UNDP, Denial of Retaliation and Barring of Council Belied by E-mails as North
Korea Scandal Unfolds
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
UNITED NATIONS, June
11 -- As the scandals surrounding the UN Development Program proliferate, UNDP
spokesman David Morrison on Monday denied "categorically" that his agency has
engaged in retaliation or threats against whistleblowers.
Inner City Press why persons knowledgeable about the counterfeiting and other
issues at UNDP in North Korea would be precluded from bringing Staff Union or
counsel with them to question and answer sessions, Mr. Morrison declined to
confirm this and insisted that UNDP's Associate Administrator Ad Melkert has
does everything possible to encourage people to come forward. "That's our line,"
Mr. Morrison said. Video
from Minute 1:11:02.
e-mails show that as recently as June 5, an individual whom UNDP has described
as its officer in charge of Audit wrote to a witness that "we
cannot accept to have a representative from the Staff Council present at this
We pause to note formal findings of UNDP's Ombudsman:
has known of a visit in advance, retaliatory action has sometimes been taken the
members of staff have been warned about the consequences of saying certain
things to the Ombudsperson -- a term that has been dubbed 'pretaliation.' There
are also many cases of staff being primed as to what to say to the
The UNDP Ombudsman also found that
disturbing of all is when a visit from the Ombudsperson which throws light on
abusive behavior actually makes the situation worse for those members of staff
in an already vulnerable position. An abusive manager will sometimes use
intimidation or try to discover by a process of questioning and elimination the
names of those who have consulted the Ombudsperson. When no effective action has
been taken after the visit of the Ombudsperson to remedy the situation, there
are instances of where the abusive behavior has intensified, renewed attempts
have been made by the abuser to find out who spoke to the Ombudsperson and
retaliatory action has been taken against anyone suspected of doing so."
The above-referenced individual, who
will remain unnamed due to fear of further retaliation, has written that
"Even though I
was on an SSA Contract (performing Core Duties with Managerial Approval 2 + 3) -
Since 2005 I reported misconduct through my chain of command, including Kemal
Dervis, Ad Melkert, Akiko Yuge, Darshak Shah, David Lockwood, Julie Anne Mejia,
and Staff Union, but when no action was taken to cease such misconduct and
criminal behaviors, using the protections of Section 4 of ST/SGB/2005/21 [the
UN's whistleblower protections], I reported such misconduct to an entity outside
of the established internal mechanisms because such reporting was necessary to
avoid substantive damage to the Organization's operations."
still holds true. On Monday, Inner City Press asked UNDP's David Morrison about
his statement that no retaliation has taken place as UNDP, including in light of
a complaint that was filed last week on June 5 with the UN Secretariat's Ethics
Office. Mr. Morrison spoke of "an individual on a short term contract" which was
"simply not renewed." Video
here, from Minute 58:07.
City Press asked Mr. Morrison to confirm that the individual in question was, in
fact, the head of operations of the UN in North Korea for some time. Holding to
the line that the individual in question is a mere "short term" contractor, Mr.
Morrison declined to answer. He also adopted a new line, that if an Ethics
Office complaint has been filed, he will not comment anymore. But in his
briefing's opening, he had claimed that no retaliation occurred. (In fact, on
June 7 Inga-Britt Ahlenius of the UN's Office of Internal Oversight Services
spoke of a whistleblower complaint that had just been filed with the UN's Ethics
OIOS' Ms. Ahlenius on
Morrison alluded to a spreadsheet provided last week to the
saying it would be on UNDP's web site. Three hours after Morrison' briefing, and
at least three days after it was given to the Chicago Tribune, it was still not
on the web site. Mr. Morrison referred to just-completed communications with the
UN's Food and Agriculture Organization; note that
earlier this year,
in response to Inner City Press' questions, FAO finally responded:
paying for North Korean officials' travel, a practice that UNDP has said it will stop,
FAO has provide descriptions of projects which include flying two officials from
the Kim Jong Il's Ministry of Fisheries to Norway, and "study tours abroad" in "OSDRO
/ DRK / 603 / SWE - Support to Agricultural and Horticultural Production and to
the Coordination of Emergency/Rehabilitation Interventions in Agriculture/Food
Security in 2006-2008 ($2,334, 430, ending date September 30, 2008)."
Hyok Kim has worked on these "aquaculture" and official-flying projects. Inner
City Press emailed Myong Hyok Kim days ago seeking comment for this story, but
none was forthcoming. (These email inquiries to Pyongyang, cc-ed to Rome, did
however finally get programmatic answers.)
in hard currency, FAO does so -- and through UNDP, in volumes that UNDP did not
disclose in its statements about how much was being paid in Euros to the North
Korean government. FAO has told Inner City Press that its
"Staff are paid
in Euro by the UNDP on behalf of FAO. UNDP charges FAO for every transaction it
carries out on behalf of the Organization. As to the Assistant FAO
Representative, upon instruction from FAO Headquarters, with copy to FAO-China,
the UNDP Pyongyang releases the money directly to the staff member, in cash. As
to seconded staff, FAO China prepares Agency Services Requests (ASRs) for
payment of the two seconded staff, and send them to the Regional Office in
Bangkok, which in turn, forwards them to the UNDP in Pyongyang."
On January 29, Inner City Press asked UNDP whether its statements about the size
of its DPRK payments included FAO and other agencies' funds. UNDP has responded
that "program expenditure information we presented covers only UNDP programs,
not those of other agencies." There still remains unclarity.
Morrison also did not answer a question about when UNDP's local staff in North
Korea, seconded from the Kim Jong Il government, finally lost access to UNDP's
computer system, called ATLAS. While chiding Inner City Press for previously
reporting that computer access continued past a point that UNDP could reasonably
have been expected to suspend access, specifically with regard to a UNDP
"driver," who Morrison said would never have had access, Morrison has not said
who had access, nor when and stopped. [These will, of course, be reported if and
when UNDP provides the information it promised to "check back to you" with,
which often does not happen, for example with regard to corruption at UNDP in
Myanmar, confirmed but left unspecified, including by
Ad Melkert on June 6,
further reported on by Inner City Press on
Morrison stated that the U.S. inquiry into UNDP in North Korea began in
December, there exists among other things a November 17, 2006 letter from the
U.S. mission to Kemal Dervis, Administrator of UNDP. While Mr. Dervis has sought
to placate the most active members of UNDP's executive board by, for example,
committing that UNDP will no longer do business with entities such as
Macao-based Zang Kok Trading, ultimately the buck must stop with him.
On Monday, Ban
Ki-moon said, according to his staff's transcription, that
"I am concerned of
course about news reports, and new allegations, about North Korean activities
about misusing UNDP funds. I am going to write a letter to the Chairman of the
Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, asking him to
consider to continue this investigation, including the possibility of sending
auditors to North Korea."
For now, Mr.
Ban appears to feel that the UN Board of Auditors will be enough. Doubts are
growing. At the UN's noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Mr. Ban's
spokesperson if Mr. Ban was raising the issue with ACABQ at the scheduled Monday
noon meeting? No, the spokesperson answered. Does she stand behind a letter in
Monday's WSJ? She replied that it was written before the new allegations. From
Press: I see that you had a letter to the editor of The Wall Street Journal
today, and Iím wondering if the reports over the weekend changed... you said
that UNDPís position had been substantiated, that is, was a small amount of
money and that none of its was misused. The reports over the weekend seem to
speak differently. Does that change, the letter...
Well, before I wrote that letter, I was not aware of the new allegations that
surfaced, and youíll get the answers to a number of your questions from David
Morrison when he comes in a few minutes, after Ashraf gives his briefing.
Press: The Secretary-General is meeting with the ACABQ [Advisory Committee on
Administrative and Budgetary Questions], then the Fifth Committee, at 12 p.m.
Was the North Korea-UNDP issue one of the topics?
No. The essential topic is the reform proposal, and then the discussion by the
ACABQ of that reform proposal.
here for Inner City
Press' June 1 story on other UNDP questions.
Again, because a number of Inner City Press'
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.
UN Office: S-453A,
UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439
(and weekends): 718-716-3540 Matthew.Lee [at]
Other, earlier Inner
City Press are listed here, and
some are available in the ProQuest service.
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UN Office: S-453A,
UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439
(and weekends): 718-716-3540