UN, Dodgy Answers on Siemens AG, Whistleblowers,
and Gardening Contracts
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, July 22 -- Forty days after the Economist rated UN
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon a mere two out of ten on management,
his Under Secretary General for Management Angela Kane told the Press
she didn't know the maximum prohibition
which the UN could have imposed on Siemens AG, which pled guilty to
corruption. She said didn't know the specifics or public
availability of UN gardening contract she'd said had been amended due
to the replacement of garden space by the UN's new temporary building.
In a school one might say, this is not how grades are improved.
When Inner City Press first sought to ask Ms. Kane at her July 22
briefing about the controversy surrounding the UN's
lesser six month penalty to Siemens AG
than the two year ban imposed by the World Bank, "keep it to
smoking" was the reply from moderator Marie Okabe of the UN
Spokesperson's Office. Video here, from Minute 29:30. Ms. Kane's
appearance, the first since May 21 and since the low Economist management rating, was
supposed to be about cigarette smoking inside the UN.
the Siemens case, the UN Spokesperson's Office, seemingly on behalf of
Ms. Kane, had written
to Inner City Press on July 11 demanding that corrections of "factual
errors" about the Siemens penalties in ICP's original July 7 story be
published. But on July
22, Ms. Kane was unable to identify any errors.
asked if the UN and World Bank applied different standards to the
same guilty pleas by Siemens to corruption. It's "not a matter
of standards," Ms. Kane said. Since the World Bank has banned
Siemens for two years, Inner City Press asked if six months
prohibition was the maximum the UN could impose. Ms. Kane, who had
correction of errors and even sought to target Inner City
Press and two other media organizations for not running corrections,
said, "I don't know." Video here,
from Minute 36:50.
fact, there is
no six months maximum for the UN to bar a contractor which has pled
guilty to corruption. In the UN Procurement Manual, Section 7.15(1)
Director, UN/PD, or CPO as appropriate, shall decide whether to
remove, or suspend from the Vendor database and notify the Vendor
accordingly. The notice shall advise the Vendor of the United
Nation’s decision to suspend for a specific period of time, or
remove indefinitely the Vendor from the Vendor database and specify
the reasons for the decision."
City Press having asked the question at a UN noon briefing before
writing, and then having published in full a "correction"
by Angela Kane, the question remains: why did the UN impose only a
six months ban for the same Siemens facts which triggered a two year
prohibition by the World Bank? That the response to this question,
rather than an answer or improvement, is to demand corrections of the
analysis that the UN does not take corruption seriously enough may be
one of the reasons for the UN's and Ban's low grades.
UN's Ban swears in Ms. Kane, Siemens and
gardens, walls and doors not shown
UN's National Competitive Exam, a merit-based way to enter UN
employment, was recently suspended. Member states and others
complained, Inner City Press asked and wrote about it. On July 22,
Ms. Kane gave another lengthy answer -- video here,
from Minute 43:18
-- but still the question has not been answered: if the NCE needed
improvement, why not fix it while continuing this one meritocratic
In the interest of transparency, Inner City Press is putting online here an internal UN
e-mail on this topic, setting out a calendar for the NCE and the G to P
promotion exam, also suspended, both purportedly to be resumed in
2010, provided by a whistleblower.
Kane was asked
about whistleblowers, and replied that she was not aware of any
complaints. Video here,
from Minute 43:18. Inner City Press asked about the sample case of a UN
Development Program whistleblower, whom UN Ethics Officer Robert
Benson recommended be paid back wages for due process violations. Has
the UN followed up, since the continuing non-payment sends the
message that even those whistleblowers who persevere and obtain a
recommendation of back wages in fact receive nothing? Ms. Kane said
this is outside of her remit, to ask UNDP or Mr. Benson. But neither
has taken questions in the UN briefing room for many months.
Kane was not
asked about her role in the current plan to move UN
offices with doors and walls which whisteblowers can visit and
call to open offices with no doors, the so-called "No
Whistleblower Zone" which along with Kane's targeting of three
media organizations gave rise
to a Dear Colleague letter in the U.S.
Congress. Ms. Kane's complaint ostensibly was that the media
organization don't run her "corrections" (see above). Who
is making the UN look bad?
demanded a correction about the UN's contract for gardening on the
North Lawn, now largely occupied by a new temporary building, when
Inner City Press asked Ms. Kane how much the contact was reduced by,
she said, "I don't that number." Is it in the UN
Procurement database? "I don't scroll the data base," Ms.
the type of defensiveness and lack of transparency
for which this UN is becoming known. Or is that analysis a "factual
inaccuracy" for which correction will be demanded?
* * *
AG Banned Only 6 Months by UN, 2 Years by World Bank, UN Pays For
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
NATIONS, July 7, updated with UN
response July 11 -- As German conglomerate Siemens AG, fresh
pleas under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, faces a two year
suspension as a vendor by the World Bank, the United
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.
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
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.
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?
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
From the UN's
July 7, 2009 transcript:
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…
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.
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]?
Montas: That has nothing to do with this. This is just an
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. --
following has been received through the Office of the Spokesperson
for the Secretary General, four days after the response quoted above:
Correction to an Article from Inner City Press
unspokesperson-donotreply [at] un.org
Inner City Press
7/11/2009 8:48:59 A.M. Eastern Standard Time
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.
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.
rules & regulations for the World bank can be consulted on their
web site, here.
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.
The UN Secretariat has no contractual relationship with Satyam.
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
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.
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
had a different lead to the story about Munich-based Siemens:
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...
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.
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
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,
approach you at other places besides your own office, can’t they?
Inner City Press: I guess
is what’s the rationale behind the--
Spokesperson: As I said,
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
discuss this elsewhere?
Inner City Press: Okay.
Question: Anything set for
Secretary-General’s monthly briefing?
Spokesperson: We’re trying
negotiate something in between trips. But it will most probably be
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.
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.
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City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics
and this October 17 debate, on
Security Council and Obama and the UN.
* * *
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