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In Rwanda, As 5 Arrests for UNDP "Ghost Consultancies," Audit Like Afghan

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 2, more here Ė Following up on Inner City Press exclusive publication of UN Development Program audits of its Law and Order Trust Fund Afghanistan, including double payments and other irregularities, whistleblowers exclusively provided Inner City Press with yet more damning documents.

  Fully ten days after Inner City Press asked UNDP's spokespeople about them, on August 15 they provided a response -- that they are being investigated. In the 18 days since, nothing.

  Now there is a case, or cases, about "ghost consultancies" in Rwanda. The Rwandan News Agency reported on the arrest of

ďfive people in connection with creating ghost consultancy projects and stealing over Rwf580 million from the UNDP - Rwanda. Police Spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner of Police Damas Gatare identified the suspects as Evelyne Ben Dadale, the Programme Associate in UNDP; Viviane Masabo, an employment of REMA; and entrepreneurs Liliane Kente, Jeremie Rucamukibatsi and Michael Kabutura. 'The five were arrested on August 29 and are accused of creating ghost consultancy projects and forging the signature of the Director General of Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA), which they used to secure a total of Rwf580, 270, 483 from UNDP between 2011 and August 2014,' ACP Gatare said. UNDP finances various environmental projects through REMA.Ē

  Inner City Press has asked for details about the projects UNDP funds through REMA; we continue to await that information.

ďThe consultancy was allegedly conducted by Biogas Rec Limited owned by Rucamukibatsi, Envirotech Consult limited jointly owned by Kente and Kabutura and Rwanda Bamboo society of one Johnson Nkusi, who was already in detention over other criminal acts. The created ghost consultancy include the 'Assessment Impact from Community Conservation around Volcanoes National Park' allegedly done in March 2012 and cost over Rwf38.4 million; public environment experience review worth Rwf37.2 million supposedly carried out in December 2013 and 'study on environmental and livelihood impact of fertilizers in Rwanda' allegedly carried out in April this year and took over Rwf29.3 million. 'These are consultancy projects that either never existed or had been canceled by the management of REMA,' he added.Ē

    UNDP's Dylan Lowthian confirmed receipt of Inner City Press' questions about this, and UNDP's Boaz Paldi then sent Inner City Press this, which we publish in full:

Dear Matthew, Please find bellow our rep once on the Rwanda article. You also asked to for more information on the REMA projects and we are working on that, but that information will come from the Rwanda office and may take additional time to gather.

UNDP confirms that the matter raised in an article dated 1 September 2014 is the subject of an on-going investigation by UNDPís Office of Audit and Investigations (OAI).

Consistent with UNDPís zero tolerance for fraud, and in accordance with the organizationís strict Anti-Fraud Policy, a thorough investigation has been initiated, which has included the deployment of a team of investigators to Rwanda.

Investigators conducted Ďon the groundí investigations with entities of interest, including interviews of UNDP staff and vendors. Hundreds of documents were collected and reviewed, and potentially relevant computer-based evidence was seized.

UNDP is coordinating its work with Rwandan authorities.

Certain administrative actions have also been taken by UNDP to mitigate possible risk. At this stage it is too early to provide additional details of the investigation.

   When you combine Afghanistan now with Rwanda, more systemic questions begin to emerge, on which we will have more.

On Afghanistan: on August 15, UNDP belatedly specified that "there is an ongoing investigation related to issues raised in documents published by Inner City Press" - but again uses this as a rationale for the lack of response not only by UNDP but also the UNAMA mission and UN Department of Safety and Security.

   As to what the documents and "issues raised" are, see for now here, here, here and here, exclusively provided to Inner City Press by now-former UNDP staff. There are more documents, one more of which was published today, here.

In it, the same Colonel Bashary who threatened he would not tolerate these accusation turns up on the list of double payments.

  This publication follows four days in which UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, formerly UNDP's spokesman, had not said whether an audit cited as a justification for not answering is the troubling audit completed in February 2014.

  After Inner City Press asked again on August 15, UNDP's Dylan Lowthian provided a response including that

The 'Security Gap Project' (SGAP) which you have previously referred to was established to enhance security for all United Nations personnel working in Afghanistan. SGAP supported the Government to develop dedicated protection services to the United Nations to enable reconstruction, development and humanitarian activities to be carried out.

SGAP closed at the end of 2013. An audit of the project was carried out by Grant Thornton beginning in October 2013 and was completed in January 2014. Upon completion, the audit was issued in February 2014 and in-keeping with our commitment to transparency and accountability, was subsequently published on the UNDP global website, where it is publicly available to download. Audits are an essential part of our control mechanisms. They are conducted in order to identify both strengths and weaknesses in our programs as a way to increase our overall performance.

There is no second audit of the SGAP project.

As outlined by the Deputy Spokesperson at the briefing on Friday 8 August, there is an ongoing investigation related to issues raised in documents published by Inner City Press. In order to avoid jeopardizing the investigation process, the details of investigations are kept confidential and very limited information is made available to offices outside the UNDP Independent Office of Audit and Investigation, until the process of gathering relevant evidence and fact-finding has been completed. Should the matter be substantiated, the evidence gathered by the Office of Audit and Investigation will form the basis of remedial action.

   Inner City Press is informed that now "the heat is on at the Kabul office" -- this is called a cover-up, and retaliation against (the wrong) whistleblowers.

    And can Ban Ki-moon's UN Secretariat's Department of Safety and Security and UNAMA Mission continue hide behind a UNDP investigation that may never be public?

   This despite UNDP Administrator Helen Clark having been subject to formal governmental requests about related UNDP irregularities in Afghanistan in May. Is this any way to run for UN Secretary General?

  The fourth document, exclusively published here, makes even more clear why Bann Ki-moon's Secretariat must respond. The document describes double payments then introduces one "Colonel Bashary," who threatens not to talk about corruption, "I will not tolerate these accusations." Click here to view.

  In Afghanistan as Inner City Press exclusively dug into, UN Security official Louis Maxwell was killed, presumptively by Afghan Forces -- and the UN has obtained zero accountability for this killed staff member. Inner City Press has put questions about Louis Maxwell to Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson, who to his credit responded, and to current Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura, here.

Now: why would the UN be telling a whistle-blower to "just let it be," then refusing to answer?

  The third document, exclusively published here, concerns "'Ghost Staffing' at the UN Protective Force," about which the UN Department of Safety and Security said, "Just let it be for now." Click here to view.

    On August 5, Inner City Press exclusively published this one, linking it to the LOTFA scandal: an official "was again advised that it may be illegal for salaried police officials to take cash payments to augment their salaries" but the adviser was told it was "no longer my priority under LOTFA and that I was no longer to address these issues with DPII or DSS."

  This and the other documents indicate that little was fixed, that UNDP goes after whistleblowers, and does not follow up even when for example it is involved in visa fraud.

   Inner City Press on morning of August 5 asked no fewer than four spokespeople at UNDP, including the personal spokesperson for UNDP Administrator (and UNSG candidate) Helen Clark for their response to the below.

  Inner City Press exclusively published the second document, here: about payments by UNAMA / UNDSS to fully salaried Afghan forces. Click here.

  Both UNAMA and UNDSS are run by Ban Ki-moon's Secretariat, so Ban's spokespeople must answer. UNDP's Helen Clark herself has refused official inquiry about these irregularities. So on August 6 Inner City Press asked UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq:

Inner City Press: The payments by UNDSS (Department of Safety and Security) and UNAMA (United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan) in Afghanistan to members of the Ministry of Interior and other Afghan forces that are already under full salary by the Government. Various documents have come out that show an internal UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) whistle blower seeking to raise these issues within UNDP because, I guess, because as the country team, or whatever. But the documents list, they name UNDSS, they name UNAMA, and basically the person was told, ďDonít raise this anymore.Ē So, I was anticipating you to say ďAsk UNDPĒ. And I have more than 24 hours ago. I donít have any answer from them. But I want to ask you, because the documents are not just about UNDP, but about DSS and UNAMA, is itÖ what are the rules? Is it UNís, DPKOís (Department of Peacekeeping Operations), DPAís (Department of Political Affairs) and DSSís understanding that Afghan forces shouldnít receive out double payments. If this information came to light, I think it did, what was done about it? Thatís my question to you. I donít know if you get an answer today. Is it possible?

Deputy Spokesman Haq: As Iím sure youíve anticipated, and indeed you said you anticipated, yes, Iím aware that UN Development Programme is in touch with you on this. Theyíve informed you that they will get back to you. And so, we will first have to wait for what their reply is. First ask them.

Inner City Press: How long --

Deputy Spokesman: No, no. Itís no use trying to get the two of us talk at cross purposes with each other. UNDP will get back to you.

  That UNDP "is in touch with you" was and is not true: there has been no response at all. The statement UNDP "will get to you" remains unfulfilled. This is today's UN system -- even when UN system staff unions wrote to Ban Ki-moon about Helen Clark, and Inner City Press repeated asked about the letter, there has been no response.

  Here is what Inner City Press asked on August 5, no answer:

This is an Inner City Press Press request on deadline for UNDP's comment / response to the following narrative provided to us by UNDP whistleblowers:

UNDP purchased $100,000 in fuel for a special police unit and it was discovered that some or all of the fuel was stolen by the police. The project manager - chief technical adviser for the project refused to purchase another allocation of fuel due to this reported corruption. Refusing to purchase this additional fuel caused problems between the project manager - chief technical adviser and the chief of UN security in Afghanistan.

This followed with reports that several vehicles purchased by this same UNDP project and given to this same special police unit were not being used for the unit but had instead been given as political gifts or other reasons to other offices of the Afghan government. After giving these vehicles to higher ranking officials the Colonel of this special police unit was promoted to General.

The project manager - chief technical adviser reported this and nothing happened. As part of the review which discovered this the corruption of payments made by the UN security office in Afghanistan to the special police unit was also discovered and reported.

 This is also a request for UNDP response / comment on another issue, of visa overstay, also on deadline:

UNDP's staff from Afghanistan have not returned to their duty station after being granted visas to attend/participate in the recent UN Games in the USA. UNDP supported the official/G4 visas for all of these Afghan nationals and now they have remained behind in the USA... How can the organization justify sending a dozen people half-way around the world to compete in 'UN Games'? How many of them were given business class tickets since the travel exceeds the 9 hour standard? Is this a proper use of public monies? How can an office so critical to the development of Afghanistan in this time of change see it as beneficial for a dozen of their staff to go on a paid junket to the USA?

This is on deadline. This is also a request for UNDP's response to the staff survey and the critique(s) of the restructuring / layoffs.

  On the visas we can for now add: There are 3 more from ELECT Project and 3 to 4 from Information Communications and Technology Unit whom whistleblowers say have also overstayed their visas. Watch this site.


 

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