Inner City Press

 

In Other Media-e.g. Somalia, Ghana, Azerbaijan, The Gambia   For further information, click here to contact us          .

Home -

Search is just below this first article

 
 
How to Contact Us

 

Support this work by buying this book

Click on cover for secure site orders

also includes "Toxic Credit in the Global Inner City"

Inner City Press Podcast --



UNDP Stonewalls on Trust Funds for N. Korea, Including S. Korean Money: Unanswered Questions

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

UNITED NATIONS, March 6, updated March 16 -- In light of the UN Development Program's suspension of its operations in North Korea earlier this month, following the January 2007 calls for an urgent audit by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, several simple questions have been asked by Inner City Press.

   How much money did UNDP expend in North Korea, and how much of this came from South Korea, particularly during Mr. Ban's tenure as that country's Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade?

            Sources tell Inner City Press that there are funds beyond those disclosed by UNDP's Ad Melkert in January, which he put the size of UNDP's North Korea program in 2006 at $3.3 million, and by spokesman David Morrison on March 5, $4.4 million. These undisclosed funds are alleged to be found in Trust Funds co-sponsored by South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (including under Ban Ki-moon) and the South Korean reunification ministry, flowing to the North Korean government via a pass-through mechanism, with UNDP reported taking a four percent fee.

Kemal Dervis and UNDP logo: how much passing through?

            Inner City Press began asking these questions after receiving confirmation from the UN World Health Organization that it too accepts staff seconded from the North Korean government, one of the grounds for Mr. Ban's "urgent audit," and that WHO is receiving $10 million a year from the South Korean government (now, it is believed, through a Trust Fund). WHO's spokeswoman wrote:

Subject: RE: Ms. NcNab- Checking in for response to our previous questions, thanks

To: Inner City Press

From: Christine McNab [at] who.int

Hi Matthew, Here are the answers below.  

Q. Please comment on: whether the World Health Organization, herein below "you", in North Korea  uses personnel seconded by the government...

A. WHO has 17 staff in its office in the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK). There are four internationally recruited staff, including the WHO Representative, and 13  national staff. As with all agencies working in DPRK, the national staff are seconded from the government...

Q. Please confirm or deny that in mid-2005 a South Korean contribution  of some $10 million was received by WHO, and is so state the involvement of  the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its then-head and provide  any and all documentation.

A. Yes, last year South Korea committed to providing the equivalent of US 10 million per year as support to DPRK through WHO for health-related humanitarian assistance, for three years, primarily in the field of maternal and child health. 

             While there have been competing claims, including from UN Secretariat officials, about whether UN funds and programs in North Korea beyond UNDP are being audited, and will continue operation, on the evening of March 6 Inner City Press asked UNICEF's Ann Veneman if her agency will continue in North Korea.

   "Yes," Ann Veneman said, noting that UNICEF is in a different building that UNDP in Pyongyang and is engaged, in her words, in more "humanitarian" activities then UNDP.  It is not clear that this was Ban Ki-moon's distinction in calling for audits. Rather, Mr. Ban referred to paying in hard currency and allowing a host-government role in staffing, both of which UNICEF below acknowledges. (Inner City Press thanked Ms. Veneman for UNICEF's having made available for interview its Senior Advisor for Children in Armed Conflict, Manuel Fontaine; Ms. Veneman countered by recommending a recent book on children and armed conflict, which we will soon review.)

            On January 19, Ban Ki-moon called for an urgent audit of all UN funds, programs and agencies. On January 22, this was scaled back to a focus on North Korea and, at least in the first instance, on UNDP. It has been said that the World Food Program and the UN Children's Fund, for example, will also be audited.

            On February 1, while attending a press briefing by UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis, Inner City Press asked Mr. Dervis how much money UNDP has spent in North Korea in recent years, on its own before and for other agencies (or as a pass-through). Mr. Dervis did not answer, and subsequently his communications staff declared that "it would be inappropriate to comment" on its programs or spending in North Korea until the audit is completed.

            On March 2, Kemal Dervis wrote to North Korea's UN Ambassador that UNDP is suspending its programs in the country. Inner City Press is informed that an impact, and even intent, of this announcement is to make the audit more difficult. Inner City Press asked this question at Ban Ki-moon spokesperson's noon briefing on March 5.

            On March 6, the spokesperson announced that Ban Ki-moon has written to North Korea asking for access for the auditors. Meanwhile, Inner City Press has been informed that the Board of Auditors, meeting until late on March 5, acquiesced to an audit only in New York.

            But on the question of how much UNDP spent, and for and under whom, in North Korea, UNDP, the Secretariat and even the South Korea mission have been asked. On March 4, Inner City Press emailed questions to Kemal Dervis, Ad Melkert and other senior UNDP officials. For example:

            Bruce Jenks, the head of UNDP's Bureau for Resources and Strategic Partnerships was asked "The closing, will it impact South Korean funds dedicated to the DPRK? What will happen with those funds?" Mr. Jenks did not answer, and nor after two reminders did UNDP's Communications Office.

            Darshak Shaw, Director of UNDP's Office of Finance, was asked:

"can all the numbers for the audit be looked at in New York? Also, we still have a number of questions pending that have not been  answered, including the simple question about who many people UNDP employs / pays.  Perhaps you can answer that?"

            Mr. Shaw has not answered, nor after two reminders has UNDP's Communications Office. In fact, the Communications Office has ignored a request on the afternoon of March 5:

"Most pressingly, please specify which of the funds spending through UNDP in the past four years were from South Korea, and within these, which if any had the involvement of the South Korea Foreign Ministry and when?"

            Despite emailing to Inner City Press terse answering to unrelated questions, the above "most pressing" question has been ignored by UNDP. Therefore Inner City Press asked the UN's Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary General, particularly for volume of South Korean funds passed-through UNDP while Ban Ki-moon headed South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Inner City Press asked this question orally, not in the noon briefing, on the morning of March 5. Inner City Press was referred to Soung-ah Choi, a 2007 addition to the Spokesperson's office, and was told to put the question in writing, which was done:

"This is a question that I came into the OSSG earlier this morning to ask, was advised to direct it to you by email:

--what role if any did Ban Ki-moon play while with the Republic of Korea government in South Korean aid to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea?  If any, did any of this aid involve UN funds, programs or agencies? If any, could any of this aid be within the scope of the urgent audits Mr. Ban called for on Jan. 19, as modified Jan. 22?

Context: following UNDP's (quiet, online only) announcement that it suspended its operations in North Korea on March 1, Inner City Press has heard from sources information that gives rise to the above question, as well as to other questions posed directly to UNDP and to the Board of Auditors. (Including what impact the suspension of operations will have on the audit, on which we understand the 90 clock is already ticking). I'd wanted to just orally ask the above questions in your office, now do so by email."

            In response, the UN's Soung-ah Choi told Inner City Press this is not really a UN or Secretary General question, and that it can only be asked to the South Korea mission, specifically to Ambassador Oh Joon who, she said, was involved in North-South Korean relations and aid during the time frame.

[Update of March 16 -- it has been emphasized to Inner City Press that Amb. Oh's post was for international organizations; point taken.]

            On the morning of March 6, Inner City Press three times called Ambassador Oh. First, his secretary said he would call back in 15 minutes. Inner City Press explained what it wanted to know. Then, she said that Amb. Oh had been called away on urgent business, and to leave the question in his phone-mail. Inner City Press did so, along with an additional question, and waited. The day ended with no response by the South Korean mission to a question referred to them by the Office of the Spokesperson for Ban Ki-moon.

   While Inner City Press did later on March 6 get a response from UNICEF's Ann Veneman, that UNICEF's operations will continue, we would be remiss to not note that UNICEF has acknowledged both hard currency payments and acceptance of seconded staff.  Here were UNICEF's first responses to Inner City Press:

Q.  Whether you pay salary, DSA, utilities, rent and other expense in hard currency (Euros, dollars or otherwise) in North Korea

A: DPRK -- Of the 30 UNICEF staff in the Pyongyang office, 10 are international professionals recruited through New York headquarters and stationed in Pyongyang for up to five years.  They have the bulk of their salaries paid to personal overseas bank accounts. Twenty are local staff.  For local staff, UNICEF transfers their salaries to the host government, which in turn is responsible for paying each of the 20 national staff members... they are selected by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which then seconds them to UNICEF. 

            Inner City Press has asked numerous UNDP officials, and spokespeople, to specify which of the three listed conditions, including stopping payment in hard currency and acceptance seconded staff, could not be met by March 1. In light of UNDP's refusal to answer this simple question, it is difficult to understand Ms. Veneman's statement that that UNICEF, with the same practices, can and will continue operating.

  At the March 6 noon briefing, Inner City Press again asked that UNDP's Administrator Kemal Dervis, who signed the letter suspending operations in North Korea and who is reportedly the stealth manner of the suspension's delayed announcement, come and answer questions. From the transcript:

Inner City Press: Yesterday, Iím told the UNDP was here. I wasnít able to hear what they said in the hall because we had a briefing on human trafficking. But Iím told that they said they now put the value of UNDPís program in 2006 in North Korea at 4.4 million rather than 3.2 as was previously said. So, Iím wondering, the numbers are changing. Is it possible rather than have a briefing out in the hall to actually have UNDP come and answer questions?  Probably Mr. Dervis, since he signed the letter to suspend operations in North Korea...

Spokesperson:  Iíll transmit your request to them... Only UNDP can answer.

            Again, why are these questions, which purportedly only UNDP can answer, being asked? Well, sources tell Inner City Press that there are funds beyond those disclosed by UNDP's Ad Melkert in January, which he put the size of UNDP's North Korea program in 2006 at $3.2 million, and by spokesman David Morrison on March 5, $4.4 million. These undisclosed funds are alleged to be found in Trust Funds co-sponsored by South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (including under Ban Ki-moon) and the South Korea ministry for reconciliation, flowing to the North Korean government via a pass-through mechanism, with UNDP reported taking a four percent fee. Recently, Inner City Press has heard of UNDP taken even higher "overhead" fees for administering pass-through funds. We will have more on this. Developing.

    Again, because a number of Inner City Press' UNDP sources go out of their way to express commitment to serving the poor, and while it should be unnecessary, Inner City Press is compelled to conclude this installment in a necessarily-ongoing series by saluting the stated goals of UNDP and many of its staff. Keep those cards, letters and emails coming, and phone calls too, we apologize for any phone tag, but please continue trying, and keep the information flowing.

Feedback: Editorial [at] innercitypress.com

UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540

Google
Search WWW Search innercitypress.com

In Wake of UNDP's Stealth North Korea Shut Down, Spin Machine Re-Starts

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

UNITED NATIONS, March 5, updated March 6, 10 am -- As questions grew about the UN Development Program's decision to suspend operations in North Korea, the UN's humanitarian coordinator on Monday said UNDP's program have had little humanitarian impact, and that other UN programs should be able to "operate reasonably normally" in North Korea. Video here, from Minute 35:46. But since other UN funds and programs pay -- in hard currency -- through UNDP, and since UNDP's Timo Pakkala is the Resident Representative of the UN in North Korea and will be pulled out of the country, the story is clearly far from over. Ironically, on March 13 Mohamed ElBaradei of the UN-affiliated International Atomic Energy Agency will travel to Pyongyang, from which UNDP is departing.

            Monday at Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson's noon briefing, numerous reporters asked questions about UNDP's stealth suspension of operations on March 2, while not announcing it to the press or public beyond an update, dated March 1, slipped on its website. Inner City Press asked if the suspension has the effect of slowing the "urgent audit" which UNDP called for. It remains Inner City Press' understanding that this is the effect and, sources say, intent. This analysis is missed or disagreed with the Wall Street Journal and by a Congressperson who congratulates the UNDP Executive Board for suspending operations. Currently it appears that Mr. Kemal Dervis probably made the decision to suspend, and made the decision to not announce it to the press.

Dervis should speak, w/ or w/o ice water

            In the back of the briefing room stood UNDP's head of Communications, David Morrison. The spokesperson at one point said that he -- "Jim," as in the band The Doors, one wag joked -- would answer questions. From the transcript:

Question:  I just wanted to follow up.  As I understand it, the UNDPís statement was posted on their website but I donít think that we got any announcement.  I would like to put in a request that on announcements, such as this, those announcements should be made to us, not just posted.  We donít go and read the UNDP website all the time.

Spokesperson:  Well, I think we have someone from the UNDP here.  Iím not sure.  Yes, we do have Jim back there and he will be glad to answer your questions right after the briefing.

            But Mr. Morrison never came to the rostrum. Rather, between the noon briefing and a previously scheduled briefing by new Under Secretary General of Management Alicia Barcena, Mr. Morrison conducted what he called a scrum in the hallway outside the briefing room. Later he stated to Inner City Press, in response to still-unanswered written inquiries, that "all questions" had been answered in the scrum, which Inner City Press could not attend due to the Alicia Barcena briefing, click here for video, starting at Minute 33:08, and here for Inner City Press' story.

[Update of March 6, 10 am -- Mr. Morrison writes that

"This is just to note that you have your facts wrong:  I began the briefing outside of 226 AFTER the noon briefing was complete, i.e. after the segment with Ms. Barcena.  I did this so that everyone could attend."

  We stand corrected. UNDP's David Morrison's hallways briefing did not conflict with the press conference of USG for Management Alicia Barcena, but rather with a long-scheduled press conference about the trafficking of women, which Inner City Press also covered, click here for that story. A direct request has been made to Kemal Dervis and his spokeswoman for a briefing in the UN's Room 226, rather than outside while another press conference takes place inside. And a simple question has been asked. We'll see.]

            Out in the hall, Mr. Morrison apparently told Reuters that unnamed North Korean "officials want to discuss again a further narrowing of the program." Mr. Morrison is also quoted with a number -- $4.4 million -- that is different than Ad Melkert's previous provided figure of $3.2 million as UNDP's 2006 expenditure in North Korea. Which is it?

           Mr. Morrison wrote, "Iím responding to the questions youíve sent to Timo, Hafiz, etc. on DPR Korea.  Itís a shame you didn't come to the scrum I did outside of 226 following the noon briefing, as I answered all questions at that time."

   Inner City Press immediately replied with specific written questions, not one which have been answered. Some of the questions were also posed directly to spokespeople for the Secretary-General, although one these incongruously referred the questions to the South Korean mission to the UN. Whatever it takes, wherever we have to go, we'll get to the bottom of this. For now, click here for UNDP's Kemal Dervis' March 2 letter to the North Korean mission. As with the U.S. mission inquiry, it was Ad Melkert rather than Mr. Dervis who attended and spoke at the meetings. Where is Mr. Dervis? The time has come, as Inner City Press has requested, for a Kemal Dervis press conference.

Suspending Operations in N. Korea, UNDP Slows Audit Called for by Ban Ki-moon

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

UNITED NATIONS, March 3 -- The UN Development Program, facing an "urgent audit" of its North Korea operations called for by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, has now suspended its operations in the country. Sources tell Inner City Press that the effect, and even intent, of the suspension is to slow or stop the audit. The stand-off shapes up as a test for Ban Ki-moon.

            On January 19, Mr. Ban called for an urgent audit of UNDP and other funds, programs and agencies. On January 22, he limited the initial scope of the audits to North Korea and unspecified other countries where hard currency payments and government influence on hiring and blocking of auditors' access might be issues. Mr. Ban said that audit would be completed in 90 days or less. On January 25 at UNDP's Executive Board meeting in New York, a compromise was passed under which UNDP was to modify its programs in North Korea on or before March 1. North Korea, which has a seat on UNDP's 36-member Executive Board, did not vote against this compromise.

            Inner City Press exclusively confirmed the presence in New York of UNDP's North Korea resident representative Timo Pakkala in New York on February 8, by calling his room at the Crowne Plaza hotel. On February 12, UN Controller Warren Sach confirmed to Inner City Press that he had met with Mr. Pakkala in advance of the audit. Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson on February 20 confirmed that the 90-day clock has started.

            With a dateline of March 1, UNDP has stated on its web site that

As of 1 March 2007, UNDP has no choice but to suspend its operations in DPRK as the necessary conditions set out by the Executive Board on 25 January 2007 have not been met. These conditions included adjusting the content of the current Country Programme (2005-2006) and the proposed Country Programme (2007-2009) for DPRK to support sustainable human development objectives; ending all payments in hard currency to government, national partners, local staff and local vendors and discontinuing sub-contracting of national staff via government recruitment as of 1 March 2007. UNDP's position in DPRK could be reconsidered if these circumstances change.

            Source point out that North Korea's seat on UNDP's Executive Board could be in jeopardy, given its seeming refusal to comply with conditions voted by the Board. UNDP does not specify in its statement -- of which Inner City Press was not told, despite an email from Kemal Dervis spokeswoman on another UNDP matter on March 2 -- which of the three conditions was not met. UNDP has said it will not answer about North Korea until the audit is completed.

            Now Inner City Press is told that when the terms of reference of the audit were passed by UNDP to North Korean officials, the Kim Jong Il government responded with conditions, that no onsite access would be granted, and that they wanted the right to approve who would do the audit. Sources say that auditors, including Imran Vanker and others, have predictably responded, "no audit without access." What then of the 90 day time clock?

Pre-audit, sealed with a handshake?

            Inner City Press' questions to UN Controller Warren Sach have been responded to by a message that Mr. Sach is out of UN Headquarters until March 12. He is described as being "on mission," though no location is specified. It has been pointed out to Inner City Press that South Korea, including while Mr. Ban served as foreign minister, was a not insubstantial funder to North Korea, including through UN-affiliated funds, programs and agencies. UNDP, meanwhile, has said that it will not answer questions about North Korea until the audit is completed. Whether that essentially means "never, we'll never answer questions," remains to be seen.

            Much of the audit could be done of papers in UNDP's New York headquarters, in the offices of such officials as Darshak Shah, Hafiz Pasha, David Lockwood and Bruce Jenks. Some within UNDP are calling on Ban Ki-moon to remove immunity from such officials, so that a robust investigation can occur. Developing.

* * *

Some of the referenced communication: On February 9 the following statement from UNDP arrived:

Subject: Questions on UNDP & DPRK

From: Communications Office at undp.org

To: Inner City Press

Sent: Fri, 9 Feb 2007 6:18 PM

Matthew, Regarding your February 8 questions about UNDP and the DPRK: As you know, UNDP's operations in DPRK are undergoing a thorough audit. We welcome this audit which will enable us to take additional management action as needed. Until the audit is completed, it would not be appropriate to comment on our work there beyond what we have already said in the statements of January 19 and 25. (http://www.undp.org/dprk).

            Presumably this invocation to the right against self-incrimination, embodied in the U.S. Constitution's Fifth Amendment, continues and is also directed at the still unanswered question Inner City Press directed to Kemal Dervis on February 1, and reiterated to Ad Melkert in the middle of February, namely, how many money has UNDP processed, for itself and other UN agencies, in North Korea? If it takes a full second audit to even venture a numeric response to this simple question, something if very wrong indeed.

            UN Comptroller Warren Sach, on the other hand, was initially responsive to questions on this topic. While he referred most of the questions to other parties, on the UNDP North Korea audit he told Inner City Press this:

Subject: Re: Press questions on UNJSPF and audits / UNDP / North Korea

From: Warren Sach

To: Inner City Press

Sent: Mon, 12 Feb 2007 10:01 AM

  Dear Mr Lee, Thank you for your e-mail of earlier this morning which is hereby acknowledged. I did meet with UNDP's Resident Coordinator for North Korea, Timo Pakkala on Friday 9 Feb. I advised him to contact the Executive Secretary of the Board of Auditors, Mr Anand Goolsarran to coordinate on logistical arrangement for the forthcoming audit. Mr Goolsarran would also be the best person for you to contact re Board of Auditors matters. The ACABQ Chairman, Mr Rajat Saha has written on Friday 9th Feb requesting that a special audit be conducted by the BoA in N Korea. This followed my own formal request to ACABQ that the BoA be requested to undertake an audit; in connection with that request the ACABQ held separate hearings on Wed 7th Feb with both myself and the representatives of the BoA on the request for an audit. I do know if the BoA has yet begun the audit; I suspect they have a number of logistical steps to take before field work begins; Mr Goolsarran can best advise you.

            Inner City Press has posed the following still-outstanding questions to Mr. Goolsarran of the UN Board of Auditors:

Dear Mr. Goolsarran --

Hello... When will the audit(s) actually begin? We have heard a date of February 16. Is that correct? Who will perform the audit? ... Have you spoken with Mr. Pakkala? We are also informed that you met with the ACABQ on February 7. In the two meetings, what logistical arrangement were arrived at?

   Can you comment on the fact that the DPRK issues were not mentioned in the most recent publicly available audit of UNDP, which also refers, on Russia, to a document being "released" when it is nowhere available? Will the audit include other agencies such as WFP, UNFPA, WHO, FAO and others?  If limited to UNDP, will it include the money that UNDP pays on behalf of other agencies? Will any agencies be audited in geographies beyond the DPRK? If so, when?

There has been difficulty for the press in getting even basic information. UNDP, for example, has most recently told us regarding all North Korea-related questions, including a simple total figure of money UNDP handled for FAO, UNFPA and other UN agencies, that "Until the audit is completed, it would not be appropriate to comment on our work there..." In your position with the Board of Auditors, do you think it is  appropriate for a UN fund or program to cite the existence of one of your audits to, in the American  vernacular, expansively invoke the Fifth Amendment for at least 90 days on a wide range of issues of public concern?

   Note that UNDP has also neglected to answer simple factual questions about issues entirely unrelated to North Korea.

And on March 2 --

Subj: Absence from Headquarters
Date: 3/2/2007 4:04:23 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: Warren Sach
To: Inner City Press

I will be out of the office starting 28/02/2007 and will not return until 12/03/2007.

 Developing.

At UNDP, Audit Is Said to Have Started, While Oversight Still Lacks, Says G-77

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

UNITED NATIONS, February 20 -- A month after Ban Ki-moon called for "urgent" audits, beginning with the UN Development Program in North Korea, his spokesperson was asked if the audits have begun. While the spokeswoman said she wasn't entirely sure, she said unequivocally that Ban Ki-moon's 90-day clock, for the audits to be reported on to the General Assembly, has begun. Click here for video, and transcript below.

            Meanwhile Pakistan's Ambassador Munir Akram told Inner City Press that he and the Group of 77 feel that "there is an issue of how well we are able to have oversight over the funds and programs" like UNDP, and whether the Executive Boards are effective. Inner City Press had asked about the G-77's call for at least two UNDP reports to be withdrawn, for lack of consultation with the Executive Board and the General Assembly. Could there be a relation between these two problems -- the behavior by UNDP in North Korea which Ban Ki-moon called on to audit, and lack of oversight of UNDP -- and what can be done about it? Amb. Akram referred to the development cooperation forum of the UN's ECOSOC. Video here, Minutes 29:48 through 31:28.

Amb. Akram, '04

            On February 15, Inner City Press had the opportunity to ask UNDP's Ad Melkert to release at least the already-finalized numbers reflecting expenditures in North Korea. Mr. Melkert said that it is important to distinguish between money spent for UNDP, and that spend by UNDP for other agencies. Certainly. But what is the number? On other, non-North Korea matters, Mr. Melkert indicated that an attempt will be made to provide responses on a more timely basis. We'll see.

            While awaiting this new information-providing regime at UNDP, and while awaiting a number of long-delayed responses from UNDP, the rest of today's UNDP column, we'lldevote to a letter to the editor from inside UNDP, handwritten but on substantive issues. It begins with praise, which we're suckers for.

"My dear friend, you are going an incredible job. Now ask UNDP and its board members, why Pippa Norris and Nora Lustig, the two new managers appointed by Kemal Dervis, have changed policies previously approved by the Board, without consultation? Why is Norris allowed to neglect important areas of work for UNDP - human rights, gender, decentralization? Why is Norris making of UNDP an institution concerned only with economic governance and Central Bank regulation, when this is typically a task of the World Bank and IMF? These are hobby areas for Kemal. Why is Norris using UNDP's (and taxpayers') money to finance her participation in academic meetings that have nothing to do with UNDP's work? Why UNDP as a UN neutral agency is providing financial assistance to political parties? Why is UNDP abandoning its work on governance as in the past, as approved by the Board, to focus no on parliaments, elections?"

   Click here for Inner City Press' story from last week about Liberia. We've left it to the absolute end of this report to note an employment move which we've known of for some weeks, but were told about by other journalists today, triggering this brief update. Former Spokesman for the S-G Stephane Dujarric, after a brief sojourn in the Dag Hammarskjold Library, is now "helping out" at UNDP. They certainly could use the help. Might it possibly result in more timely answers to simple questions to UNDP, as projected on February 15 by UNDP Number Two Ad Melkert? Here's hoping.

From  transcript of Feb. 20, 2007, UN noon briefing:

Inner City Press: Does the 90 days -- because he said it should be done in 90 days -- does the 90 days run from when he announced that the audits would begin or from when they actually began?

Spokesperson: ActuallyÖ

Question: Have they begun?

Spokesperson: Actually, I know that -- yes, they have started it.

Question: Which ones have started?

Spokesperson: The external auditors have started on the process.

Question: But could you specify? I mean, thereís a lot of agencies to be audited.

Spokesperson: As you know, theyíre starting with the UNDP and the specific case of --

Question: You say they have started. You mean the one in North Korea?

Spokesperson: Yes.

Question: The clock is running?

Spokesperson: Yes.

At UNDP, Melkert Hides Behind Audit and Sharapova, Dervis on 1st Ave. and Still No N. Korea Numbers

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

UNITED NATIONS, February 14 -- Even as the UN Development Program held a press conference with Russian tennis player Maria Sharapova on Wednesday, questions were asked and left unanswered about the "scandals" at UNDP. Ms. Sharapova was asked if she was aware of the "scandals," and she said, "Yes, I am aware, but I'll let them talk" on the issue, gesturing at Associate Administrator Ad Melkert and Communications director David Morrison.

            But Mr. Melkert declined to provide the requested figure, of how much UNDP spent in North Korea including on behalf of the World Health Organization, the UN Population Fund, the Food and Agricultural Organization and others. Inner City Press asked Kemal Dervis for this number on February 1, and has reiterated it in writing to UNDP several times since. On Tuesday, February 13, seeing Mr. Dervis on Ban Ki-moon's schedule at 3 p.m., Inner City Press asked if Mr. Dervis could take questions after that meeting.  While the spokesperson said she would check into it, her office later said that Mr. Dervis had said no.

            On First Avenue at 2:55 p.m., as Mr. Dervis and two associates including spokeswoman Christina LoNigro strode, as it were, toward the Secretariat building, Inner City Press greeted Mr. Dervis and said, "There are some requests that you take questions after your meeting with the Secretary-General."

            Mr. Dervis replied that he had another appointment after Ban Ki-moon, shrugging, apparently apologetically.

Melkert: Dollar figures not shown

            And so on Wednesday, the question was posed to Ad Melkert, for the simple number, how much UNDP expended in North Korea in 2005 and 2006. Inner City Press apologized for having to ask it, due to the previous non-responses, during the tennis-heavy press conference. Mr. Melkert, who previously had spoken of transparency, said "You can ask, that is not a problem... It seems to me logical to wait for results of that audit and then look into all questions that may still be outstanding then... including answers to your questions." Video here, from Minute 16:37.

            Inner City Press noted that a simple number should be available without waiting another 90 days. Particularly as to 2005, for which UNDP's vaunted computer has long ago closed the books and the General Ledger. If UNDP is not confident in these numbers, there is a major problem. Or perhaps UNDP sees the audit as a blessing in disguise, as providing a rationale to no-comment the issue for at least three months. We'll see. As noted, there are non-North Korea questions which are not getting answered, either.

            Time did not permit questions about UNDP's programs in Russia, which have included attempts to bypass tax and other rules for a French chemical company, and the rehabilitation of the Moscow planetarium with plush leather seats. These and similar projects, as well as UNDP's approach to Chernobyl, were cooked up during the madcap RBEC regime of Kalman Mizsei. The poorest of the poor, as was said on Wednesday. The press package included some seven month old "Fast Facts," including an enumeration of 5,382 UN Volunteers serving worldwide. So UNDP can give numbers, when they want to...           

Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service.

            Copyright 2006 Inner City Press, Inc. To request reprint or other permission, e-contact Editorial [at] innercitypress.com -

UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540