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At UNDP, Top Lawyer Demoted In Favor of One More Eager to Please, Funding Under Attack

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

UNITED NATIONS, June 21 -- In continued fallout from the scandals surrounding the UN Development Program, amid moves in the U.S. Congress to cut UNDP's funding, Inner City Press can now amplify one part of the purge it reported earlier this week: the demotion of UNDP's top lawyer, James Provenzano, following the similar demotion of its head of budgets last week. A copy of the confirmation / spinning e-mail is below.

    Thursday on Turtle Bay, Inner City Press asked Japan's Deputy Permanent Representative Takahiro Shinyo about the new charges against UNDP. "UNDP must respond to the allegations," Amb. Shinyo replied, adding that the issues are "not limited to North Korea." At the same time, he said, the United States should come forward with whatever proof it has.

            Inner City Press is informed that at the "technical meeting" help on June 15, the U.S. named dates and accounts, and told UNDP to review and open up its computer system. Since then, UNDP has hired an outside computer contractor to review or spin, among other things, how the agency's data may have been compromised and corrupted.

            Ironically and seemingly obliviously, UNDP's Executive Board meeting continued in the UN's basement, with ill-attended "informal" meeting on the issue of audits and transparency. It appears that those items will simply be deferred. When Ad Melkert said, "You ain't seen nothing yet," apparently he meant it literally -- we've still seen little to nothing in the way of reform, other than the scapegoating / bloodletting demotions of the head of budgets and now of Jim Provenzano, see below.

   In today's Wall Street Journal Ad Melkert is highlighted, with his two-letter nickname spelled out in full as Adrianus Petrus Wilhelmus Melkert, along with a reference to the retaliation which he denied. This article and the sketch are sure to constitute a moment of pride for Mr. Melkert.  That the WSJ does not even mention UNDP's #1 Kemal Dervis is all the stranger given the paper's focus on numbers and on corporate governance. Then again, both Amb. Khalilzad and Mr. Ban have as if by rote offered praise to Dervis, mid-scandal and without explanation. Apparently in today's UN system, on both sides of First Avenue, there is a culture of the non-executive CEO, even of puppet-mastery.

   Here now the intra-UNDP spin:

Akiko Yuge at undp.org  to All, UNDP 3:20 pm, 21 June 2007

Dear Colleagues, As you are aware, the Office of Legal and Procurement Support (OLPS), Bureau of Management (BOM), currently covers both the legal support function and the procurement support function of UNDP.  In recent years, there has been a significant growth in both volume and complexity in these two important areas.  In addition, the procurement function in UNDP is presently undergoing a strategic re-alignment, especially in connection with the intended partial merger of IAPSO and UNOPS and integration of some IAPSO functions into UNDP.  Under Jim Provenzano's leadership, OLPS has served UNDP well, but to enable us to better respond to the increasing challenges and operational needs in these areas, a corporate decision has been taken to separate OLPS into two separate units within BOM.

Based on this corporate decision, Jim Provenzano will continue to lead the procurement support function, including the strategic re-alignment process mentioned above, as Officer-in-Charge of the Procurement Support Office; Peri Johnson will lead the Legal Support Office as its Officer-in-Charge.  This arrangement will come into effect on 1 July 2007 and will continue until further notice. I would like to request your cooperation during this transition period. With best regards, Akiko

            Sources tell Inner City Press that Peri Johnson distinguished herself as Ad Melkert's main witness in "retaliation-gate," and on that basis was jumped over Christian Batra, a union man and Francoise Noke, to be given what used to be Provenzano's legal post.

Ad Melkert, purge not shown

    In a stakeout interview earlier this week, U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative Alejandro Wolff said the U.S. stands behind Amb. Khalilzad's letter concerning Ad Melkert's statements. And as referenced above, in Washington on Thursday the House of Representatives passed an amendment to the State & Foreign Operations Appropriations Act to block $20 million in U.S. contributions to UNDP, in response to lack of transparency and stonewalling. The start of a trend?

    While many assumed that these UNDP issues were raised during Ban Ki-moon's fast trip to Washington on Wednesday, UN head of political affairs Lynn Pascoe and Ban's spokesperson on Thursday said no, and no, and no, and no, including on reports that UN peacekeepers in Liberia beat up two media members:

Inner City Press:  On the Secretary-Generalís trip to D.C.  Can you say, did topics other than peacekeeping and raising the US contribution come up?  For example, did this General Assembly report on the accountability of transparency in UN agencies, did that arise?  UNDP, North Korea?  Can you give us--

Spokesperson:  No, it was mostly... what was discussed was what I told you.  They discussed Darfur.  They discussed Kosovo.  They discussed UN reforms extensively.  They discussed US-UN relationships, and the purpose of the trip was to reinforce, let's say, the relationship with different members of Congress and build that relationship.

Inner City Press:  There's a press release from UNMIL about the alleged roughing up of journalists in Liberia.  It says something like, it's true that Liberians are guaranteed rights, the rights of other people, citizens, must not be infringed on.  Can you somehow elaborate what... it seems like the allegation is that UNMIL troops forced journalists to delete photos from their camera.  So it's hard to understand what this paragraph is referring to.

Spokesperson:  Well, this paragraph -- you read it -- it's UNMIL's reaction to it.  They acknowledged that the incidents took place, but they are saying what youíre reading.

Inner City Press:   Right.

Spokesperson:  I have nothing to elaborate on this.

            We will continue to follow all this.

    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] innercitypress.com

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

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

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