UNDP, Melkert's Spin Machine Shoots at Khalilzad, Somalia Secrets
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
UNITED NATIONS, June
15 -- The UN Development Program on Friday afternoon issued a combative press
statement firing back at U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, whose June 14 letter
to UNDP Inner City Press reported on
UNDP denies that Ad Melkert, its "Associate Administrator in any way threatened
'retaliation' against a State Department official," namely Amb. Mark Wallace.
UNDP in great detail points out the while Amb. Wallace was to meet with UNDP at
2 p.m. on June 13, the meeting was cancelled "at 1:45 p.m.." Not said is that
Amb. Wallace reportedly has a sickness in the family. Also not mentioned in UNDP's
press statement is the word "audit," which is at the root of this heating-up dispute.
Let's start with the basics. In late 2006, the U.S. mission to the UN asked to see the
audits of the UN Development Program's operations in North Korea. UNDP said no.
Months later, on June 6, UNDP Associate Administrator Ad Melkert told the press
that UNDP is "committed" to making its internal audits available to Member
States, as the UN Secretariat does.
But in a
June 13 presentation to the UNDP executive board, Mr. Melkert switched "commit"
to "consider," and add the word "future" before "internal audits," meaning that
the internal audits of UNDP's now-shut North Korea programs would never be
released. Mr. Melkert also presented the UN Board of Auditors' preliminary report
as fully exonerating UNDP, a conscious misreading of the report which implies
that there is no fix on the horizon for problems with UNDP's operations in
Myanmar and elsewhere.
the face of new concerns raised by the U.S., in a briefing to Congress, UNDP's
Ad Melkert has said he was "surprised to learn that
apparently Members of Congress have been briefed on these issues before
verification from UNDP was even sought." Leaving aside UNDP's due process rights
before the legislatures of its donor nations, speculation has grown about
Melkert's strategy. Some opine that he knows that as the public face of UNDP
during this scandal, he will be the first to go, and that he is trying to create
a paper trail or impression that his ouster will be for political reasons, not
corruption or arrogance.
Others see Melkert's strategy, again, as
surfing the distrust widespread in the UN of the current U.S. administration, of by
analogy likening the now-concealable irregularities in UNDP's North Korea
program to the WMD sought by ;the IAEA and UNMOVIC. Whatever the underlying strategy, it was
deployed in full effect on Friday, in an attempt to win the spin war for at
least one news cycle.
Monday at 10 a.m., the man ultimately in
charge of UNDP, Kemal Dervis, is scheduled to (have to) speak before the whole
UNDP executive board in the basement of UN Headquarters. If Melkert's speech on
Wednesday was a taste-test or trial balloon, count on Dervis re-writes.
brags of its support to Somali TFG police (dead civilians and amount of funding
UNDP, despite Melkert's
claims in February 2007 that the agency would start responding to requests for
information in a reasonable time, is apparently on strike from answering
questions, including about public reports of corruption in its Myanmar
operations. So Inner City Press directed its questions about UNDP's support of
the police force of the Somali "Transitional Federal Government," which is
accused of shelling civilian neighborhoods and of war crimes, to the
Secretariat's spokesperson, who Friday answered:
Subject: Your question on Somalia
From: [OSSG at] un.org
To: matthew.lee [at] innercitypress.com
Sent: Fri, 15 Jun 2007 4:09 pm
asked... at noon about what kind of financial assistance the UN is providing to
the transitional federal government of Somalia. The answer is that the UN does
not directly provide any financial assistance to the TFG. Instead, donor nations
channel their aid to the TFG through UNDP. So UNDP is a conduit for funding by
donors; the UN provides no unique assistance.
But it's a simple question, now re-posed --
how much money has passed through UNDP to the military and police forces in
Somalia? Since, although UNDP seems to forget it, all of "its" money comes from
donors, the distinction between its funds and those of donors is false. While
this Somalia question is not one that the U.S. mission would pose, the principle
is the same: accountability and transparency. We will pursue this.
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]
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City Press are listed here, and
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UN Office: S-453A,
UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439
(and weekends): 718-716-3540