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UNDP Admits Improper Housing Subsidy, Contracting with Vendor Barred for Bribery

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

UNITED NATIONS, January 16 -- The poverty czar of the UN Development Program, Eveline Herfkens, never sought or received permission to take $7000 a month in rent from the Dutch government, UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis admitted on Wednesday. Inner City Press asked what Dervis plans to do about the $280,000 Ms. Herfkens improperly accepted. Dervis did not spell out any action, saying that Ms. Herfkens "is now in Maryland," and while wanting to continue working on the Millennium Development Goals, is not interested in a salary. For the record, she was getting paid $225,000 a year to work, part-time, from her new home in Maryland. The housing subsidy was "definitely against the rules," he said, adding that others, too, have attempted to take housing subsidies from governments, both in the UN Secretariat and at Dervis' former employer, the World Bank. As to the UN, he said that "exceptions, actually quite a few" had been made, and are now being reviewed by the UN's Department of Management. Video here, from Minute 22:27. Inner City Press previously covered the Department of Management's answers on this issue, and will now revive that inquiry.

            Dervis left until the end of his press conference any comment on the documentary proof that UNDP continued issuing contracts to a vendor, Corimec, which was barred from business with the UN Secretariat due to bribery. This had the effect of precluding any follow-up to what Dervis said on the topic. "It was a judgment call," Dervis said. "My judgment call would probably have been different," he said, adding that he could see both side. Apparently the pro-bribery side is that Corimec had already sold UNDP one batch of tents, and that second batch could, if one squinted enough, be viewed as all part of one project, hence one procurement, pre-dating Corimec being barred from business due to bribery. This is an argument that violators of sanctions regimes all around the world may want to adopt, now that UNDP's Dervis has.

Dervis redux, Jan. 16, 2008

            Dervis had much to say attempting to deflect blame about the Algiers bombing on December 11, saying that Algeria was asked to help block off the street but did not respond, and that it was the Department of Safety and Security which is responsible for raising the threat levels in the field. In fact, UNDP's Marc de Bernis had the authority to raise the level from one to at least three, and did not, despite requests. Dervis also mentioned, but did not provide the names of, six countries in which UN employees are told to work for home. Apparently the U.S., or at least the state of Maryland, is one -- just ask Eveline Herfkens. She's been working from home for two years, only she's been getting paid $225,000 a year. We'll have more on these stories. Watch this site.

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These reports are also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

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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Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

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

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