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UNDP Whitewashing Somalia Whistleblower's Claims, Resists UN Ethics Office on Backpay for N. Korea Whistleblower

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

UNITED NATIONS, July 1 -- While the UN Development Program is resisting the recommendation by the UN Ethics Office, supported by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, that it pay 14 months compensation to the whistleblower who exposed irregularities in its North Korea programs, a fresh whistleblower about the steering of contracts by KPMG by UNDP's Somalia's program complains his case is being covered up and whitewashed. 

  Ismail Ahmed, about whose claims Inner City Press reported in May, now relates mid-stream how UNDP arranges a cover-up, with multiple interrogators and Dutch connections, hoping it will all die down and go away.

UNDP's Kemal Dervis signing, backpay and credible Somalia investigation not shown

 Since as even the UN Ethics Office found with regard to the North Korea case, UNDP's own investigations do not provide due process to whistleblowers, do not allow their side of the story to be told, we tell this Somalia story in this space:

Last month we learned from OIOS that they were not going to take jurisdiction of my case. It appears that they were keen to investigate the case but UNDP resisted. Before we appealed to OIOS, UNDP Office of Audit and Investigation (OAI) assigned Kevin Curtis to investigate my case. Kevin Curtis was the same investigator who in March 2006 cleared KPMG following my anonymous complaint despite overwhelming evidence of bid rigging, conflict of interest, improper relationship between KPMG and UNDP country office management. He received an incontrovertible evidence of fraud and corruption but for some reason his report cleared the country office and KPMG of any wrongdoing. The fact that they asked the same investigator to produce another whitewash was one of the reasons we appealed to OIOS.

After I went public with my disclosure, they appointed a Dutch firm ( to investigate both the issue of retaliation and my allegation of fraud and corruption. I do not believe OAI (or a firm subcontracted by OAI) would do a credible investigation but we have decided that I should meet with them and cooperate to avoid further allegations of non-cooperation. Even while we were waiting for a response from OIOS, OAI accused me of failing to cooperate with their investigation.

I met an investigator from IRS who interviewed in the second week of June. When I Googled his name I found out that he was a former Dutch police officer. Interestingly one of the senior Partners of the firm UNDP hired to assist OAI in the investigations is Maarten de Jong - "founder and first director of the department of Institutional Integrity of the World Bank in Washington , D.C. from 2001 – 2006", according to the firm's website.... Also the person who was responsible for most of the retaliatory actions I faced including the ending of my contract is a Dutch national. His name is Eric Overvest and he is the Deputy Country Director, UNDP Somalia. It looks that Ad Melkert who visited the country office in October 2007 approved the decision to close down the remittance program and end my contract. Therefore the decision to hire a Dutch firm for this case itself raises questions.

When the Dutch investigators were at the country office in Nairobi, Eric Overvest, who is a subject of the investigation of retaliation and fraud, was effectively managing the investigations. For example, he coached witnesses and intimidated those he suspected would [give] an independent account of what they witnessed. So many of the witnesses got the wrong impression that Eric Overvest himself hired his fellow countrymen to do the investigation for him.

To complicate matters further they have now appointed a new head of the Ethics Office, Elia Armstrong (Canadian / Korean), who replaces Mr. Bhalla. This will now further delay my case because when she starts work in two weeks time, she will need sometime to fully understand the case... I'll keep you updated.

  We'll have more on this. We note that this same Kevin Curtis interrogated yet another UNDP whistleblower, up to demanding to know what websites the person read, including Inner City Press. For now, from the UN's transcript of Tuesday's noon briefing consider this exchange regarding the North Korea whistleblower:

Spokesperson Montas: It is Mr. Benson's review.

Inner City Press: He recommends strongly that UNDP pays 14 months back pay to the whistleblower.  Does the Secretary-General stand behind that recommendation?  Should UNDP in fact pay that money, or are they free to rebuff that recommendation?

Spokesperson Montas:  We will see what is going to happen.  The Secretary-General of course is behind Mr. Benson on his report.  There is no doubt about it.  What UNDP will do, we will be seeing this; how they will implement that report.

  There is one problem with the transcription, when compared to the Real video: Ms. Montas said "We trust Mr. Benson's review," not "It is Mr. Benson's review." Video here, at Minute 15:16. But will UNDP nevertheless rebuff the Ethics Office recommendation of backpay for the North Korea whistleblower, and separately continue to bury Mr. Ahmed's case about Somalia?  Back in May, about Somalia, UNDP's spokesman told Inner City Press that

"We take Ismail Ahmed's allegations seriously and that's why we're examining them thoroughly. I will not get into the details of responding to Mr. Ahmed's accusations at this point as this would prejudge the outcome of the investigator's work."

  But how long do these things take? Separately, how can UNDP, whose Administrator Kemal Dervis came to brag about the Nemeth report a day after receiving it, now claim he must continue to study the Ethics Office's merely eight-page report? We'll  see -- watch this site.

Footnote: Also for comparison's sake, t is worth considering UNDP's defense of Eveline Herfkens, who took $280,000 from the Dutch government while ostensibly working for UNDP, with New Zealand military personnel who, exposed for similar double dipping, are facing court martial. "Prime Minister Helen Clark said on Tuesday... it was intolerable for Defense Force personnel on United Nations postings to double-dip on their housing allowances. 'It will be got to the bottom of, and those responsible will be dealt with. If there's been wrong done there must be action taken.'" Herfkens, on the other hand, refused to pay back any of the money, and UNDP continues to defend 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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