UN Accepted Mugabe's Exchange Rate in Zimbabwe,
Refuses to Disclose Losses As In Myanmar
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of
Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
November 27 -- The UN let the
Zimbabwe regime of Robert Mugabe take a cut of all aid money it raised
until two week ago, converted at a government-imposed rate at the
of Zimbabwe, two UN officials admitted to Inner City Press on November
Bragg, Deputy Emergency Relief
Coordinator in the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian
refused to compare the exchange rate the UN accepted from the
other available rates. "The UN does use the black market," she said.
exchange rate the government allows us to have, the UN has to use."
from Minute 11:59.
Ms. Bragg and OCHA
were appealing for $550 million for Zimbabwe in 2009. In 2008, using
but not disclosing Mugabe regime dictated exchange rates, the UN
appealed for $400 million, and raised and spent $300 million.
this year, Inner City
Press exposed the UN's loss of 20 to 25% of money raised
by the UN and spent in Myanmar after Cyclone Nargis as the UN
allowed the Than
Shwe military government to require conversion of dollars into
Foreign Exchange Certificates. Click here for
time, Inner City
Press asked OCHA chief John Holmes, as well as the spokespeople for Ban
UNICEF and the UN
Development Program to disclose any other countries in which
the UN system was losing 5% or more to government require currency
The responses ranges from "there are no such countries" -- which is
now shown to be untrue -- to "we don't need to tell you."
approached was continued four months later, by Ms. Bragg and Ban's
Michele Montas. Ms. Bragg refused to compare the Zimbabwe rate up until
weeks ago to the exchange rates others were able to obtain.
after a back and forth with Inner City Press said that even the UN's
information on exchange rate losses "will not be available to
you." Video here,
at Minute 27:35 -
in the UN's transcript, her quote is inaccurately transcripts as "will
be valuable to you." The UN's
summary of Ms. Bragg's OCHA press conference
does not use the word black market, which she used two times, and does
include the unanswered questions in this regard.
the UN appeal for hundreds of millions of dollars while it knew that of
aid money it was losing high percentages -- 25% in Myanmar, an unknown
percentage in Zimbabwe and other undisclosed countries?
Mugabe and UN's Ban, foreign exchange losses
through RBZ not shown
From the November 26
noon briefing transcript:
Inner City Press: And also I
wanted to ask you, there was a press conference here at 11 by OCHA
Zimbabwe, the scope of which was explicitly Zimbabwe only… but an issue
arose was when, the UN, apparently up until two weeks ago when they
donor dollars in Zimbabwe, they received a foreign exchange rate
lower than the market rate. But, they
said that they were unwilling to compare the two, because the UN
business “on the black market”. Is it,
does the UN, I guess, if it’s spending donor money, is some attempt
made to see
that in fact the money is not just being lost to governments like, in
Zimbabwe, or what happened in Myanmar.
What safeguards are in place to make sure that money
is not being lost
to governments when they require conversions of funds with them?
Spokesperson: Okay, what we are
also concerned about is not
going through illegal channels. And the
UN cannot afford to go the black market.
What Ms. Bragg said was true. In
terms of trying to find the best rates, as you know, they negotiate in
single country where the UN operates.
So, short of going through the illegal market, we
are doing what we can
to try to get the best rate we can possibly have.
Inner City Press: I tried to ask
Ms. Bragg if the UN had compared other rates available other than the
were getting from the government and she said, no, we only take one
government. So how would, how would the
UN know if it’s getting a good rate or not if it doesn’t, I guess I’m,
the question to you or to OCHA is, what has been the spread between
people get as an exchange rate and what the UN gets from the government?
Spokesperson: I don’t have that
information. If Ms. Bragg could not give
to you, I don’t
Inner City Press: She said it was
a matter of policy. They won’t even say
what the comparison is because they don’t want to talk about a “black
Spokesperson: I understand her
Inner City Press: So, I go back
to this. With these cap appeals that come
out, how is
there any way to know how much of the money is being lost in government
exchange conversions, if the UN has a policy of never comparing the
Spokesperson: Well, the
situation is that we are an
intergovernmental organization. You have
to take into account the legal government that is in any country,
are problems or not, of course. The
policy is trying to find the best rates, but within legal ways.
Inner City Press: I guess I’m…
Spokesperson: In some countries
it’s not a black
market. It’s a competitive market. Then the UN tries to get the best rate. Whenever you have a government-controlled
system like this one, the UN does not have a choice.
Inner City Press: Right. I
guess, just to deal with that, I understand
what you’re saying, it seems important to know what, to know what the
are, to know…
Spokesperson: I’m sure they are
aware of it.
Inner City Press: Then why
wouldn’t they disclose them? If they
just asked the international community for hundreds of millions of
the UN knows how much is being lost to the Government, why would it be
the policy to say…?
Spokesperson: Because they
cannot officially take into
account the black market.
Inner City Press: Could it be
done on some unofficial basis?
Spokesperson Montas: It’s
certainly done on an unofficial
basis. But it won’t be valuable to
is significantly and seemingly intentionally inaccurate. As the
video shows, Ms. Montas says, "it won't be available to you." Video
at Minute 27:35; the Q&A starts here
at Minute 24:30.
Bragg's formal press briefing, Inner City Press asked OCHA's country
Rania Degash if she could speak about the exchange rate losses. No, she
saying that the UN Development Program had been in charge of it.
correspondent muttered, this is so secret, what is it, the CIA? But
agency is overseen to some degree by a legislature. Who oversees the
Ahlenius of OIOS? No one, apparently.
Click here for Inner City
Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo
Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on
UN, bailout, MDGs
and this October 17 debate, on
Security Council and Obama and the UN.
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