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At UNDP, Clark's Talks and Photo-Ops But Dodging on Somalia, Biter, Consultants' Pay and Royal

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 27 -- At the UN Development Program, one hundred days after former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark took over the top job, she has yet to hold a press conference for correspondents at UN headquarters. To mark her stealth one hundred days, she appeared from New York on New Zealand television. When asked how much she gets paid, she answered "I think you can go into the website."

   It's not that there is not real news about UNDP. The organization was targeted in Somalia by Al Shabaab essentially for taking sides in a civil war. Conflict extended into UNDP headquarters itself, where as exclusively reported by Inner City Press a staff member complaining of hiring irregularities and nepotism was maced and taken to the local police precinct after biting of UN Security Officer on the arm. In Panama, UNDP is in damage control mode faced with criticism of paying consultants there more than the president of the country.

 Weeks after asking Clark's UNDP for responses on its programs including in Cyprus, but receiving no response, Inner City Press on July 27 asked the UN system's Associate Spokesperson Farhan Haq questions about UNDP, from the man bites man incident to Helen Clark having given a speech at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Washington from which the public was excluded until they paid at least $200.

UNDP's Helen Clark and blue UN flag, Press Q&A not shown

Inner City Press: the head of UNDP, Helen Clark, gave a speech in Washington at the Women’s Foreign Policy Group, and they charged $250 admission. Is there any kind of rule applicable to UN officials speaking in a for-pay environment and who reviews, obviously it was a fund-raiser, but what comment do you have on that?

Associate Spokesperson Haq: I don’t. I would suggest that you talk to UNDP for any comment on this. It’s their event and I don’t have any of the details of it.

Inner City Press: Is there any UN system rule, to your knowledge?

Associate Spokesperson Haq: Well, UN officials do not receive payment for the speeches that they give. But I don’t know about what kind of event this is. Whether this was an outside group that was charging or whether UNDP was. For that you really have to get the details from UNDP.

  Despite UNDP still refusing to answer long-pending questions including about its programs in Cyprus, Inner City Press sent a few questions to two of the agency's spokespeople, including to Administrator Clark's personal spokesperson Christan LoNigro:

Please comment including on compliance will all applicant UN and UNDP rules and principles on Helen Clark speaking recently in DC at a fundraising for which $200 or $250 entrance was charged: how are the beneficiaries of such UNDP fundraising chosen? Who reviews the beneficiaries? Which similar invitations has Ms. Clark, or Mr. Dervis in 2008 and 2009, declined? On what basis?

Please state when Ms. Clark will finally hold a press conference Q&A in Room 226, and why this has not yet been done.

Please provide all available UNDP information on the biting incident I asked about at noon: Farhan says UNDP tells him the biter was a job SEEKER, and that the recruitment was transparent. Please name the underlying job, the job seeker, and what happened.

Please comment on this from Panama, UNDP criticized for paying consultant(s) more than that country's president makes

Please state on what basis some but not all UN correspondents who cover UNDP were invited to the embargoed briefing on UNDP's report on Human Security and the Middle East / Arab world.

Please comment on / respond to Al Shabaab's criticism and expulsion of UNDP (but not WFP, for example) -- how many UNDP staff have left Somalia? What has UNDP done, if anything, in the face of criticism that it lacks balance in Somalia? How much money has UNDP spent on security personnel in Somalia in 2008 and 2009 and name the donors. And again, the Cyprus. Thanks in advance.

   Some six hours later, some but not all responses arrived, from the "Press Office to the Administrator" Helen Clark, Christina LoNigro:

Subj: RE: Stephane- UNDP questions
From: [Ms. LoNigro at]
To: Inner City Press
Sent: 7/27/2009 6:22:24 P.M. Eastern Standard Time

UNDP Administrator Helen Clark spoke at the Women’s Foreign Policy Group’s first event in its “Women in Power” series in Washington DC on July 24 in her official capacity. UN officials often speak at events that share the goals and ideals of the UN. Miss Clark received no compensation for speaking at this event and obtained clearance from UNDP’s Ethics Office prior to accepting the invitation. Miss Clark spoke about development issues and achievement of the MDGs. You can find her full remarks here.

On Panama, UNDP values its relationship with the Government of Panama, and everyone involved is committed to ironing out any issues. On Friday 17th July 2009 , UNDP Panama met with Minister Vallarino, the National Comptroller, Carlos Vallarino and the Vice-minister for Economy, Frank de Lima to clear up any misunderstandings. The new government expressed its desire to continue working with UNDP.

There was an unfortunate and isolated incident involving an employee of UNDP on 23rd June 2009. UN Security and the New York Police Department responded, and it is now being handled by the authorities of the host government.

UNDP continuously assesses the security situation on the ground in Somalia and acts accordingly, taking into consideration the safety of our staff and the effective delivery of our programmes. For the safety and security of our staff we are not able to comment on their numbers and location. We can say that UNDP programmes and operations continue uninterrupted in Somalia.

On Cyprus, Stephane will be sending you something soon.

   This last has been said for months. But what, as simply one example, about the question of when Ms. Clark will finally take questions from the Press? Watch this site.

Footnote: UNDP's side site to "respon[d] to inaccurate press reports," long dormant, is back, proclaiming that "UNDP, through its office in Geneva, has indeed been in discussions with Ms. Segolene Royal, as the President of the Regional Council of Poitou-Charentes, within the context of cooperation between regional and local communities in the developed countries and those in the developing world, in particular as regards issues of climate change."

Who knew? And what does UNDP have to say about Ms. Royal's reported involvement in trying to de-fund a music festival due to one artist, Orelsan's, lyrics?

Update of July 27-28, 2 a.m. -- After weeks' long delay, suddenly these answers about UNDP's funding of media in Cyprus arrived:

Q - Is it possible for you to tell me who received the money and how this money was spent?

A - As indicated in the description of the project on the internet, funds were provided to Radio May to produce and broadcast informational programs across the island.

Q I understand the radio station (was?) established just to support the Annan Plan. Is it true?

A- No.

Q - Did the recipients of the funds report back on how they spent the money? Did they submit receipts, etc?

A - Yes.

  While there's more to be said about these UNDP (and USAID) programs, for now we'll simply run in full what UNDP sent.

* * *

In Afghan Scandal, UNDP Failed to Oversee, Despite Taking 7% Fee, Dervis and Akbank

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

UNITED NATIONS, April 14 -- After the UN Development Program and UN Office of Project Services repeatedly refused information requests from the U.S. government about missing and misallocated aid money, UNDP spokesman Stephane Dujarric on Tuesday told the Press that "there were lapses, perhaps, in responding" and they he estimates $1.5 million will be returned. But the U.S. government report -- online here -- puts the missing money at over $7 million; a collection agency had to be hired.

  Dujarric on Tuesday said that the lesser known agency UNOPS was responsible for the work, that $25 million was, to UNDP, "pass through" money. But what oversight did UNDP provide for the seven percent fee that Dujarric says it charged? Clearly, very little. Funds were reported moved to projects in Sri Lanka, Sudan, Haiti and Dubai. Click here for a 2007 Inner City Press report on UNOPS in Dubai, cracking down on a whistleblower; here for UNOPS' own open bragging about Dubai.

  In fact, UNDP has something of a conflict in purporting to oversee or watchdog UNOPS. The director of UNOPS, Jan Mattsson, who notably has refused to follow Ban Ki-moon's call for basic public financial disclosure, was to work at UNDP. Mattsson has been noticeable absent in defending UNOPS against it recent back to back scandals, leaving that job to his also scandal-scarred deputy.

UN's Ban speaks to UNDP staff, Mattsson's disclosure and 7% fee, response to USAID not shown

  Inner City Press asked, and Dujarric did not answer, which of the individuals named in the U.S. report are still in the employ and pay of UNDP. Carlos Haddad, for example, who refused repeated request for information -- is he there?

  Dujarric referred to the "acting Administrator" leading the response to this most recent UNDP scandal. To many, this lacks credibility. Ad Melkert, twice passed over for the agency's top job and tapped by insiders to leave, proclaimed during UNDP's tight-lipped response to a previous scandal that "you ain't see nothing yet." We still haven't.

  All of this take place mere weeks before new Administration Helen Clark arrives. Will she move to clean up UNDP, to improve or cancel its lax "pass through money" programs?

Footnote: previously Administrator Kemal Dervis, who quickly landed another UN gig advising Ban Kid-moon for the G-20 in London, has now taken a post with Akbank in Turkey. Inner City Press asked the UN's spokesman if this might implicate the anti-revolving door rules announced by yet another previous UNDP Administrator, Mark Malloch Brown, in the final weeks of the Kofi Annan administration. The spokesman said he wasn't yet sure of the facts of the case. Watch this site.

  Click here for a new YouTube video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

* * *

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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