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 --

On UNDP, Auditors Who Did Not Visit North Korea, Non-Answers on Sri Lanka and Myanmar

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

UNITED NATIONS, May 29 -- As the UN Development Program reportedly prepares to claim exoneration for its North Korea programs by auditors who did not even visit the country, other questions pile up and face only silence from UNDP.

            Last week Inner City Press asked UNDP's communications office about reports that, as in Zimbabwe, UNDP is under investigation in Sri Lanka for irregularities. UNDP's Cassandra Waldon provided some links to UNDP's web site about Nepal, but nothing about Sri Lanka.

            Early on May 29, Inner City Press asked UNDP about a report that six of its staff in Myanmar have been fired in a corruption probe. Again, no response at all.

            Meanwhile word reaches us from multiple sources that the fix is in, or is about to be delivered, a superficial audit of UNDP's North Korea programs. It is said that head auditor David Brodeur is leaving.

   Why can't more be said? Because none of the auditors has been willing to speak to the press. Ban Ki-mon's spokesperson has said that the Board, or the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, ACABQ, can answer the questions raised. But Mark Gilpin, the Secretariat of the ACABQ to whom chairman Rajat Saha referred all questions, has declined to provide any information.

White wash with view: Mr. Ban at ACABQ, Feb. 9, 2007

            Here now are only some of Ban's Spokesperson's explanations of the North Korea audit:

Jan 22, 2007: "The Board of Auditors will be requested, through the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), to undertake an overall risk assessment and audit of operations of the United Nations and its Funds and Programs in countries where issues of hard currency transactions, independence of staff hiring and access to reviewing local projects, are pertinent. Should the CEB and the Board of Auditors accept this proposal, action would be undertaken in stages with the first report, which would focus on the operations in the Democratic Republic of Korea, to be completed by the Board of Auditors within a three-month time-frame. The report should be submitted to the second resumed 61st session of the General Assembly."

April 3, 2007: "we have been informed by the Audit Operations Committee of the U.N. Board of Auditors that last week, the Committee completed the preparatory portion of the DPRK assignment, which was being done here at Headquarters as you know. A scoping report, which would determine the parameters of what is being audited, is currently being drafted for further consideration by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ)."

April 4, 2007 --

Inner City Press: Since you said yesterday, and I appreciated that, that the two-week preparation period is finished. The ACABQ is drafting it. How does this relate to the 90-day time period? Because some people said that's going to run out April 19th. 

MS. MONTAS: Well it depends how much time the ACABQ takes. 
Inner City Press: Right, but the 90 days is not set -- I remember you said the clock is ticking. 

MS. MONTAS: Yes, I cannot answer for the ACABQ. 

Inner City Press: Right, but do we know when -- 

MS. MONTAS: I cannot answer that question.

May 7, 2007 --

Inner City Press: ...the North Korea audit. We've heard, and I wonder if you could confirm, that the Board of Auditors presented a draft of the final audit to Kemal Dervis and Ad Melkert on Friday. Is that the case? 

MS. MONTAS: Well, I don't know at this point. I do know that the Board of Auditors is planning very soon to give the report to the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ). 

Inner City Press: But I just wanted to ask, I thought the report they were giving to them was this preliminary, two-week scope of work report. But now, we're told, at least I've heard, that what was shown to Dervis and Melkert is the final report. Which is it? 

MS. MONTAS: I cannot confirm that it is the final report. I will let you know when I find out. But I do know that the auditors are ready to submit their final report.

May 9, 2007 --

Q Does this mean that the Secretary-General did not have much, if any, say at all in the terms of reference of the audit, then? 

MS. MONTAS: They are determined by the auditors. 
Q And is the audit in fact finished? 
MS. MONTAS: Yes. As far as I know, yes it is finished. 
Q And will we get access to the audit? 
MS. MONTAS: I said after the ACABQ and the General Assembly have had access to it. 
Q Which means how long, do you reckon? 
MS. MONTAS: Not very long. 
Q So, we definitely will be -- 
MS. MONTAS: I think the 90 days that we had mentioned earlier. 
Q So we will indeed be able to read the audit? 

Inner City Press:  To follow up on that, we were told by people who have seen the document that it says things like "national staff in positions of authority noted, but outside of our terms of reference; counterfeiting allegations, noted, but outside the terms of our reference". I think the concern is that -- can you explain, what were they looking for? If things -- since he'd said that seconded staff and the use of them was one of the things he was looking into, how could an issue like that be outside the terms of reference of the audit? 

MS. MONTAS: I haven't seen the audit. You have seen it, apparently. I have not seen it and I will not comment on it as long as it is not submitted to the General Assembly. 

Inner City Press:  And in your letter to the Wall Street Journal today, where you say -- congratulations, it's a well-written letter. It says, you know, that the clock started ticking on March 19, but I thought like earlier -- it had been asked and you, I mean, I wasn't, in terms of the 90 day thing, is that then when it began? 


Inner City Press:  So, any statements that it started earlier than that -- 

MS. MONTAS: No, actually, what happened is that the Secretary- General initiated the process before, but the 90-day start was the time when the independent auditors started actually working on it. 

 Inner City Press:  I spoke with the Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), and he said they have absolutely nothing. They have no paper about the audit and that no funding was asked for from them for the audit. So, what's -- we kept hearing that it's on the way to the ACABQ, or the ACABQ -- has the ACABQ provided any funding for the audit, and where is the audit now, if you say it's finished? 

MS. MONTAS: Well, I told you, it is going to be shortly given to the ACABQ and the General Assembly. If they don't have it yet, it's because it's not there yet. 

Inner City Press: Okay, thank you. 

May 11, 2007 --

Question: And a little more of the nature and the terms of reference. Again, is this going to be another case of an investigation in which UN officials are not going to be allowed into Zimbabwe to investigate the issue? Like what we've seen in North Korea. If we can just know a little bit more about the terms of reference -- who did what and how? What about the fellow who's implicated in this? Has he been suspended? Do we know? 

Spokesperson: I don't know at this point. As I said to Matthew, I will be looking into this for you and find out. 
Question: Okay. Just a couple of UNDP follow-up questions. It's quite interesting that we learned as journalists rather late in the game in fact, just hearing inklings about this, that the UN team investigating, the auditors, were not allowed into North Korea in the end. 
Spokesperson: I didn't say that they were not allowed. I said they did not go. They did not request. 
Question: The North Koreans denied them. Isn't that what happened? 
Spokesperson: No, it's not what happened. They have not requested yet. They have not requested. 
Question: No, I mean the audit itself that was conducted. 
Spokesperson: The audit is not finished. 
Question: It went to the AB --? 

Spokesperson: ACABQ [Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions]. But, you know, it is a first phase, and we'll know more about it. In fact, because of your request, I have once more asked that the investigators come here and explain the process to you, how it works. How an audit works and who they are and what they do. And I think it's a good thing for you to get at least the basics on how those audits are carried through. 
Question: So, am I misunderstanding you then? The North Koreans did not deny them access? 
Spokesperson: There was no formal request for visas. 
Question: By the actual auditing team? 
Spokesperson: No. 
Question: So they never set foot in North Korea on their own volition? 
Spokesperson: Not yet. 
Question: And whose decision was that? 

Spokesperson: Well, you know, I mean, usually the process is for a trip like this, the trip has to be funded. The person who can fund that trip, is the ACABQ, the Committee itself. So, you know, we are not in that part of it yet. 
Question: Is it Ban's desire and let's say some of the people within UNDP to actually send the auditors themselves to the problem place? 
Spokesperson: Well, at this point, the whole thing is in the hands of the auditors. Okay? So, what the Secretary-General asked for was approved. That would cover all the activities in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. 
Question: Just one other thing. How does the Secretary-General feel about cooperation or lack thereof by Pyongyang in the investigation into the UNDP issues? 

Spokesperson: Well, he doesn't have -- at this point, he's just relying on what the auditors are doing. The work is not finished because right now it is in the process of going through the ACABQ and we'll know more about it. As I told you, and I said that two days ago, as soon as it is submitted you'll get a chance to discuss with someone who knows about the audit on the audit itself. As soon as it is submitted to the ACABQ. 
Question: And Secretary Ban received assurances from the North Koreans of cooperation or where does that all stand? 
Spokesperson: Well, I don't think he intervened in that. At this point, he has not intervened in that. Yes, George? 
Question: Let me try to get this clarified if I may, if you know. Do normal established, I would assume written, ACABQ procedures for this type of audit include visits and on-site investigation? And are we, therefore, to assume that that phase of said audit has not yet been undertaken? 
Spokesperson: It is true that that phase has not been undertaken yet. And it is also, you can ask the ACABQ directly. I will try to have someone from the ACABQ talk to you. But this is standard procedure. They -- 
Question: Standard procedure is that they do visit on-site routinely -- 
Spokesperson: They are the ones to require the auditors to go on-site and do it. 
Correspondent: Thank you. 

Inner City Press: One follow-up to that. I did speak to the Chairman of the ACABQ and he said it would be up to the management, which I assume to mean the Secretariat, to actually request additional funds to conduct the audit. And he said there was no request made. So could you find out, I guess, if that is the case? He said he's still waiting for a request for funding. So you just said they could only go if they had funding to go to North Korea. So has there been a request by management, i.e. the Secretariat, to the ACABQ for funding for this audit to be conducted? 

Spokesperson: Well, at this point we are not at this stage yet, you know, of the requests for funding. 

            And now it appears that the audit will be called finished, the inconvenient issue closed, without any visit to North Korea. Developing.

    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.

Feedback: Editorial [at]

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

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

Search WWW Search

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

            Copyright 2006-07 Inner City Press, Inc. To request reprint or other permission, e-contact Editorial [at] -

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

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