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In Darfur, UN Gave Lockheed $12 Million No-Bid Food Contract, Leaked Minutes Show, Breakfast in Nyala

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

UNITED NATIONS, March 6 -- Already under fire have having granted Lockheed Martin a no-bid $250 million contract to build peacekeeping camps in Sudan, the UN on New Year's Eve convened an emergency meeting to give Lockheed subsidiary Pacific Architects & Engineers another $12 million on an emergency basis, records show. This no-bid contract was to feed the peacekeepers, and to strong-arm the UN Headquarters Committee on Contracts to sign off, they were told that the peacekeepers had "to be fed breakfast in the next few hours." See HCC Minutes, leaked to Inner City Press and placed online here, at Paragraph 1.03.

   While the UN's Department of Field Support sought approval of the lack of competitive bidding on the grounds of emergency or "exigency," UN Controller Warren Sach wrote that "the urgency of the matter stems from poor planning." See attached as last page, Sach's January 2, 2008 note, copied to the UN Department of Management's Alicia Barcena and DFS acting chief Jane Holl Lute.

            The last minute contract to Lockheed Martin is particularly noteworthy for its context, in which DFS' award of a $250 million no-bid contract for peacekeeping camps in Darfur Lockheed had already been criticized by the UN General Assembly, which has called for an investigation of the waiver of competition. In the General Assembly, a number of countries' representatives drew a link between the contract  and Jane Holl Lute, an American, married to Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, President Bush's war czar for Iraq and Afghanistan. When Inner City Press asked Ms. Lute if this is not a conflict of interest, she said no, her work at the UN and her husband's work for the U.S. on Iraq and Afghanistan don't overlap. Since the UN has missions in both countries, this seemed a strange statement. Since then, Ms. Lute has told reporters that she will not be quoted on the records about either Afghanistan or Iraq, since it would be "a conflict of interest."

            During the General Assembly's questioning of the $250 million Darfur contract, Inner City Press is told by sources that Procurement official Dmitry Dovgopoly had Ukraine's ambassador reach out to other countries' Permanent Representatives, urging them to cool off on inquiries into the Lockheed deal, given Dovgolopy's involvement. Earlier this week, Inner City Press asked Dovgopoly to comment on another procurement irregularity in which he is involved, the changing of the final Request for Proposals for the follow-on Darfur infrastructure contract after a request from the French mission to the UN. Dovgopoly did not respond.

            Inner City Press first asked DFS about this no-bid contract, without providing a copy, some weeks ago. On March  4, the question was reiterated along with the HCC minutes themselves. To its credit, DFS then responded in 24 hours, providing an alternate explanation. According to DFS, it because aware on November 1 that the UN would become responsible for feeding peacekeepers in Darfur on January 1. Since that date as the beginning of the UN's responsibilities in Darfur was known since July 31, the three month lag as regards food still required explanation. But even accepting November 1 at the starting point, why did DFS wait until New Year's Eve itself, without presenting any other contractor, only the same Lockheed Martin subsidiary?

DFS' Jane Holl Lute, with George Clooney, in Darfur, PAE's $12 million breakfast contract not shown

            DFS' response is that "there was insufficient time to run a competitive exercise to re-bid the requirement which was for a relatively short period (three months). So we agreed to this as a temporary measure prior to being able to move the ex-AMIS troops over to a standard UN support regime." In this standard regime, while the troop contributing countries will supply their own chefs "so that they can prepare food to meet tastes of their soldiers," the UN will still contract out the kitchens, apparently to Lockheed Martin.

            While Controller Sach in the attached expresses concern about "the delay in contacting the HCC," the response from DFS states that Sach was told on November 13. Given 24 hours to reply, nothing has been heard from Mr. Sach, perhaps due to work triggered by growing skepticism in the General Assembly toward the Secretariat's budget add-ons.

            In the attached HCC minutes, the Committee in executive session indicated that the UN "had no way to determine if the prices were competitive" and "had no certain confirmation if a competitive solicitation with respect to the contract with PAE had been undertaken, and if so, if it was done in 2004." As with the UN's $250 million infrastructure contract with Lockheed's PAE, the deal began on a no-bid basis by the U.S. government then resulted in the UN becoming the payer, with no interruption for competitive bidding, to the U.S.-based contractor.

News analysisIt is true that Darfur is not as easy environment in which to contract. But the UN knew well before October 15 that  it should seek competitors for the camps contract; it knew well before New Year's Eve that breakfast would be needed on January 1. To the degree the infrastructure contract, after extensive criticism, is being opened up, it has been shown to involve inordinate access by the UN Mission of France, another of the Permanent Five (P-5) members of the UN Security Council. Thursday after Frenchman Jean-Marie Guehenno told his staff he will leave his post in June, the UN was full of speculation of who from France will take over this post.  Even if such P-5 politics is the norm in the doling out of top jobs at the UN, procurement is supposedly less subject to power politics. We say "supposedly" because the attached minutes show different. As the Committee states in the minutes, "appropriate measures should be taken by DFS to avoid these situations from occurring in the future." But we've heard that before. When will there be some accountability?

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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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