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At UNDP, Cover-up in Finance, Screw-up in Nepal, Waste in Glen Cove - and No Answers

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

UNITED NATIONS, July 26 -- As one aspect of the UN Development Program scandals, North Korea and the whistleblower, continues to reverberate from Dutch television to The Economist, back in UNDP headquarters, the mismanagement, waste and cover-ups continue.

            As emerged from Inner City Press' reporting on Nepal, UNDP in that country blithely put the peace process in jeopardy by handing out manuals about disarmament in Sudan to Maoists who have not agreed to disarm, only to "weapons separation and monitoring." The UN's envoy to Nepal Ian Martin on Thursday said that the Maoists are "allergic" to the word disarmament, and that "a UNDP official" passed the disarmament survey to a Maoist commander.

            The result of UNDP's blithe spreading of inapposite "best practices" was a protest by Maoist commander Prachanda that the UN is trying to weaken the Maoists in advance of the election now scheduled for November 22.

            And what has UNDP had to say about its foul-up? We don't know, as UNDP does not answer any questions.  Click here from Inner City Press' Nepal story.

            On the outsourcing controversy in UNDP's finance units, it emerges from documents obtained late Thursday by Inner City Press that UNDP Controller Darshak Shah is overseeing the "re-profiling" of finance staff's jobs, such that anyone who speaks out can conveniently be said not to fit their own re-defined job. In a series of e-mails, Shah and his special assistant Nuno Quieros tell staff of the re-profiling, which takes place while the UN's Office of Internal Oversight Services is looking into UNDP. Re-profiling has been refined into the pre-taliation tool of choice under Kemal Dervis and his apparatchik Ad Melkert.

Melkert, at right -- "you ain't seen nothing yet!"

            On the waste front, Inner City Press is told that UNDP's Global Environment Facility is again whooping it up, this time on Glen Cove, Long Island, complete with swimming and tennis and all the finest things. Last year, they went to Goa, home base of then GEF official Frank Pinto. Afterwards, Pinto said he was retiring. But now, sources say, UNDP is bringing him back as a consultant. Like bad nickels, one observe mused, they all come back at UNDP.

   All except the whistleblowers. The Government Accountability Project's Beatrice Edwards is following several cases at the United Nations, including of a UNDP whistleblower, designated as such by the U.N. ethics office, whom Ms. Edwards declined to identify to the UN's Sunny correspondent. Six months later, she told the Sun, GAP received a letter from the director of the UNDP's office of legal and procurement support, James Provanzano, stating that the U.N. designation was "not applicable to separately administered funds," such as UNDP.

    How will current Ethics Office chief Robert Benson rule on this already delayed case? Mr. Provanzano was himself involved in trying to shepherd whistleblower Tony Shkurtaj out of the United States. Apparently that level of cover-up and retaliation was not enough. Provenzano was laterally demoted -- a classic UNDP move -- and Peri Johnson was given his place. What is Ms. Johnson's position on the applicability of the UN's whistleblower protections on UNDP? One can only imagine. Coverage will continue.

   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.

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

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