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UNDP To Pay Whistleblower 14 Months Back Pay for Lack of Due Process, Oversight Must Increase

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

UNITED NATIONS, June 27 -- The UN Ethics Office has recommended that the UN Development Program pay as restitution 14 months back pay to the whistleblower who exposed irregularities in the agency's programs in North Korea.  Ethics Officer Robert Benson, in an eight-page report, specifically finds a lack of due process. UNDP rushed out a statement that its senior management is in the process of studying the recommendations [but w]e also believe that there was full due process."

   This is not the first time UNDP has disagreed with the UN's specialist Ethics Office. When that Office found a prima facie case of retaliation by UNDP, the agency's Administrator Kemal Dervis declined to follow the recommendation that he allow the Ethics Office to conduct an investigation. Instead, Dervis appointed his own "Independent Review Panel."

   Friday, Inner City Press asked the U.S. Ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad about the report, and attempts by UNDP to re-open its program in North Korea. Ambassador Khalilzad responded, "We believe the recommendations of the Independent Review Panel, and there are quite a set of them, especially that audits should be made available" and about "not appropriate oversight... need to be implemented."  Amb. Khalilzad continued, on camera, "We want to see a plan... a timeline."

UNDP's Dervis getting money from Spain - now to be paid to whistleblower for lack of due process?

    The IRP said Shkurtaj had no right to continue in his job, and so couldn't be retaliated against. Benson notes that the IRP applied to weak a burden of proof on UNDP, but then takes at face value that when Shkurtaj was having a job taken away, those doing it did not know of complaints against Shkurtaj springing from his whistleblowing. As noted in the Ethics Office report, the "Independent Review Panel" strangely went out of its way to denigrate the whistleblower, Artjon Tony Shkurtaj, without providing him any opportunity to comment or rebut. To many, this demonstrated the IRP doing the (hit) job assigned to it by Dervis. Well before any findings were in, Dervis told reporters that they would soon see why UNDP could not rehire Shkurtaj. Now the Ethics Office has recommended that UNDP pay 14 months back pay as restitution. Some now question, could or should this come out of Mr. Dervis' ample compensation? Or perhaps more appropriately, from Associate Director Ad Melkert?

  Perhaps, noted one wag, from the $280,000 wrongful taken by UNDP's Eveline Herfkens, money she refuses to return while UNDP defends her.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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