As UN Spins Reports
of Peacekeepers' Congolese Gold Deals, Who Audits the Auditor, OIOS?
Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
April 28 -- Faced with detailed reporting
that it covered up charges of
peacekeepers helping with gold trading and even rebel-rearming in the
Congo, the UN on Monday released a three-and-a-half page letter from
peacekeeping chief Jean-Marie Guehenno. The letter among other things
acknowledges that Pakistani peacekeepers provided meals, transport and
to a group of Indian businessmen "engaged in illegal trading of
gold," and that this was conveyed in a "10 July 2007 Note
Verbale" to Pakistan.
This calls into question an
on-camera response two months later by MONUC's force commander Major-General Babacar Gaye. On
September 6, Gen. Gaye criticized the press for reporting mere
allegations of involvement by some MONUC personnel in smuggling,
specifically gold smuggling. Inner City Press interjected that there is a report
by the Office of Internal Oversight Services, reported on by BBC,
that verified the gold smuggling connection. Video
here, from Minute 47:08, and see
August 11, 2007 BBC article.
Gen. Gaye's response was telling: he turned to Ban Ki-moon's
spokesperson Michele Montas and asked if the OIOS report has been
officially released. No, Ms Montas said. Thus assured, Gen. Gaye said
for the cameras that the report was given to "the concerned member
state" and that if it was not publicly released, "I am not in charge of
that." Thus, as long as OIOS does not officially release its reports,
the UN can and will deny what is in them. Why then have an Office of
Internal Oversight Services? Could it, like the UN Ethics Office is
turning out to be, be mostly for show? With OIOS, a previous detailed
investigative report calling for action to be taken against UN Pension
Fund officials was never acted on, nor has the non-action been
Also on Monday, the UN produced for the press two senior
insisted they not be named. "What's the point, then?" one reporter
asked. But the attitude of the two officials is symbolic of the UN's
One official, having often said "zero tolerance," admitted that all
that happened to a Pakistani peacekeeper who drove gold traders around
be sent back to Pakistan. Inner City Press asked for confirmation that
the UN has asked Pakistan to disclose if any punishment was imposed,
has not responded. The official agreed, and said that all the UN could
do is to
try to publicize the non-response. "So can we quote you on that?"
Inner City Press asked. "I'll think about it," the official said.
Eight hours later, the demand for anonymity remained in place.
UN's Messenger of Peace with Peacekeepers in
Congo: OIOS audit and accountability not shown
The other official claimed that
there is no basis to conclude that an Indian gold trader, flown in to
and driving around in a UN vehicle, is a smuggler. He said that the
who drove the gold trader around did so only on his own behalf --
there was no evidence, the official quickly pointed out, that there was
profit. "If I buy a joint [of marijuana] and smoke it there," he
said, gesturing to one side of the UN briefing room, "that does not
that the UN did it." Inner City Press asked for an update on OIOS'
action on the UN General Assembly's call, in the December budget
for a review of the "extraordinary measures" for the Darfur
peacekeeping mission, including Lockheed
Martin's $250 million no-bid contract
with the UN. "The Procurement Task Force is doing that," the
said. We'll see.
Inner City Press asked if the UN
Office of Internal Oversight Services' own audit of its operations,
by a consultant paid with UN money, will be released to the public. No,
as OIOS chief Inga-Britt Ahlenius told Inner City Press "it
is my document." (Ms. Ahlenius did not respond by deadline to an
e-mailed request for clarification send after Monday's
noon briefing.) But now it's confirmed that it was paid for by UN
So whose report is it? Ahlenius, meanwhile, told the Washington Post
those with something to hide try to withhold such information. So what
OIOS have to hide?
* * *
These reports are
usually also available through Google
News and on Lexis-Nexis.
here for a Reuters
AlertNet piece by this correspondent
about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click
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
UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA
Reporter's mobile (and weekends):
earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available
in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.
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