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As UNOPS Wants New Posts, Hides Procurement Audit and Mattsson's Disclosure

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

UNITED NATIONS, January 19 -- With the world and UN in a financial crisis, an obscure operations arm of the UN, the Office of Project Services (UNOPS) has proposed new Assistant Secretary General and Director-level posts, drawing a rebuke and adverse recommendation by the UN Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Matters. Click here for that.

  But apparently that won't matter: sources say that UNOPS Executive Director Jan Mattsson wants the new posts to dole out to gain political favor, including perhaps the top position at the UN Development Program, being vacated by Kemal Dervis. The fix may be in with Ban Ki-moon as well. In preparation is a Secretary General's Bulletin which would give Mattsson even more autonomy on personnel matters.  It should be noted that Mattsson has not even followed Ban's call to make basic public financial disclosure - click here for Mattsson's refusal.

  Monday at the UN, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesperson Michele Montas if the Secretariat thinks it's appropriate for UNOPS to create these new high level posts, and if so why. Montas did not directly answer, saying instead that "UNDP has its own governing board... They will discuss and reach decisions." Video here, from Minute 15:03.

   But Ban is at the top of the system, and said he would reform it. Instead, he has allowed and even encouraged wasteful fiefdoms. He claims he has no power, while quietly preparing a Bulletin to belatedly make that the fact.

UNOPS' Mattsson in Liberia, at right, financial disclosure not shown

  Internal sources, beyond telling Inner City Press that "obviously, this generosity to all UNOPS directors are caused by the need for the ED and Deputy ED [Vitaly Vanshelboim] to have many D2s reporting to them so that they could justify the upgrade of themselves" is "a slap in the face to the common UNOPS staff who have borne cuts and dismissal for some time," tell of a damning audit of UNOPS performed as one of the final acts of the UN Procurement Task Force.

   A source tells Inner City Press that "a copy of the report was recently given to Mattsson - as I understood, that is the only current distribution. Member states may possibly be able to request a copy - eventually. The cost of the investigation was several $100 thousand (probably between $0.5 and 1 million) which will be charged to the troubled agency."

  UNOPS has already been embroiled in corruption scandals, including firing whistleblowers at its Dubai hub and soliciting and spending a slush fund in connection with its shift of jobs from New York to Copenhagen, along with irregularities in the use of Daily Sustenance Allowance. Since Mattsson refuses financial disclosure, would his Deputy Vitaly Vanshelboim be expect to disclose, if given a promotion to Assistant Secretary General?

  Most recently, reports from Afghanistan indicate UNOPS involvement in a European-funded hospital that never in fact was built as described. UNOPS stonewalls the press. In fact, its web site does not include contact information for any spokesperson. The UNOPS website brags that it has apppointed its own Ethics Office to protect whistleblower from retailiation, but does not provide contact information for or even the name of the supposed Ethics Officer.

  Inner City Press is told of, within UNOPS, a "scadalous violation of employee rights, which makes a mockery of the internal justice system." More on this anon. 

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

Click here for Inner City Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo

Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on UN, bailout, MDGs

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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