Inner City Press

Inner City Press -- Investigative Reporting From the Inner City to Wall Street to the United Nations

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

  Search Search WWW (censored?)

In Other Media-eg Nigeria, Zim, Georgia, Nepal, Somalia, Azerbaijan, Gambia Click here to contact us     .


Home -

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


Subscribe to RSS feed

Video (new)

Reuters AlertNet 8/17/07

Reuters AlertNet 7/14/07

Support this work by buying this book

Click on cover for secure site orders

also includes "Toxic Credit in the Global Inner City"




Bank Beat

Freedom of Information

How to Contact Us

UNHCR's Johnstone, Of Failing Anti-Africa Relocation, Decamps for USA at Half Pay

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

UNITED NATIONS, March 23 -- The UN's Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees L. Craig Johnstone, architect of a money-losing relocation of jobs to Budapest instead of Africa because, he said, UNHCR couldn't find qualified Africans, is now himself relocating to the West Coast of his native USA.

   Earlier this month, UNHCR sources told Inner City Press Johnstone was trying to convince UNHCR boss Antonio Guterres that he should get full pay to work from the West Coast. Inner City Press, which had previously covered Johnstone's ill-fated shift of jobs to Budapest instead of Africa, made inquiries.

   When word leaked out, Guterres counter proposed that Johnstone get only half the salary, and pay the extra travel costs on his own. To some, it's a rare partial victory for accountability within the UN system. Others wonder why Johnstone, who admitted his post is reserved for the United States, can still draw any pay at all.

  The move Johnstone engineered, from Geneva to Budapest, has resulted money lost and not saved.  At the time of the move, Inner City Press interviewed Johnstone who said, on the record, that qualified workers could not be found in Africa.

Inner City Press asked why Africa hadn't even been one of the four locations considered . (The others were Bucharest, Chennai and Kuala Lumpur.) "Is Africa the right place to establish a procurement center?" Johnstone asked. "A payroll center? What are the capability of the local people to carry out the functions?"

   When Inner City Press reported this, Johnstone back pedaled, bad mouthing Inner City Press in the process.

  Now, UNHCR whistleblowers have provided Inner City Press with an Excel spreadsheet showing the less than stellar performance of the Johnstone-designed move from Geneva.  The sources say "Budapest in 2008 costs 17.8 million and 19.9 estimated for 2009  NOT the 7.9 million they are basing the savings on." Inner City Press asked Switzerland's Ambassador to the UN Peter Maurer for comments, and Ambassador Maurer said that often such moves do not result in the promised savings. In this case, UNHCR lost money.

UNHCR's Craig Johnstone, pitches Google, disses Africa, heads home

  Other intra-UNHCR scandals have included irregularities in Staff Union elections, reported failure to have insurance on UNHCR staff members in Algeria, where UNHCR and the UN were bombed in December 2008 (UNHCR began dodging questions at that point), and the trading of jobs for donations. 

 Additionally, UNHCR sources tell Inner City Press that former UNHCR controller, Colin Mitchell, an Australian who retired in May 2008, was reprimanded by UNHCR in April 2008 for reopening 2006 purchase orders to soak up excess funds so that it would not appear that UNHCR had not spent all its donor funding in 2007.  He was then promoted after his reprimand by Guterres to grade D-2, retroactive to 1 January 2007, one week before his retirement -- a nice golden handshake in his pension package. 

   These sources say that at UNHCR, as in many other locations in the UN system, rewards are doled out in contravention of rules in order to buy silence and keep skeleton closets closed.

  And now Antonio Gutteres, fresh from his recent visit to Myanmar where he talked some about the Rohingya but not sufficiently about the Karen people, described in the press today as being displaced and slaughtered by the army, on March 23 issued the following whitewash e-mail to his staff:

Sent: lundi 23 mars 2009 14:07
Subject: All Staff Message from the High Commissioner on the Deputy High Commissioner

Craig Johnstone joined UNHCR as Deputy High Commissioner in June 2007. In the ensuing almost two years he has discharged the duties of that office in an exemplary manner.   I have relied on him to spearhead UNHCR’s structural reform to include introduction of results-based

management and, most recently, to introduce needs-based planning and budgeting (GNA) and to undertake fundamental human resources reform.  He has also provided invaluable advice in responding to the current global financial crisis, so far allowing the organization to avoid capping exercises or other reductions in the resources available to our beneficiaries.

At the beginning of this year, Craig advised that for family reasons he would have to return to the United States and therefore, with regret, asked to resign. In view of his leadership of the ongoing reforms I was reluctant to accept his resignation.  After consulting with the UN Secretary-General, I asked Craig to continue in the exercise of his Deputy High Commissioner functions on a half-time, half-pay basis until at least after the Executive Committee’s consideration of the new GNA-based budget in the fall of 2009, when we would review these arrangements. 

In order to see through the successful conclusion of the reforms for which he is primarily responsible, Craig agreed to remain on this basis. Indeed, he offered to do so without any compensation whatsoever.  I did not think that appropriate but I do wish to clarify that all expenses for travel between his family in the United States and Geneva will be borne entirely by Craig. 

Prior to Craig’s final departure we will commence the process for the identification of his successor, relying on the methodology used for his own selection.

Antonio Guterres

  Beyond the fact that Inner City Press has been told by well-placed sources that Johnstone tried to keep his whole salary, if as Guterres white washes it Johnstone now offers to forego compensation, like the executives of failed Wall Street banks, why pay him?  Is Guterres performing his fiduciary duties? He was recently in New York at UN Headquarters, but made no press availability.  Here's hope for one, soon.  Watch this site.

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN 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

Feedback: Editorial [at]

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

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

  Search  Search WWW (censored?)

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

            Copyright 2006-08 Inner City Press, Inc. To request reprint or other permission, e-contact Editorial [at] -