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UNDP Fires At Whistleblower, Shoots Own Foot, Demotion of Memo's Author Ignored

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

UNITED NATIONS, September 12 -- The UN Development Program belatedly put online on Wednesday a legal memo acknowledging the appearance of retaliation against a whistleblower, after two media outlets, including Inner City Press had already reported it. UNDP also issued a press release, which the whistleblower immediately exposed as factually-challenged. UNDP states that

 Mr. Shkurtaj was able to meet with and be interviewed by the UN Board of Auditors team on two occasions before his contract lapsed.  Following these meetings the audit team informed UNDP that it had no further need to meet with Mr. Shkurtaj.   It was therefore not necessary for UNDP to extend arrangements for Mr. Shkurtaj's services, and his contract lapsed on 26 March 2007, per the terms of the consultancy contract, and as he had been previously notified that it would.

            Mr. Shkurtaj, however, states that he met with the Board of Auditors March 26, and he asks how the Board, which never even got into North Korea, could say it had no need for the UN's operations manager for North Korea.

            In fact, sources say that UNDP did everything possible to prevent the Board from speaking with the whistleblower, by for example not including his name on a list of people the Board should speak with. UNDP states

Mr. Shkurtaj maintains that he was retaliated against for “blowing the whistle” on irregularities in UNDP's program in DPRK.  UNDP takes all claims of retaliation or other misconduct very seriously.  At the same time, UNDP notes that it is incumbent on individuals making such claims to cooperate with UNDP’s investigation of them.  UNDP has invited Mr. Skurtaj to meet with and submit all relevant information to the UNDP office charged with undertaking inquiries, but he has declined to do so. 

            Mr. Shkurtaj states, and has shown, that he offered to speak with this UNDP office, under the sole condition that a representative of the UNDP Staff Union accompany him, as is routine in such situations. UNDP refused; the whistleblower and the UNDP Staff Union went to the UN Ethics Office.

UNDP's Dervis: at whistleblowers, continued firing

            Glaringly absent from UNDP's press release is any mention that the author of the memo, James Provenzano, was himself retaliated again, by demotion within UNDP. Sources say that last week, Provenzano prepared to himself approach the Ethics Office as a whistleblower, seeking protection from retaliation.

            As to the UNDP whistleblower who was fired by UNDP Turkey, the following has arrived:

As a staff member in Turkey, I remember this case very well, but there is no hope for reform I'm afraid. The current head of UNDP here -  Mahmood Ayub - is an old friend of Mr. Dervis's from the World Bank. Rather cozy arrangement, eh?

            So is the relations between Dervis and Melkert and the "experts panel" they selected. And yet UNDP denies its various entanglements. When Inner City Press on Wednesday asked UNDP's Guido Schmidt-Traub about Denmark's statement at the previous day's UNDP Executive Board meeting, that "there are forces that wouldn't mind if no Strategic Plan comes out of this week... this would divert voluntary contributions to the World Bank," all he said was, You should ask Denmark. But they are presiding over UNDP's board. Some oversight...

  Again, 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.

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

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