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At UN, Ahlenius Is In Denial on Congo, Goes Slow on Lockheed Martin in Darfur Inquiry

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

UNITED NATIONS, May 8 -- The UN's embattled chief investigator Inga-Britt Ahlenius, who refused to release two audits of her Office and declined to respond to questions about them, on Thursday denied each charge against her by rote, while saying that more detailed information would be provided in informal, that is closed-door, sessions. Before the UN's budget committee, Ms. Ahlenius contested "accusations that OIOS ignored, minimized or shelved allegations of serious misconduct pertaining to weapons trading in MONUC," the UN's Mission in the Congo.

    "I would like to underscore to you, as I have to the Secretary-General, that these accusations against OIOS and the Organization are completely unfounded," she said. But many on the Committee were dubious, about this denial and about Ahlenius' various plans to pull investigators out of peacekeeping missions -- even more so, after the audits Ahlenius withheld were put online by Inner City Press here and here, describing a "lack of trust in investigative outputs," politicization, nepotism and a need for a "break from the past" at OIOS.

Inga-Britt Ahlenius: leading down the garden path?

            A task that the Committee assigned to Ahlenius in December 2007, to conduct an inquiry into the no-bid $250 million contract handed to U.S.-based military contractor Lockheed Martin  of infrastructure in Darfur, she had yet to complete. She said, "in response to General Assembly resolution, A/62/232, requesting the Secretary-General to entrust to OIOS to undertake a comprehensive review of the use of extraordinary measures in [UNAMID], this review... will be presented to the General Assembly in the second resumed 63rd session." The Secretariat added, in its "note on the report on the activities of OIOS," that "the Secretary-General wishes to state that in approving certain administrative measures in the setting up of [UNAMID], he acted fully within his authority and did not approve any exceptions to the application of the Financial Regulations and Rules of the United Nations." We'll see.

Footnote: in fact, exceptions are everywhere. Not only did Ms. Ahlenius refer to Management chief Alicia Barcena someone she met in Kosovo, Ms. Danielle Coolen, to be interviewed for the UN's top procurement job -- now Ms. Barcena is pushing another candidate, Paul Baudes, reporting telling the Comptroller that she had raised Baudes' "case" directly to the Secretary-General.  Procurement is full of exceptions, and the Oversight Office is no longer credible. What will it take to clean it up? To be continued.

On May 5, after again having requests for question-and-answer with Ms. Ahlenius rejected, Inner City Press submitted written follow up questions to her:

--can you explain how the extensive 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 2.

Additionally -

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 S-G BAN from Human Rights Watch, that was critical of OIOS' behavior?  Do you have any comment or response?

B.  Did you actually watch the BBC Panorama documentary?

C.  In addition to the HRW letter and the BBC documentary, what more evidence do you think you need to consider 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 Vienna 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 assessing accountability?

D.  Have you ever been made aware of any other cases where Mark Gough been accused by whistleblowers of failing 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 have responded, more than three days later. If and when they do, their responses will be published on this site.

* * *

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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