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In Pakistan, UNDP Awards No-Bid Contract For Disputed Election, UN Dodges Questions

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

UNITED NATIONS, October 30 -- Even in Pakistan, a country beset by electoral disputes as well as terrorism, the UN Development Program bends its own rules, on issues as important as the provision of technical assistance to elections, as shown by an internal waiver of competition memo obtained by Inner City Press and placed online here. Earlier this year, after General Pervez Musharraf announced elections, UNDP according to the memo decided it would "engage a recuritment [sic] agency to undertake hiring and provision of training coordinators for organizing training of polling officials workshops under Support to National Election Project (SNEP)."  One part of the amorphous mandate claimed by UNDP is to preach transparency including in procurement: the solicitation and weighing of competitive bids before funds are spent. But in this case, on a project involving national elections, UNDP decided internally to waive its procurement rules, and award the $916,000 contract directly to Anjum Asim Shahid Associates (AASA). The scope of the contract, set forth in the memo, filled with typographical errors, includes

Development of Recuritment [sic] plan and identification of coordiantors [sic] through placing advertisement in the newspapers;

2. Short listing of candidates and development of selection cirteria [sic]

3. Conducting interviws [sic] in the field at major towns;

4. Final selection and contract signing (between the firm and the sucessful [sic] candidates).

            To accomplish these tasks, "companies contacted in this regard were Bright Sphere, CATCOSS, HR Global and Pioneer. However, of these companies identified from market research only HR Global were able to meet the minimum pre qualification criteria," the memo says -- that is, the criteria were established such that only one company, purportedly, met them. This too is spun in the memo, "the market research findings have shown that there are very few HR companies (with audited accounts) in Pakistan as this specialization of outsourcing of HR services has been introduced recently."

            Another UNDP memo shoots down the other four listed companies, saying of the first that "Brightspyre was reluctant to conduct interviews in the filed" [sic].

Pakistan UN Country Team, "led" by UNDP, no-bid contracts not shown

            UNDP presents itself as a "premier organization," a preacher of transparency in procurement. The wider UN has been discussing, according to its spokespeople, how to provide greater transparency into the internal workings, particularly financial, of its agencies, funds and programs. And yet when Inner City Press on Tuesday at the UN's noon briefing asked if the UN system is providing technical assistance to the electoral process in Pakistan, and, explicitly, if this was being done on a sole source basis (video here, from Minute 14:38), the response, presumably from UNDP but through the UN Spokesperson's Office, entirely ignored the part of the question about procurement:

Subj: Your question at noon on Pakistan
From: unspokesperson-donotreply [at]
To: matthew.lee [at]
Date: 10/30/2007 12:48:42 PM Eastern Standard Time

 UNDP has a program to support the work of Pakistan's Electoral Commission. That includes support for its capacity-building, as well as a program to support the Electoral Commission in including the participation of women and marginalized groups.

            Despite the explicit question about if a non-competitive contract was let for the UN's Pakistan electoral work, that question is ignored. But the documents speak for themselves.

  Ironically, Pakistan is one of the eight pilot countries (along with Albania, Cape-Verde, Rwanda, Tanzania, Mozambique, Vietnam, Uruguay) for the proposed "One UN" structure, which would put UNDP in an even more central position in the UN's operations. Developing.

* * *

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

  Because a number of Inner City Press' UN sources go out of their way to express commitment to serving the poor, and while it should be unnecessary, Inner City Press is compelled to conclude this installment in a necessarily-ongoing series by saluting the stated goals of the UN agencies and many of their staff. Keep those cards, letters and emails coming, and phone calls too, we apologize for any phone tag, but please continue trying, and keep the information flowing.

Feedback: Editorial [at]

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UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540