

Inner City Press: UNOPS did respond, I'm happy to say, but I want to ask you something and you'll see why.  On the question of whether, faced with reports of having purchased an anti-aircraft gun, Mr. [David] Bax was let go.  They've said:  "The investigation is completed.  We can confirm that the person concerned is no longer an employee of UNOPS."  I don't want to misunderstand this as being that the two being connected, but the reason I want to ask you is if, in fact, it was found, as I've heard, that he did buy an anti-aircraft gun, does this mean that he's banned from UN employment, a zero-tolerance policy, or can a person working for UNMAS [United Nations Mine Action Service], but technically employed by UNOPS be fired by UNOPS and reappear as an UNMAS person?  So, I'm asking… how does it work?

Spokesman Stephane Dujarric:  It's a good… I would almost concede that it's a good question.  I don't know if there's such a ruling as a lifetime ban from working at the UN.  But, clearly, when people… and I don't… I'm not commenting specifically on this case, because I don't know the details of how he was let go.  Obviously, I would hope that, when people apply for a job within the UN system, there is a minimum of reference checks, which would then show that some person has been let go of the UN system in…

Inner City Press:  The reason I ask is because, in the sexual abuse context, sometimes the UN without naming who the people are will say proudly, they'll never serve with us again.  So, it seems like buying… although this is not…

Spokesman:  I can't…

Inner City Press: …civilian personnel.

Spokesman:  I can't answer that question at this point, on this day.  Goodbye.  It's been a pleasure.

 Inner City Press also asked the UNOPS spokesperson:

"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? 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?"

Update:  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 – which were originally financed by USAID – at its own cost. It has also strengthened its quality control procedures, not only in South Sudan, but across its African portfolio."

 Before that, 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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