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Reuters AlertNet 8/17/07

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UN Retracts Claim Sudan "Approved" Lockheed's No-Bid Contract, Toh Headline Changed

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

UNITED NATIONS, October 18 -- The United Nations on Wednesday claimed that Sudan had approved the UN's $250 million no-bid contract with Lockheed Martin to provide infrastructure for the upcoming Darfur hybrid peacekeeping operation. Spokesperson Michele Montas, who Tuesday said the contract would be made public before that position was reversed, on Thursday was asked if Sudan has approved the contract. "Yes, they have," she said. Inner City Press found this hard to believe, having been told the previous day by the Sudanese Ambassador to the UN, Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamad, that Sudan would be demanding information about the no-bid contract in the UN's Fifth (budgetary) committee, which is slated to consider the Darfur mission budget on November 5.  Inner City Press asked Sudan's Ambassador by e-mail for his comments, and Amb. Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamad left a two-minute voicemail message, criticizing the spokesperson and stating

"Sudan did not approve that. They violated the rules of competitive bidding, telling us they lower the price from seven hundred to two hundred and fifty million as if we were children... We don't need another Oil for Food in this Organization. We have to bring this to the knowledge of the international community, how some people become rich off conflict while people die."

            The message, not without its ironies, was apparently also delivered to the Spokesperson's Office, because minutes later, an e-mail arrived, rescinding the earlier claim that Sudan had "approved" the contract:

Subj: answer to your question 
To: matthew.lee [at]
Date: 10/18/2007 5:33:08 PM Eastern Standard Time

The government of Sudan is not a party to the contract and hence it does not have a role in approving or disapproving the contract; as regards its role as a host government its obligations are defined in terms of the Convention of Privileges and Immunities under which it has an obligation to facilitate UN contractors operations. It should be noted that PAE has been working in Sudan in support of AMIS since 2004 providing similar camp support services.

            Legal experts say it is a question of first impression whether the obligation of Member States toward UN contractors still apply if the contractor is selected outside of the normal competitive bidding process, unendorsed by the General Assembly or its Fifth Committee.

Demonstration in Sudan, Lockheed Martin not shown

            Another irony is the UN annual report criticized Thursday in the Fifth Committee, in which UN investigator Inga-Britt Ahlenius writes that in the UN Mission in Sudan "the practice was followed of soliciting bids from a short list of vendors, but the criteria for shortlisting were often not transparent." Here, there was no bidding at all. (Another irony is that Ms. Ahlenius separately urged Alicia Barcena to be sure to be on an interview panel so that a friend of Ms. Ahlenius could get on the short list for a D-2 procurement post, click here for that.)

            In other procurement (fallout) news, following Inner City Press' exclusive report yesterday that Andrew Toh was being demoted from ASG to D-2 and fined two months salary, ostensibly for not filing his financial disclosure form, on Thursday the UN Spokesperson half-dodged the question in the noon briefing, and then a summary went on the UN's web site, headlined "Procurement Official is Demoted in Disciplinary Probe." Shortly thereafter, the headline was changed by the UN, to "Secretary-General Takes Disciplinary Measure Against U.N. Staff Member." Apparently the word "demotion" has legal consequences....

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Clck here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army.  Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540