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UNDP's Belated Disclosure Policy Undercut By Harassment, Diamond Smuggling and Conflict Allegations

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

UNITED NATIONS, May 15 -- A year late and not yet fully formed, the UN Development Program on Tuesday afternoon sent out a policy on financial disclosure, under which senior UNDP official will at some still-undefined date file some forms in some still-undefined place, to be reviewed by parties unknown.

            The policy, e-mailed out by (or from the account of) Administrator Kemal Dervis to all staff, and from there to Inner City Press, is reproduced below. Unlike the policy in place for more than a year within the UN Secretariat, UNDP's belated version does not provide for review by any outside accounting firm. It fails to address the specifics of UNDP -- for example, it appears that some UNDP country directors, those at the P-5 level, would not be required to file disclosures.

            On May 14, Inner City Press formally inquired, as yet without response, about one such country director, based on UNDP staff complaints, asking if he

has been accused of sexual or other harassment during his posting in [country redacted for now]; if the alleged victim is now being considered for promotion; whether [he] has a Joint Appeals Board case against him from any previous posting... and if so, where and whether it concerns sexual or other harassment. 

  With regard to the upcoming Executive Board meetings, please explain why on results-based budgeting, only an "oral decision" is being sought from the Board.

  Also, please confirm or deny that UNDP is considering moving its Center in Bratislava to Istanbul and if so, describe any and all involvement by Kemal Dervis in such planning. 

  Inner City Press' questions from eight days ago [including about UNDP Georgia] remain entirely unresponded to. 

  At UNDP's last press conference in Room S-226, it was requested that UNDP come at least weekly. What is the response? And when Mr. Dervis came to S-226, he said he would return regularly. It is now May. When will Mr. Dervis hold a press conference? And what of the press availabilities at UNDP concerning One-UN? And of the One-UN opening in Albania? 

  Also, as arose at the UN's noon briefing on Friday, please describe any investigation of UNDP's role in the diamond industry and diamond smuggling in Zimbabwe, and please confirm, yes or no, has the UN (through a UNDP-funded entity called AMSCO or any other entity), provided any financial or in-kind support to the "River Ranch Limited" diamond mine in Zimbabwe, one of whose directors one of whose directors is on a sanctions list? 

Please explain and/or comment on the statement that the DPRK "Informed UNDP that while the audit exercise could be held in DPRK for other UN agencies, UNDP could not expect Government to agree to an audit of UNDP programs" -- does UNDP still not expect the DPRK Government to "agree" to an audit of UNDP programs? How could a legitimate audit be completed without such agreement? What did the DRPK tell UNDP on March 26? 

      This last question, Inner City Press subsequently asked the Spokesperson for the Secretary General at Tuesday's UN noon briefing. From the transcript:

Inner City Press:  Also, youíve got this document where UNDPís Bureau for Asia and the Pacific states that the North Korean Government told them on 26 March that UNDP could not expect the Government to agree to an audit of UNDP programs.  This is a letter the UNDP circulated to its own Executive Board.  How does this relate to the idea that if they wanted to go they could go?  This seems to make pretty clear that UNDP was told by the Government that they wouldn't "agree to" an audit.

Spokesperson:  This should be addressed to UNDP.

Inner City Press: I have a question pending there for eight days.  Thatís why Iím asking you.

            And still no response, including on Inner City Press' question from May 11 about the UN Secretariat's second-highest legal officer's reported letter confirming an investigation into UNDP in Zimbabwe.

Disclosure at UNDP?

In the light of such stonewalling, these late-announced, still detail-less financial disclosure policies seem like a fig leaf, or a band aid. That said, because a UNDP staffer sent them to us and there are not, for whatever reason, on UNDP's web site, here they are, followed by portions of one sample staffer's comments:

From: Kemal Dervis

Sent: Tuesday, May 15, 2007 5:15 PM 
To: UNDP Global Staff 
Subject: Policy on Financial Disclosure, Declaration of Interest, and Impartiality Statements (FDP) 

15 May 2007 

Dear Colleagues, 

I would like to announce that UNDP will be implementing the policy on Financial Disclosure and Declaration of Interest (FDP) that was mandated by the Secretary- General in his bulletin of April 2006. 
The General Assembly approved an amendment to Staff Regulation 1.2(n) through resolution 60/238 of 23 December 2005. By this amendment, the obligation of filing a financial disclosure statement is extended to all 
staff at the D-1/L6 level and above and "other staff as deemed necessary in the interest of the Organization". This General Assembly resolution also expands the scope of the financial disclosure requirement to include the spouses and dependent children of the above-mentioned categories of staff. 
In response to this resolution, the Secretary-General issued a Bulletin ST/SGB/2006/6) on Financial Disclosure and Declaration of Interest statements, which became effective 1 May 2006. This bulletin requires UN staff who are at the in D1/L6 and above levels, and also those who are engaged in procurement or investment functions, to file financial disclosure statements or declare their interests in outside activities. It has been decided that UNDP will implement this policy by requiring that categories of staff as listed below file financial disclosure statements: 

a. All staff at the D1/L6 level and above; 

b. All staff who are procurement officers, or whose principal occupational duties are the procurement of goods and services for UNDP with Buyer and Approver roles in ATLAS in UNDP; 
c. All staff whose principal occupational duties relate to the investment of assets of UNDP, or any other investment accounts for which UNDP has fiduciary or custodial responsibility; 
d. Other staff members whose direct access to confidential procurement or investment information warrants the filing of a financial disclosure statement; 
e. The Chairperson and the alternate Chairperson of either the Advisory Committee on Procurement at headquarters, and the Chairperson and the alternate Chairperson of the Contracts, Assets, and Procurement Committee (CAP) in country and regional offices. 
Staff who meet any of the criteria listed above and work on $1 per year appointments or serve on appointments of short duration, have the obligation to file a declaration of interest statement instead of a financial disclosure statement. 
As part of the UNDP Policy on Financial Disclosure, Declaration of Interest, and Impartiality Statements, staff who are voting members of any advisory committee on procurement will be asked to file a declaration of impartiality statement. 
I have asked Ms. Akiko Yuge, Assistant Administrator and Director of the Bureau of Management, to lead the implementation of this policy. She will communicate directly with all of you and provide instructions on how staff should comply with the financial disclosure policy. 
Regards, 

Kemal 

            And now, from a portion of one sample UNDP staff member's response:

The letter of Kemal Dervis, while it comes with one-year delay from the day it was approved across the street (UN Secretariat), still stops short on identifying the following:

- This to-be Policy Paper should ensure and mention all levels of higher up management, starting with Kemal Dervis and Ad Melkert, and down with ASG, Regional Directors and Thematic Directors at HQ, Resident Coordinators and Resident Representatives, Country Directors, as well as all those that fall under the categories of Head of Procurement, Head of Human Resources and Head of Finances, with Approval authorities;

- This to-be Policy Paper fail to introduce and clarify the process of disclosure and whom within the organization will be the leading as well as the recipient of such disclosures and decide on whether staff has/have potential conflict of interests. In the absence of an Ethics Officer (missing since the arrival of Ad Melkert - maybe he considers himself as one), as well as an ad-hoc external contractor like Deloitte or another who could be entrusted to check and vouch on these disclosures, the process remains unclear as well as chaotic. Who should start and lead by example should be Kemal Dervis and Ad Melkert followed by Akiko Yuge, Bruce Jenks and the Shah family (director of finance Darshak Shah and his wife Aruna Thanabalasingam of the Office of Human Resources) who together own both the money and the gate to enter into UNDP.

- This to-be Policy Paper is very general and fails to provide clear instructions as well as consequences of failure from staff to do so...

    Again, because a number of Inner City Press' UN 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 the UN agencies and many of their 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.

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

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