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Lockheed's UN Darfur Contract Will Not Be Extended But Divided Up Due to Risk, Malcorra Says

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

UNITED NATIONS, July 7 -- The UN's ill-fated $250 million no-bid contract with Lockheed Martin for peacekeeping camps in Darfur will not be extended, but rather broken up into smaller pieces for a broader range of vendors including from Sudan, the new head of the UN Department of Field Support Susana Malcorra told Inner City Press last week.

   This represents a change from the policy of her predecessor Jane Holl Lute, who pushed to give Lockheed the six-month sole source contract with two possible three-month extensions, then put out the whole contract out to bid when the lack of competition came under attack. Now that re-bid procedure is being jettisoned.

  Inner City Press asked Ms. Malcorra when the replacement for Lockheed would be announced. "We are going to take a different approach," Malcorra answered. "The overarching single contractor is something I feel very uncomfortable with. We need to have a multi-tier approach. All eggs in a single basket is something I don't feel comfortable with, operationally and for many reasons."

   Both UN Peacekeeping and its Procurement Division, as well as Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, have been under fire since October 2007, when the no-bid contact with Lockheed was announced. At first, the UN Spokesperson said that Lockheed had been selected through a competitive process, then retracted the claim. It was said that the contract would be made public, but that has still not taken place.

   Inner City Press obtained and published letters from Jane Holl Lute, whose husband is U.S. President George W. Bush's war czar for Iraq and Afghanistan, pushing for Lockheed to be given a no-bid contract each before the Security Council approved the Darfur mission in July 2007. Further back, there were inquiries about the contract from Condoleezza Rice, click here for that. These revelations were cited in the General Assembly's budget committee in December when it called for greater use of local vendors and formally demanded an investigation of the Lockheed contract, which the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services has still not completed. Lockheed's PA&E previously overcharged the UN reportedly for airfield services in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and for breakfasts in Darfur, click here for that.

   Ms. Malcorra on July 3 said, "to me, a single vendor or supplier for everything is too big of a risk," with the implication being that this includes reputational risk.

With Ban Ki-moon, Susana Malcorra signs documents, but not a Lockheed contract

 The U.S. government has continued to push for Lockheed. On July 2, Inner City Press asked U.S. envoy to Sudan Richard Williamson what would happen if, as Sudan has vowed, Lockheed's Pacific Architects & Engineers subsidiary is not given the second three-month extension.

   "PAE has the experience," Williamson said. "It would be prudent if they are allowed to continue performing the service. There'd be a substantial lag if you tried bring someone else new in," he continued. "I have raised it at the highest level in Sudan, Under-Secretary General [Susana] Malcorra has raised it. Hopefully by July 15 there'll be a sorting out." Video here, from Minute 5:05.

   On July 3, Inner City Press asked Ms. Malcorra about what Williamson had said. "I haven't seen it," Malcorra said.  "We are not extending, absolutely. Let me make it clear to you. They haven't finalized their work, and won't be July 14.  So what I have asked the government, and what I have asked PA&E is to finalize their work, that they finalize their work. If it's going to take 30 more days, I want them to finish what has been committed in the contracts, and that's it. I explained it to them in El Fasher and to the Khartoum government."

   This in part explains her spokesman's written statement to Inner City Press last week, that "you are correct that Ms. Malcorra has recently returned from visiting Darfur. No contract extension for PAE has been requested. The Government of Sudan was requested to allow finalization of the works under the contract which will go beyond July 15th, including all equipment being imported."

  "The equipment, it's ours," Malcorra said on July 3, adding that "a mission is going to Sudan to have a survey of the market to make sure we can get some of those local contractors. We are going to use some UN agencies, UNOPS being one of them, to do some of the construction. The project management, for the time being, is to be performed by the Mission." She said that later there will "probably be some external project management. I'm going to divide that, that should be part of the approach, to enable and develop local market. If in smaller pieces, there are more chances to have regional or local" contracts.

News analysis: To some UN anti-corruption experts, Ms. Malcorra's still-false notes involve the unqualified use of UNOPS, the UN Office of Project Services, which as Inner City Press has reported has been years-delayed in filing audited financial statements, and Ms. Malcorra's statement that that "system contracts are fine." As Inner City Press has reported, these system contracts suffer from some of the same favoritism which poisoned the Darfur camps contract. We'll close with a few final notes from the field, since it's said a new approach is being taken:

  Peacekeepers expressed disgust to Inner City Press at the UN's contact to buy gabions, which they characterized as "fancy sandbags," from a UK supplier for some but not all peacekeeping battalions. These gabions, significantly more expensive than sandbags, they are, are used mostly in camps where troops from Europe are deployed.

  In both the Democratic Republic of Congo and Cote d'Ivoire, sources complain of new equipment rotting, unused. There are also significant questions about the use (or misuse / misappropriation) of spare parts from accident vehicles towed back to peacekeeping camps.  The list could and will go on, but we'll stop here for now, pending evidence of the promised new approach. Watch this site.

Footnote: Also on July 3, Inner City Press asked outgoing Peacekeeping chief Jean-Marie Guehenno about his next move. "My next move is not to move," he quipped, to the laughter of his accompanying colleague. "I will stay in New York -- I'll go to Europe for a while, then come back to New York in mid-September and then see what I do. Maybe write a bit. Some institution, it's not clear". Inner City Press suggested the International Peace Institute, which has collected, among others, Terje Roed-Larsen and Edward Luck.  "He's bigger than that," Guehenno's colleague cut in. How about a book, Inner City Press suggested. Guehenno nodded. When will Alain Le Roy start? "Late August or September, I guess," Guehenno said.  To Inner City Press' next question, Guehenno declined to answer. "It's a delicate issue. I still have almost four weeks to make a big blunder," he laughed. Bonne chance.

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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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