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Siemens AG Banned Only 6 Months by UN, 2 Years by World Bank, UN Pays For Non-Existent Garden

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

UNITED NATIONS, July 7, updated with UN response July 11 -- As German conglomerate Siemens AG, fresh from guilty pleas under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, faces a two year suspension as a vendor by the World Bank, the United Nations has imposed only a six month ban.

   On July 7, Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson Michele Montas, who has previously defended the UN's failure to ban the Indian Enron Satyam, to explain the different penalties imposed by the UN and the World Bank. "Each body has its own decision making process," Ms. Montas answered. Video here, from Minute 18:25.

   Inner City Press then asked if it would be fair to conclude that the UN or at least its Department of Management which oversees procurement takes anti-corruption even less seriously than the World Bank, based on its ban being one-quarter of the World Bank's, based on the same facts. "It's not a question of which organization is more stringent than the other," Ms. Montas argued. But isn't it?

   Previously, even though the World Bank had barred Satyam from contracting, the UN continued to do business with it. After this was raised by the Press, the UN said it was winding down contracting with Satyam. No updates have been given.

Siemens AG behind thorns -- of non-existent UN garden?

  In June there was no press conference by the chief of the Department of Management, Angela Kane, who has complained that UN responses are not published. For this story, Inner City Press waited hours after asking the question at the UN's noon briefing. The Siemens question is one which should be answered.

    At a smaller level, Inner City Press has been informed that while the UN's North Lawn is now covered by the temporary building which will house the General Assembly and Secretary General's Office during the five years of the Capital Master Plan, payments continue to be made on a multi-year contract for gardening of the North Lawn. This was reported to Inner City Press by a whistleblower, and then confirmed by a UN procurement official. But what is being done?

   The Department of Management, which oversees both procurement and the Capital Master Plan, is continuing despite criticism even in the U.S. Congress with a plan to change reporters' current working conditions, with closed door offices to meet and speak with sources including whistleblowers, to an "open office" plan in which there will be no doors, no walls to the ceiling, no privacy. A whistleblower free zone appears to be what the UN Department of Management has in mind. Watch this site.

From the UN's July 7, 2009 transcript:

Inner City Press: about Siemens, this German conglomerate has been barred by the World Bank from doing business with it for two years for violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practice Act. So now the UN is only barring them for only six months, and I am wondering if the Department of Management or Procurement or the Senior Review Panel -– what’s the difference in terms of the acts? Why would the UN… [interrupted]?

Spokesperson Montas: Each body has its own decision making process, you know. Here, it is for six months and for longer over there. You know, it’s a matter of the individual administrations to decide.

Inner City Press:  is it fair to say that from this one could say the World Bank is more serious about anti-corruption than the UN?  [interrupted]?

Spokesperson Montas: That has nothing to do with this. This is just an administrative matter. They have been banned for six months. So it’s not a question of which organization is more stringent than the other. I don’t think this is the issue. I think the issue is that each one of these organizations has taken measures about Siemens. Thank you all so very much.

Update of July 11, 10:55 a.m. -- The following has been received through the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary General, four days after the response quoted above:

Subj: Correction to an Article from Inner City Press

From: unspokesperson-donotreply [at]

To: Inner City Press

Sent: 7/11/2009 8:48:59 A.M. Eastern Standard Time

The article in Inner City Press dated 7 July and titled: Siemens AG Banned Only 6 Months by UN, 2 Years by World bank, UN pays for Non-Existent Garden, is factually wrong. The following corrections should be published.

1. The rules & regulations which govern the vendor management and debarment are different for the UN Secretariat and the World Bank. The UN secretariat is governed by the Procurement Manual chapter 7. The document is on line on the Procurement Division web site, here.

The rules & regulations for the World bank can be consulted on their web site, here.

Suspension by the UN Secretariat was for a period of not less than 6 months. The UN Secretariat reserves the right to continue the suspension until the vendor meets the necessary criteria for re-registration.

2. The UN Secretariat has no contractual relationship with Satyam.

3. The current contract for the maintenance service for the lawn, pruning and hedge trimming of the North Lawn* area has been amended in May 2009 and took into consideration the impact of the CMP project and related constructions. As there are still parts of the UN campus gardens not affected by CMP, there is still a need for gardening services.

   While we will be reporting again on these issues, we note particularly in light of the May 8 meeting led by Under Secretary General for Management Angela Kane which concerned legal threats to three media organizations including Inner City Press for purportedly not publishing UN responses that this response, provided four days after the questions were asked, is being published less then four hours after it was sent, on a Saturday morning.

   Since the difference been the World Bank's two year suspension and the UN's six months suspension of Siemens AG was reported in, among others, Bloomberg News, one wonders if the UN has submitted such a "correction" to Bloomberg News, and if so if they would publish it.

   The German news agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur had a different lead to the story about Munich-based Siemens: "Making up for its past misdeeds, Siemens is to help pay for anti-corruption campaigns by the United Nations." Nationality seems play a role in how this story, and Siemens, are viewed...

  DPA concluded on an up note for Siemens: "In Munich, sources said the opt-out would not necessarily reduce Siemens sales radically, as the group could still sell equipment to projects as a subcontractor." We will have more on this.

  The Department of Management submitted its on the record written response about Siemens four days after Inner City Press asked the question at the UN's noon briefing on July 7. At the July 9 noon briefing, another of the Under Secretary General for Management's decisions was asked about, as a follow up to questions the Spokesperson was taking about the management of UN facilities:

Inner City Press: follow up to that, which is that this issue that’s arisen about the swing space for four or five years, not having enclosed office space for journalists, including investigative journalists, some here have raised that it will make it more difficult to actually, for example, for whistle blowing staff members or others to be able to approach press members with, you know--

Spokesperson Montas: Well, they can approach you at other places besides your own office, can’t they?

Inner City Press: I guess the question is what’s the rationale behind the--

Spokesperson: As I said, this has already been explained in different meetings with you. This is an internal subject which can be discussed very openly with the Capital Master Plan people. I am inviting you to do so, but not during a briefing that is for international issues.

Question: My only question is since it affects, it’s a decision by the Secretariat that affects the way the press can actually cover the UN, I view it as other than housekeeping issue. [inaudible]

Spokesperson: May I suggest that we discuss this elsewhere?

Inner City Press: Okay.

Question: Anything set for the Secretary-General’s monthly briefing?

Spokesperson: We’re trying to negotiate something in between trips. But it will most probably be Monday.

   The Under Secretary General for Management, who first commissioned a survey of how to for the first time try to charge money to correspondents at UN Headquarters and then proposed a swing space with no walls or doors -- which some are calling the "whistleblower free zone" -- has not provided the rationale or response to this issue, which as noted has given rise to a Dear Colleague letter circulated to all member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

  Since responses seem to arrive four days after Management related questions are asked at the UN noon briefing, perhaps the USG's on the record answer on this is to be expected on Monday, July 13, when S-G Ban will substitute a stand up stakeout for the promised sit down month press conference, and the stakeout is timed such that no UN noon briefing will be held. We'll see.

* * *

For G-8 Spouses, WFP Flies in Ghanaian Children for "Simulated Feeding," $500,000 Cost Disputed

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

UNITED NATIONS, July 7 -- During the upcoming G-8 meeting in Italy, the UN World Food Program is flying school children from Ghana to Rome for a "simulated food distribution" display for the spouses of G-8 representatives. WFP has ordered staff not involved in the display to not come to work that day. They will, however, received "special leave with full pay."

   Inner City Press wrote about this last week, quoting an internal WFP e-mail. On July 7, Inner City Press called in to what was described as a WFP press briefing about the G-8 and asked for response to criticism of the event as insensitive to beneficiaries of UN aid and for the cost, as well as about limitations WFP accepts from the government of North Korea.

   The WFP officials on the conference call -- who will remain unnamed at their request -- at first did not answer the question, and then stated that the event would cost only a fraction of the figure Inner City Press used its its July 2 story, $500,000.

  Inner City Press asked to be given on the record WFP's figure, including staff time, accommodation and air fare -- and carbon offsetting of the jet travel, if any. Four hours later, after close of business in Rome, a WFP spokesman said that an answer might be forthcoming. In the interim, WFP had scrubbed up and approved a quote from the "background" briefing for a less critical wire service piece.

   And so, beyond the WFP e-mail below describing the event, here is the basis for Inner City Press' estimate of cost:

According to the WFP website, 'WFP employed 10,200 people in 2008 (91 percent of staff serve in the field.)' That means about 1000 work at WFP Headquarters in Rome. Even accounting for a satellite building that will stay in operation -- though who knows how many staff will show up or be able to get near it -- we estimate that 800 staff go home and that the average grade is the mid range of a P4 (grades are higher at WFP headquarters than in the field). The direct cost for such a post is about $100,000 but one must add to that pension, staff assessment and a large "post adjustment" because the dollar is weak against the Euro. Therefore a more realistic annual cost for a mid range P4 is perhaps $150,000-160,000.

   The work year has 260 days, so a single day of labor lost costs the organization $576. Multiplied by 800, one gets about $467,000 -- plus related security costs, the cost of flying in the Ghanaian children to eat corn-soy blend in view of the G-8 spouses, the construction of a fake schoolhouse by WFP's pool, etc. In addition there is the Italian government paying rent on a building that is not being used to manage food aid but as a set for this theater. The last public figure on the website for the building costs was about $45 million per annum with a daily cost of roughly $123,000. So $467,000 plus $123,000 yields about $590,000.

   Immediately after a senior WFP official on Tuesday's conference call said that costs were only "a fraction" of $500,000, Inner City Press formally asked for WFP's estimate of costs, and for confirmation that a WFP staffer was expelled from North Korea.

UN's Ban and WFP's Sheeran, luncheon June 2, 2009, 'simulated feeding' not shown

  At deadline nine hours later, the following arrived:

Hi Matthew, On the question regarding the planned event at WFP headquarters on Friday 10 July, I refer you to the response given during the teleconference earlier today. On the question of DPRK, I have the following response:

A senior WFP official said one WFP staff member in DPRK has had to leave the country because his visa was not renewed by the authorities. A number of other WFP staff members have been reassigned, or rotated to new duty stations because WFP's operations have contracted and the number of people required to support WFP's activities have gone down.

"While WFP continues to operate under the new conditions imposed by the DPRK authorities, it has not formally accepted them, and WFP is continuing to push for a return to the original terms of agreement negotiated with the government at the launch of the current emergency operation," the official added.

    We continue to wait for WFP's cost estimate. Inner City Press immediately followed up on the above, asking for the costs, if the WFP staff member who had to leave DPRK was from South Korea, and another question.

    The initial questions were sent to WFP chief Josette Sheeran's e-mail address. Ms. Sheeran, on whom Inner City Press has previously reported, including where possible praising her work, has taken to hiring yet more former colleagues from the Washington Times, most recently Elizabeth "Lisa" Bryant.

   Within the UN system community in Rome, many believe that Ms. Sheeran engaged in a quid pro quo with FAO chief Jacques Diouf, hiring a relative of his for an information technology post in exchange for FAO hiring the husband of her personal assistant, Tanujah Rastogi. They snark that since Ms. Sheeran Shiner bragged that while editing the Washington Times she ran story after story about the Clintons and Whitewater, the Obama Administration with Hilary Clinton as Secretary of State might want to see a change at the top of WFP. Through in the snafu of the $500,000 simulated feeding program and.... well, watch this site.

Rome colleagues:

As you know, Italy will be hosting the G8 Summit next week and leaders from more than two dozen countries will be in L’Aquila. We are honored that the Italian government has asked WFP to host an official program at our headquarters on Friday, 10 July, as part of the spouse program.
This visit is a profound testament to the increasing visibility of WFP's work -- and an opportunity to help the world better understand the important work we do. On our premises, we are arranging a simulated food distribution and a symbolic African schoolhouse, where a small group of Ghanaian schoolchildren will help celebrate our work. (You may have noticed the large exhibit being erected this morning behind the pool.)

Due to the security precautions mandated by the Italian government and the visiting delegations, only those employees involved in the event or deemed necessary for critical operations by their managers will be permitted on the main building premises during the morning of July 10. Among other things, parking will be severely limited at our main building and automobile access limited in Parco de Medici in general.
But we encourage you to take advantage of this special exhibit and bring your families, including your children, on the afternoon of 10 July – anytime after 2:00 – so they can get a taste of our field work and meet the schoolchildren. If you cannot bring your family on 10 July, note that the tent and displays will remain up on Monday, 13 July, so we invite you to bring family members to see the display then.

Though this is a special event, we realize it might cause some inconvenience. We hope you can appreciate what an historic opportunity this is for some of the world’s most influential people to understand what we do and to see the impact of their donations.

Here are some guidelines for the day: If you work in the main building, please do not come to the office Friday morning, 10 July. The St. Martin’s building will remain open. As much as possible, please work from home... We expect the main building to re-open for business as usual at 2:00, so if it's feasible for you to return, please do so. If returning to the office in the afternoon is not feasible for you -- we recognize that some of the Parco de Medici transit options do not run in the afternoon, for instance – you are authorized special leave with full pay. Thank you,
Steve Taravella
Chief of Internal Communications, World Food Programme
Via C.G. Viola 68,Rome, Italy 00148

Footnote: one WFP staffer, anonymous from fear of retaliation, asked if Josette Sheeran would similarly "parade around Food Stamp recipient in the United States," and went on to suggest that if the G-8 spouses wanted to see "needy Africans" while in Italy, they could check out the camps on Lampedusa...

* * *

WFP In Pyongyang Has Korean Speakers Expelled, Flies African Children to Eat for G-8

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

UNITED NATIONS, July 2 -- While the UN in New York announced that its World Food Program will shrink what remains of its program in North Korea, in the midst of declining donor confidence and missile tests by Pyongyang, the UN was more quiet about the restrictions it had been under and is accepting in the country. WFP in a memorandum from Beijing notes that the Kim Jong Il government now requires that none of WFP's remaining international staff should be able to speak Korean.

Inner City Press is told that WFP - Pyongyang's main Korea speaker was expelled from the country as persona non grata on June 20 and that this bodes badly for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon naming a new UN envoy to North Korea. Reportedly, Ban had focused on a South Korean envoy, with an eye toward running the candidate by members at the upcoming G-8 meeting. But if Kim Jong Il is expelling from the country what few UN system Korean speakers remained, such an envoy seems even less likely.

Speaking of WFP and the G-8, for the upcoming meeting WFP is flying in children from Ghana to eat as a part of an "exhibit" for the spouses of G-8 leaders on July 10. The internal WFP email is below. Several WFP sources expressed disgust to Inner City Press at the event, which they ascribe to WFP head Josette Sheeran. One asked, "Would she parade around Food Stamp recipient in the United States?" They put the expenses of the event, including the substantial closure of the WFP headquarters on July 10, at $500,000.

WFP's Sheeran gives award to UN's Ban, PNG and  Eat for G-8 not shown

At UN, N. Korea Test Reaction Veiled in Secrecy, P-5 Search for Leak

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

UNITED NATIONS, June 10, updated June 11 -- Seventeen days after North Korea conducted at least its second underground nuclear test, the UN Security Council is scheduled this morning to circulate a previously-leaked draft sanctions resolution. A belated reaction with belated demands for secrecy, it will finally be made public on a volutary basis. For that reason and those below, for now there was no need to have it published here until circulated - now here it it.

  North Korea has already denounced it, and it is unclear who, if anyone would actually search North Korea ships. Perhaps the U.S. will seize more of Kim Jong-Il's money, as it did in Banco Delta Asia. But it could have done that without action by the Council.

Early in the process, Inner City Press got and published a draft of the resolution, minus substantive operative paragraph eight. Credit was given; there was little push-back.

  Then on June 5 Inner City Press obtained the near-final draft, which had been circulated to the capitals of the Permanent Five member plus Japan and South Korea. Inner City Press put it online that Friday at noon, it went with credit to Japan, the AP, Times of London and Washington Post. The feedback, however, was not all positive.

   Several Ambassadors approached Inner City Press to complain. You have made things more difficult, they said in different ways. One, Rosemary DiCarlo of the U.S., was to her credit willing to explain why. Countries find it hard to back away from positions in a draft that goes online, she said. Another had said, just summarize it, don't put the text online. Ambassador DiCarlo said that it's easier to back away from a summary.

   France's Permanent Representative Jean-Maurice Ripert had an extraordinary reaction. He summoned "the French press," how ever defined, and insisted to them that the draft Inner City Press had put online had not, in fact, been circulated. This had been contradicted by others in the French mission, and by other diplomats. Still Ripert insisted it was true, according to multiple sources in attendance at his meetings.

   Ripert held yet another news event for only portions of the press corps on the eve of the North Korea meeting, this time about peacekeeping. He focused on the Congo, yet the topic of the UN Mission there, known by its French acronym MONUC, constructively working with indicted war criminal Jean-Bosco Ntaganda somehow did not come up. We'll have more on this.

   The U.S. mission took a different approach, grilling other Council members and even Secretariat staff trying to determine the source of the leak. To some, the approach seemed inconsistent with what Barack Obama has said, about transparency and openness to the press. Several journalists detailed to the UN during these past two weeks have expressed surprise at the press relations of the current U.S. mission. Perhaps a work in progress.

Secrecy at the stakeout, hunt for leak and promises of transparency not shown

   Tuesday at six o'clock, the Russian mission emailed out comments of Ambassador Churkin, that consensus is emerging. Then at nine a.m. Wednesday, a meeting was scheduled for two hours later. It will be live blogged here. Watch this space.

Update of 11:08 a.m. -- one by one, or rather each with separate entourage, they have entered. Susan Rice with security and spokesman; Vitaly Churkin, like China's Deputy Liu, with a jaunty step. China's Permanent Representative with a single political advisor and a smile.

  France's Ripert, who reported told some journalists to only expect a vote on Friday, stopped and said in French, hopefully "demain" (tomorrow).

Update of 1:20 p.m. -- the Office of the Spokesperson for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, true to form, held its noon briefing in direct conflict with the Ambassadors who spoke at the stakeout. Perhaps so that even fewer reporters would attend and ask questions at the Secretariat's briefing. There were only three, and none of the questions were answered. Afterwards, Russia's Vitaly Churkin was speaking at the stakeout. He was asked why the draft has not yet been "put into blue." Ripert, it was said, repeated his prediction of adoption tomorrow or Friday. Several Japanese reporters expressed relief, that their two week vigil of watching nothing happen appears finally at an end.

Update of 7:53 p.m. -- a vote on Thursday is said to be unlikely, by a non-permanent Security Council member, some of whom pushed back against not having been included in the process of the P-5 plus Two. As Swiss Ambassador Peter Maurer told the Press on Wednesday afternoon, on the record, why do countries work for four years to get a seat on the Council only to sit back and wait to be given the menu by the P-5?

Update of June 11, 11:19 a.m. -- A Russian diplomat tells the Press that there have been a number of amendments proposed, presumably by non P-5 members, and "they must be considered." Asked if a vote Friday is possible, he said, "I do not know... I have to ask my expert."

Update of 11: 26 a.m. -  Japan's Ambassador Takasu, more upbeat, said in Japanese to the press from that country (which in turn offered this translation to Inner City Press) that he is not aware of any opposition, but that he will of course listen to any opinion. Asked if there will be a vote Friday, he said he does not like to make predictions.

Update of 11 p.m. -- it has "gone blue," and a meeting scheduled for June 12 at 11 a.m., presumably to vote: watch this site.

* * *

At UN, Near Final Draft on North Korea Leaked to Inner City Press, Arms Export Ban and Cargo Inspection Added

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press: Exclusive-Must Credit

UNITED NATIONS, June 5 -- Thirteen days after North Korea conducted an underground nuclear test, a near-final draft resolution emerged behind closed doors at the UN Security Council.

The six-page draft, a copy of which Inner City Press obtained and puts online here as a must-credit exclusive, has more than thirty operative paragraphs, compared to the mere 14 paragraphs of the three-page draft Inner City Press similarly obtained and published on May 28. (AP, Japanese and other media appropriately credited Inner City Press).

  This time, Inner City Press is told by its sources that the draft was circulated to the capitals of the Permanent Five Plus Two -- these last are Japan and South Korea -- with the deadline for comments on June 5 at 10 a.m. New York Time.

   The provision allowing North Korea to import light weapons, in Paragraph 10, is attributable to Russia, according to a well placed Inner City Press source who calls it the Kalishnikof or AK-47 clause.

   Beyond the cargo ban, other provisions are weaker than the proponents wanted. Paragraph 19, for example, merely calls on "member states and international financial and credit institutions not to enter into new commitments... except for humanitarian and developmental purposes." Paragraph 17 prohibits "bunkering services, such as provision of fuel or supplies" to vessels. Paragraph 22 calls for reports within 45 days.

At UN, media chases news of draft now published by Inner City Press

  While the draft resolution seems unlikely to change North Korea's course, it has been the subject of intense journalistic interest for nearly two weeks now at the UN in New York, particularly by Japanese media, who have remained camped out in front of the Security Council during meetings on Somalia, Bosnia and Tribunals and on June 5, Sudan and Sri Lanka.

  Non-permanent members of the Security Council complained to the Press that they were kept in the dark throughout the days of negotiation.

On the morning of June 5, Inner City Press obtained the draft resolution that, as a must-credit exclusive, it puts online here. Watch this site.

  Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

* * *

These reports are usually 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

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