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In Corrupt UN of Guterres Office of South South Cooperation Absent From UNDP Board Meeting

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive CJR PFT

UNITED NATIONS GATE, May 16 – The extent of corruption in the UN system under Antonio Guterres, who while concealing his links with UN bribery CEFC China Energy has banned the Press which asks, find another example in the Office of South South Cooperation. Today Inner City Press previews the upcoming UNDP Executive Committee meeting, sans OSSC or Chediek - both seemingly beyond accountability, like Guterres himself.

Chediek’s corrupt Office of South- South Cooperation, a recipient of millions of taxpayers voluntary contributions, is the only UNDP office that is not scheduled to appear before member states during the annual session of UNDP’s executive board scheduled over several days late May- early June (schedules here, and here).

Last year, OSSC participated in the executive board and provided updates on supposed progress it made on the issues flagged as a result of the audit of 2016. This year, OSSC will simply submit a report card of its own work.   It’s very odd that the highly scrutinized, taxpayer funded OSSC, which Inner City Press has covered extensively recently on issues including, wasteful and excessive travels of its Director, recruitment fraud, and abuse of power, will not participate in the public accountability exercise like all other Offices in UNDP. In other words, OSSC’s Chediek is apparently beyond accountability, like more and more parts of Guterres' UN.

   While OSSC is responsible for promoting South-South cooperation across the UN development system, Chediek’s Office nevertheless is like any other UNDP entity and falls under its authority. Twelve months after the last board meeting and over $7 million invested in OSSC, why is UNOSSC avoiding the board?  The question to member states is, against all the evidence of corruption at this unreformable Office, why should it remain unaccountable to global taxpayers? By what logic is this Office exempt from appearing at the Annual UNDP executive Board meeting? We'll have more on this.

In February Inner City Press looked with exclusive leaks from within Guterres' declining UN again into the UN Office of South South Cooperation, vehicle for Ng Lap Seng's UN bribery which was followed by the bribery, including with weapons, of Patrick Ho and CEFC China Energy which Guterres is linked to and covers up for. He and his spokesman Stephane Dujarric have violated the promise of Dujarric and Alison Smale that questions about be answered. So here goes: The UN Office of South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC), despite public scrutiny over its failed audit in 2016 and numerous revelations of its dubious activities thereafter, continues its culture of cronyism, abuse of authority and waste of taxpayer’s resources. For a relatively small office, UNOSSC under the leadership of Jorge Chediek symbolizes what is wrong with Guterres' United Nations.  Inner City Press has over the past months revealed evidence of corruption and nepotistic recruitment, wasteful and self-promoting travel, and among other abuses, a total disregard for UNDP’s rules and regulations.   Now Inner City Press reported on how the UNOSSC Director and his cronies fraudulently executed the recruitment of a D-1 Director position in Dubai for the personal benefit of one individual. In this well orchestrated faux recruitment, multiple whistleblowers say, a make-believe process was undertaken with the sole purpose of ensuring that this one individual could rake in over $40,000 in excess cash.   The protagonist in this case, Mr. Edem Bakhshish who is UNOSSC’s regional coordinator for Arab States, Eastern Europe and CIS based in Istanbul, recently landed this new director role in Dubai, quite a leap from his previous P-5 level. So how did Mr. Bakhshish finagle his way into this position? After facilitating the MOU signing between UNOSSC and the World Green Economy Organization (WGEO) last year, Mr. Bakhshish gradually moved to draw up a 2-year WGEO-UNOSSC partnership project worth over $1.8 million. In a suspicious turn of events, over $600,000 in funds for this development project were earmarked for paying the salary of a new director position, who would be hired to manage this project in Dubai, despite the fact that Mr. Bakhshish himself was already managing this project in Istanbul. A chronological set of documents which Inner City Press is exclusively putting online on Scribed here demonstrates that the project was in fact, nothing but a tool to facilitate the path for Mr. Bakhshish to realize his eventual promotion to a UN director-level position.  As more head-scratching events unfolded, Mr. Bakhshish – the sole interlocutor with the project donor WGEO – took the initiative requesting Mr. Chediek to create the new D-1 director position. In his self-serving emails, Mr. Bakhshish himself drafted the job description and a corresponding memo for Mr. Chediek to request the authorization of the UNDP Associate Administrator for creating this new position. While it is unclear as to why it took over two months for the UNDP Associate Administrator to approve this request, it ultimately came in mid-July and a decision was then made to create an interim position first at the P-5 level. The purpose of this interim position was ostensibly to cover a 5-month duration, during which the formal recruitment of the D-1 position was to take place.  The botched recruitment of this interim P-5 was concluded with Mr. Bakhshish predictably being awarded the position, without having to do any technical assessment or interview as UNDP HR policy dictates. Nevertheless, the entire process was a farce. The scoring of the applicants was carried out without following guidelines and conducted entirely arbitrarily. The three-person assessment team for the interim position included the two deputy directors of UNOSSC, and the project donor Mr. Abdul Rahim Al’Qassimi. Moreover, Mr. Al’Qassimi who is a UAE government official, was made a voting member of the assessment team despite the fact that he is neither a UNDP nor UN employee. Mr. Al’Qassimi has also reportedly been given access to UN email accounts.  Mr. Bakhshish was neither the most qualified nor the “best value for money” candidate for this position. And yet recruitment documents reveal scores were assigned arbitrarily, not corresponding to the respective experiences and qualifications of the assessed candidates. The individual scores of the assessment team were assigned entirely at random. Mr. Bakhshish was graded higher than the maximum limit set for a criterion. The summations of scores were apparently irrelevant, as the numbers don’t add up. Several senior-level candidates with more experience and qualifications than Mr. Bakhshish were eliminated in this highly botched recruitment process. That’s how recruitments are usually executed in Mr. Chediek’s UNOSSC.  This entire charade was orchestrated to ensure that Mr. Bakhshish, irrespective of his performance or abilities would be awarded this position, depriving UNDP and WGEO of the most suitable candidate to lead this project in its transitional phase. The decision to create an interim position at the P-5 level was meant to simply facilitate the selection of Mr. Bakhshish, because although the director position was classified at the D-1 level, calling for an interim appointment at that same level would have automatically disqualified Mr. Bakhshish. It begs another question – if a P-5 can successful lead this WGEO project, why was this position classified at the D-1 level in the first place?   Not stopping there, Mr. Bakhshish then took another bold move to propose his preferred living allowance scheme for Dubai, by applying the much higher New York rate. Mr. Chediek continued to happily oblige and approve this lavish living allowance of $8,100 per month for Mr. Bakhshish, who at the same time continued to receive monthly UNDP salary and benefits. Altogether, those numbers brought the sum of Mr. Bakhshish’s monthly compensation close to a whopping $18,000.   For 5 months, Mr. Bakhshish worked in this interim role to serve the purpose of filling in temporarily while the recruitment of the official D-1 position took place. However, no effort was made to conduct the recruitment process during these 5 months. The D-1 vacancy was only advertised towards the end of Mr. Bakhshish’s 5-month assignment. In a truly UNOSSC fashion, this position was advertised on December 21 to deliberately coincide with the Christmas and New Year holidays. There is reason to believe that Mr. Bakhshish is expecting to ultimately assume this self-promoted D-1 position once the recruitment process is completed and after amassing over $40,000 of living allowance as a result of the fraudulent interim recruitment process.  The perils of allowing UNOSSC cronies to continue this behavior for years sends the message that the United Nations lives up to its reputation of being a corrupt social club, where crooked officials receive kickbacks, and individuals of certain racial or national backgrounds need not apply.   Moreover, exorbitant membership fees for this social club are funded by global taxpayer dollars, despite the increasing financial strains the UN development system is currently facing. And it is worth noting that while the Office of South-South Cooperation might not enjoy name recognition with the general public, this Office receives about $7 million annually in core funding from UNDP.  

So the questions remain: How much longer will Achim Steiner’s UNDP continue to ignore this historically corrupt and unreformable Office? Is Mr. Steiner willing to stake his reputation on Mr. Chediek despite numerous cases and evidence of systemic waste and corruption? Why should UNDP donors continue to entrust taxpayers dollars on wasteful and fraudulent UNDP entities such as UNOSSC? We'll have more on this.

 Chronological summary of Edem Bakhshish’s journey to the UN Directors’ club:  

WGEO 2-year partnership project worth over $1.8 millions was created and managed by Edem Bakhshish, UNOSSC’s Regional Coordinator for Arab States, Eastern Europe and CIS (P-5 level) (04/30/18).   Edem Bakhshish requested director Jorge Chediek to approve the creation of WGEO Global Director position (D-1 level) to manage the project in Dubai. This position reports to deputy director Xiaojun Grace Wang. Edem Bakhshish himself drafted the job description, and filled-out the GSSC form meant for requesting the creation of a new position in UNDP (05/16/18).   Jorge Chediek signed Edem Bakhshish’s readily filled GSSC form. Martha Barrientos, UNOSSC’s operations focal point, submitted the form to GSSC (05/18/18). GSSC requested UNOSSC to provide proof of UNDP Executive Office’s clearance for the creation of the new position.    Xiaojun Grace Wang requested Edem Bakhshish and Martha Barrientos to draft a memo to UNDP Executive Office requesting the clearance (05/21/18). Edem Bakhshish himself drafted the memo, which Jorge Chediek signed and sent to UNDP Associate Administrator for clearance.    Jorge Chediek informed Xiaojun Grace Wang of the clearance and requested her to proceed with recruiting an interim director (P-5 level) for 5 months – a detail assignment – during this time the recruitment of WGEO Global Director position (D-1 level) to take place. Xiaojun Grace Wang informed Office of Human Resources (OHR) of both the WGEO Global Director position (D-1 level) and the 5-month interim detail assignment (07/23/18).  

Instead of recusing himself from the recruitment preparation process in which he would be an applicant, Edem Bakhshish directly informed and requested the project donor approval of UNOSSC’s decision to create the 5-month interim detail assignment, the donor’s approval. Edem Bakhshish himself also proposed a Dubai monthly living allowance of $8,100 to be charged to the project and requested the donor’s approval. WGEO Director General approved both requests (07/26/18).   OHR circulated the announcement of the interim detail assignment internally within UNDP with short deadline duration of 4 business days (07/27/18). There are discrepancies in the job descriptions between the approved WGEO Global Director position (D-1 level) and the detail assignment (P-5 level). Discrepancies include downgrading level from D-1 to P-5, downgrading minimum years of experience from 10 to 7 years, downgrading of duties and responsibilities by eliminating “oversight and technical leadership to WGEO programming”, as well as “other representational responsibilities.” Edem Bakhshish submitted his application for this interim detail assignment.    Martha Barrientos sent application documents to a three-person assessment team to conduct the desk review of 8 candidates, at 8:02 pm Dubai time on Friday (08/03/18).

A desk review is internal UNDP recruitment process that assesses candidates without an interview or written test. The assessment team included UNOSSC’s deputy directors Xiaojun Grace Wang and Tarik Iziraren, and WGEO Director General Abdul Rahim Al’Qassimi.    WGEO Director General replied to Martha Barrientos with results at 4:06 am New York time the following day, corresponding to 12:00 pm Dubai time (08/04/18).

His review of 8 senior-level candidates was completed within the span of one Saturday morning. Overall in an unusually speedy process, the desk review of 8 candidates was completed by the three-person assessment team within a total of two business days.    Martha Barrientos compiled the results in a table, which showed a miscalculated score, two scores given in excess of the maximum limit allowed for one criterion, and a completely arbitrary scoring across 7 criteria and across 8 candidates. One candidate, an African woman, a former UNDP Resident Coordinator at D-1 level with extensive experience in programme management, resource mobilization, representation responsibilities, with PhD degree and extensive work experience in the Arab region, was repeatedly scored lower than Edem Bakhshish in all criteria.    Jorge Chediek signed the desk review outcome document. Edem Bakhshish received the highest score and was selected for the interim detail assignment (08/07/18).  

In another bizarre twist to this saga, only after having commenced the detail assignment for two weeks, Edem Bakhshish himself proposed to his directors his preferred monthly living allowance in Dubai based on the New York rate (08/30/18). In this most likely unprecedented move, a formula was concocted to allow Edem Bakhshish to claim $8,100 monthly as living expenses in addition to his current UNDP salary and benefits, which totals to nearly $18, 000 monthly. Cumulatively for the 5 months, this amount came close to $90,000. As a result, Edem Bakhshish’s compensation for these 5 months far exceeded a D-1 salary in Dubai, and almost doubled his previous P-5 salary in Istanbul.    Jorge Chediek and Xiaojun Grace Wang approved the monthly living allowance of $8,100 proposed by Edem Bakhshish (09/07/18).  

During these 5 months, no attempt was made to recruit the WGEO Global Director position (D-1 level). The position was only advertised at the end of Edem Bakhshish’s detail assignment (12/21/18), with a total application duration of two weeks, which included two weekends as well as Christmas and New Year holidays. As mentioned, there are discrepancies between the recently advertised position and the originally job description approved by UNDP Executive Office and GSSC. Discrepancies include changing level from D-1 to P-6, increasing minimum years of experience from 10 to 15 years. Edem Bakhshish applied for this position and was short-listed...

  We'll have more on this.


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