UN's Congo Scandal, Ban Defers to OIOS, Which Itself
Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
5 -- A scandal stretching from the Eastern Congo to UN Headquarters in
gathered force last Friday, while UN Secretary-General BAN Ki-moon was
London at a meeting about Gaza.
by and about the UN Office of Internal Oversight
Services were released by whistleblowers, showing among other things
about Indian peacekeepers trading gold, guns and ivory
with rebels were abruptly dismissed in less
than two weeks by OIOS in February of this year. More
systemically, two reports about OIOS, which the unit's director
Ahlenius had previously refuse to release, were put online by Inner
City Press here and here,
which describe a
"lack of trust in investigative outputs," politicization, nepotism
and a need for a "break from the past" at OIOS.
Inner City Press on Monday asked Mr. Ban what he intends to
do about the
Congo, OIOS and the lack of transparency and any freedom of information
the UN. In a two-minute on-camera response, Ban said that it will be up
OIOS, which he hopes "will look at this issue carefully." But since
the allegations are against OIOS itself, Ban was asked "how does one
OIOS accountable?" Ban said that he cannot, that it is up to the UN
General Assembly, which created the Office. Video here,
from Minute 18:55; transcript here.
BAN on May 5, OIOS' Ahlenius and
accountability not shown
In interviews Monday with Inner City Press, sources from both
General Assembly's budget committee and its Advisory Committee of
Administrative and Budgetary Questions said that OIOS' most recent
have not been kindly viewed, that OIOS "doesn't have an idea so far."
Proposals to withdraw investigators from peacekeeping missions such as
in the Congo to so-called regional hubs are described as "unclear"
and not well-argued. "I would not give a good rating on management,"
a well-place source responded when asked about Ahlenius' tenure.
The problems with the Ahlenius era at OIOS are not limited to
Despite telling the Washington Post of Feb. 17, 2008 -- just as the
Congo allegations about the Indian Battalion were being summarily
that "it seems to me that the ones who argue for secret reports have
something to hide," Ms. Ahlenius refused repeatedly to release the two
reports about her agency. In her May 2 statement to Inner City Press,
"The report was commissioned by me solely for my own
information to provide an independent opinion on issues in the
Division. This review was only part of many inputs in the process of
considering a reform. I am the owner of the report."
But one of her colleagues, who is to retire in three months
week told the press that regular UN budget funds were used to
reports. So does Ms. Ahlenius own them?
BAN did not answer whether he favors, as part of UN reform, a
information law which would make clear to UN officials like Ms.
they do no "own" records paid for by the public.
Inga-Britt Ahlenius, who has
declined requests that she appear at a press conference, on Friday
Inner City Press with a written response that
"Mr. Vladislav Guerassev, OIC and Director of the
Division made himself available in the background briefing of the
that same day and explained why he - and OIOS - takes exception to
the BBC report as an investigative one and encouraged BBC to provide
any details (who, when, where and how and who else witnessed, etc.)
might have obtained. I also explained this in the BBC interview -
quoted - and I confirm again that we may reopen the case based on an
of any new information provided to us. So far, BBC made no attempt to
OIOS with the evidence that they might have."
On Monday afternoon,
after again having requests for question-and-answer with Ms. Ahlenius
Inner City Press submitted written follow up questions to her:
--can you explain how
questions of facts outlined on Feb.
7, 2008 were, except for one, dismissed 13 days
later by Mr. Guerassev. Please describe the
steps taken in those 13 days.
Please comment on
and response to the the two reports on OIOS made public on May
1. You (Ms. Ahlenius) say that
you may reopen the Congo case, if presented with evidence by BBC. But you say that BBC has made no attempt to
contact you to provide you with this
evidence. Here are followups.
A. Did you read the letter to
BAN from Human Rights Watch, that was critical of OIOS' behavior? Do you have any comment or response?
B. Did you actually watch the
C. In addition to the HRW letter
and the BBC documentary, what more evidence do you think you need to
reopening this investigation?
D. Are you saying that if no one
from BBC calls you, then you will not reopen the case?
2. Was Mark Gough, and the
office of OIOS/ID, responsible for conducting the Congo investigation? Here are some followups.
A. Did Mark Gough resign, or was
his contract not renewed?
B. Did Mark Gough's departure
have anything to do with the handling of the Congo report?
C. If Mark Gough was responsible
for the Congo cover-up, was his removal from office your way of
D. Have you ever been
of any other cases where Mark Gough been accused by whistleblowers of
to follow-up on leads, with the objective of reaching pre-determined
conclusions? If you were made aware of a pattern of such cases, would you seek to
investigate Mr. Gough?
Neither Ms. Ahlenius nor Mr.
Guerassev responded by deadline. When they do, their responses will be
published on this site.
* * *
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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