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UNDP's Melkert Opposes Online Disclosure, Myanmar Corruption and Harare Law Firm Questions

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

UNITED NATIONS, June 6 -- When the UN's chief executive and its Development Program's associate administrator disagree, which view should prevail? Ban Ki-moon has recommended that all senior UN officials follow him in making their financial disclosure forms public. On Wednesday, Inner City Press asked UNDP's Ad Melkert, who came to speak of transparency, for his response to Ban.

            "No, I'm not in favor of financial disclosure put online," Mr. Melkert said. That "oversteps the privacy of people.. no one is served by having it online." Video here, from Minute 37:55 through 44:41.

            That UNDP could benefit from increased disclosure was clear from the questions asked of Mr. Melkert in his truncated press conference, which ranged from scandal surrounding UNDP with regarding to the investigation by an unnamed Harare law firm into UNDP's role smuggling of diamonds from Zimbabwe, to the preliminary audit of UNDP's use of hard currency and seconded staff in North Korea, through the clinging to immunity regarding the retentions of counterfeit currency issue that the audit explicitly did not address. Melkert said that the UNDP Executive Board this month will adopt a policy of releasing internal audits to member states, and that UNDP's website will list donors and how money is spent for all programs.

            Even as Melkert spoke of improving disclosure, information was withheld. While acknowledging that unspecified corruption was found among UNDP's staff in Myanmar, Mr. Melkert pointedly declined to explain the substance or even subject of the corruption.

Melkert off-kilter: "Life is more than website publications, in my humble opinion," he said June 6

  When Inner City Press asked how UNDP recruits and hires its staff in Myanmar, Mr. Melkert said "they are recruited in a specific way, I could give you the details on that." But despite three email reminders throughout Wednesday afternoon, twelve hours later this basic information was not supplied. Here are some of the other questions left unanswered:

how UNDP's staff and employees in Myanmar, including but not only the four whose contracts were not renewed and the one who resigned, were and are recruited and hired -- if they are seconded from the government or recruited. Per UNDP, and contrary to what UNDP has said of DPRK, is there a labor market in Myanmar? As much detail as possible would help, but something by 6 p.m. today is the request.  Same on the identity of the Harare law firm mentioned by Mr. Morrison on Friday. Also, beyond still requesting a comment on the local staff issues and survey in the Georgia office, and a confirmation or denial of staff issues in Timor Leste, still requesting an answer to the long-outstanding question of how many people work for UNDP, by country-- Please include, and distinguish between, staff and service contracts and SSA, and separately please state how many of the positions in each country are funded by that country.

* * *

Just now in a talk in the Dag Hammarskjold auditorium, the UK's environment minister David Miliband said he met UNDP's head today, and spoke  about the MDG Carbon Facility. Can you confirm that Mr. Dervis met with Mr. Miliband on this topic, and  in any case, can you answer a question I directed yesterday to two UNDP-ers on the MDG Carbon Facility press release, namely how was Fortis selected,
how many institutions responded to any RFP and what were the criteria for selection.

In a message dated 6/6/2007 3:22:37 PM Eastern Standard Time, [  at] writes:

... both Mr. Dervis and Mr. Melkert have already filled out financial disclosure forms.

Q:   But have they filed them? That's the requirement. One of the things that's unclear is where / with what office UNDP D-1s' financial disclosure forms will be filed. Within the Secretariat, the forms go to accounting firm then to UN Ethics Office. It's confusing that UN Ethics Office would have Messrs. Dervis' and Melkert's financial disclosure forms but at the same time would say that it does not technically have a jurisdiction over, say, whistleblower complaints from UNDP.

1) are you saying that Messrs. Dervis' and Melkert's financial disclosure forms have already been given to the accounting firm and are now with the UN Ethics office

2) where will other UNDP-ers' financial disclosure forms be filed?

3) does UNDP already have a contract with the accounting firm?

At a briefing about "Inclusive Financial Sectors," I asked those presenting (at least two of whom appear to work for UNDP) how UNDP chooses which banks in which to deposit its money, and whether the banks' service to lower income people is a factor, and in order to fairly access, for names of banks in which UNDP places the money with which it is entrusted.  I was told at the briefing that UNDP can answer these questions.

And, as requested, the biodiversity project in DPRK.

This is a request to be sent all information not explicitly deemed confidential about the upcoming Executive Board meetings.

  Is UNDP going to make an oral presentation to ACABQ?

            On this last, we expect tomorrow to have an answer, even without any UNDP responsiveness as has become the pattern that Mr. Melkert now, again, says will change. Developing.

Click here for Inner City Press' June 1 story on other UNDP questions.

    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]

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

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