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In Dakar, More Retaliation by UN Development Program, Climate Change Used for Sole Source Contracts

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
Click here for exclusive copy of Koumoin letter to UN Ethics Office

UNITED NATIONS, September 4 -- Retaliation by the UN Development Program, a topic recently raised to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in connection with irregularities in UNDP's North Korea programs, has also occurred in Africa. Mathieu Koumoin refused pressure from his UNDP supervisors to steer on a sole source basis to favor entities in France and Quebec $8 million in funding to address climate change in 40 African countries. According to Mr. Koumoin's counsel Jeanne Marie Col, interviewed by Inner City Press on Tuesday, since his refusal to violate UNDP's own procurement rules, a post-hoc negative evaluation of Mr. Koumoin's work was prepared, he was let go and barred from his office. He is "hiding out in fear" in a small hotel in Dakar, and has just raised his case directly to the UN Ethics Office, which is purportedly in charge of prohibiting retaliation against whistleblowers in the UN System.

     Click here for an Inner City Press exclusive copy of the Koumoin letter to UN Ethics Office, which has also been sent to Ban senior advisors Kim Won-soo, Department of Management's Alicia Barcena and Office of Internal Oversight Services' Inga-Britt Ahlenius, among others.

            Mathieu-Credo Koumoin is an electrical engineer previously employed by the African Development Bank, with a PhD in development economics, a native of Cote d'Ivoire, who actually believes in what UNDP claims to accomplish: building capacity in developing countries. For that reason, after he helped raise $30 million in technical assistance funding for the West African Project on Climate Change (Index 888036), with the expectation of even more anti-global warming implementation funds through UNDP's Global Environmental Facility, he was surprising and offended when superiors in the GEF, headed by Frank Pinto regarding whose UNDP-funded junket to Goa Inner City Press has previously reported, ordered Mr. Koumoin to "steer" $8 million on a sole source basis to companies in Paris and Canada. "How does that increase capacity in Africa?" asks Ms. Col, his counsel.

            Mr. Koumoin has written that "the activities requested by my line Management violated basic rules of UN/UNDP procurement with respect to transparency, competition and accountability, as the African countries for which the funds were intended in the first place were being left in the dark." Mr. Koumoin blew the whistle, to the top of UNDP, and then was let go and is now being further retaliated against.

Dakar, Senegal, where UNDP retaliation has targeted whistleblower Mathieu Koumoin

            Ms. Col is now representing Mr. Koumoin before the UN's Joint Appeals Board, and is the contact on the submission to Robert Benson, the head of the UN's Ethics Office, which states among other things that

"In absence of an Ethics Office within the UNDP, and of a functional whistleblower policy as well as independent internal control and oversight mechanisms, I believe that I deserve to have my case reviewed by the United Nations Ethics Office, which is the only one mechanisms established and recognized by UN Member States, equipped to provide internal administrative review and protection from retaliation and I am so requesting."

   Mr. Benson spent 72 days investigating the case of UNDP whistleblower Tony Shkurtaj, who was retaliated against after reporting UNDP's payments to the Kim Jong-il government in North Korea for employees nominated by the government. As first reported by Inner City Press, on August 17 Mr. Benson wrote to UNDP's Administrator Kemal Dervis and to Ban Ki-moon, asking to be allowed to proceed with his investigation of UNDP, "for the good of the UN." UNDP has refused, and is currently moving to nominate its own investigator. According to "terms of reference" first reported on by Inner City Press, Kemal Dervis will nominate three possible investigators, and from within this UNDP-selected universe of three, the selection will be made by the president of UNDP's Executive Board, Denmark's Ambassador Carsten Staur, to whom Inner City Press directed questions on September 4.

            On August 31, Inner City Press reported that moves were afoot in UNDP to move 61 jobs from New York to Denmark, creating a conflict of interest. Since then, reportedly, UNDP has demanded to know the source of this leak, and has significantly reduced outside access to its web site. We will have more on Denmark's job-luring strategies, and relatedly on another UNDP whistleblower. For now, Mr. Koumoin suffers UNDP's unfettered retaliation, and in New York the questions grow: will UNDP set up a separate investigator for each of the whistleblowers it targets?

            At Tuesday's noon briefing, Ban's spokesperson Michele Montas was asked if the issues of the UNDP whistleblower(s) and the two staff union resolutions first reported on by Inner City Press came up during Ban's retreat in Turin, which was purportedly about reform. Ms. Montas stated that

The Secretary-General has received that resolution by the UN staff.  He certainly is studying it.  Whether this was discussed at the Turin meeting no, it was not.  What were discussed were much larger issues, concerning, for instance, reforms in general.  Of course, the idea of the Ethics Office, but not specifically that one issue, but the idea of the Ethics Office's jurisdiction, of course, it was discussed among the reform issues, but not specifically on the whistle-blower issue.  What was discussed again was risk assessment, peace and security issues, a more integrated UN role.  They discussed the prevention of conflict, they discussed communications.  They also discussed working with private sector partners.

            Someone, then, is asleep at the switch. Now with the stakes raised, including in this filing to Ban's Ethics Office and senior advisor Kim Won-soo, can this Secretary-General who claims to be about cleaning up the UN, and about concrete cases and results, continue to turn a blind eye? We'll see.

* * *

Clck here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army (which had to be finalized without Ban's DPA having respond.)  Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent 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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