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At the UN, Mobility on Hold, ASGs Extended, Melkert Spins Wolfowitz Back

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

UNITED NATIONS, April 18, updated April 20 -- With Ban Ki-moon, it was all supposed to be about movement. Mobility was the word: that to reinvigorate the UN, staff should be able to apply for jobs in other parts of the system, in different countries, and merit would rule. Fresh blood, too, was solicited. Mr. Ban asked over 50 senior officials to submit their resignations.  As a symbol of mobility, twelve jobs were advertised for on the UN's online Galaxy system, including a speechwriter's post. Anyone could apply, and merit would rule.

            Thus far none of the 12 mobility posts has been filled. Mr. Ban's chief of staff told Inner City Press last week that more applications are being sought, "for better geographical balance." A particular D-1 post in the Secretariat, to replace Lilia Amores-Mantas (may she rest in peace) as Executive Officer, has been re-opened for applications, while keeping the original "date of issuance." During the initial 15 day period, two candidates were technically qualified, were interviewed but the decision was made to seek more applicants. The job includes... helping the chief of staff, and that one

"Ensures actions are in compliance with established operational procedures for recruitment, transfer, placement and separation of staff, promotions as well as mobility and career development; gender equality and staff-management relations etc, taking into account also the discretionary power of the Secretary-General provided to him by the General Assembly as per Resolutions 51/226, Section 2, paragraph 5 and 57/305, paragraph VIII.... Handle administrative arrangements for appointment of senior advisers or special envoys, and the setting up of high-level panels, advisory groups or other temporary arrangements as requested by the Secretary-General... Provide support in the maintenance of the Secretary-General's official residence, on the utilization of hospitality resources, and on any other ad hoc matters that may arise."

            While the official residence remain empty and under repair, this last part of the job is easy lifting. On "envoys," Ban Ki-moon has yet to review or re-appoint Kofi Annan's Special Representatives to various UN missions. The Cote d'Ivoire post, for example, is open. Insiders say it was offered to Sashi Tharoor but he turned it down, with an eye on the private sector, reportedly a Dubai-based company going business in India. The higher profile Sudan post has sat empty since the blogging envoy Jan Pronk was expelled.

            Most interesting about the job announcement above is who reportedly applied for it: the acting head of the Ethics Office, Nancy Hurtz-Soyka. Why would the head of ethics be looking to decamp? Recently a UNDP staffer went to the office, complaining he was about to be fired for speaking to the press. He was told that the Ethics office was too busy, under-staffed. Now the head is jumping ship? Whither ethics at the UN? [See April 20 update, below.]

DSG and Ethics staff -- Nancy Hurtz-Soyka is fifth from left, and on the move?

            Wednesday afternoon word began to spread that many of the Assistant Secretaries General on tenterhooks have been given two year extensions. Names including Controller Warren Sach and the head of Human Resources Jan Beagle, long in the crosshairs of the Staff Union, but still apparently hanging on. And so they say, what about mobility? What about nobility? Neither has been implemented.

            UNDP's Associate Administrator Ad Melkert, who hired an assistant from his political party, the Dutch Labor Party, and who is in the chain of command which strikes at whistleblowers, has now issued more formally his version of his role in l'affaire Wolfowitz:

Statement by Ad Melkert, 17 April 2007

As the former Chair of the Ethics Committee, I reject any direct allegation or suggestion that the Ethics Committee was aware or should have been aware of the terms and conditions of Ms. Riza’s contract for her secondment outside of the World Bank.

The following facts are relevant for clarification of different roles and responsibilities.

 The Ethics Committee of the Executive Board, on the basis of established procedures, advises on ethics matters involving Board members, including the President of the Board. It is an exclusively advisory body that cannot assume responsibilities belonging to individual Board members or the Executive Board or the Board of Governors as statutory organs. The responsibility to advise on staff issues resides with management and other bodies at the Bank.

 In the case involving President Wolfowitz and his partner, the precise role of the Ethics Committee was to advise – not instruct -- Mr. Wolfowitz, as a member of the Board, including in his responsibilities as Executive Head of Management, on options for terminating professional contact between himself and the staff member concerned.  Given its remit, it was never expected, nor would it have been appropriate, for the Ethics Committee to have had any involvement in the terms and conditions of any arrangement for the staff member.

 The Ethics Committee did not consider sufficient Mr. Wolfowitz’s proposal to recuse himself from dealing with Ms. Riza. It advised him to ensure that she would not any longer be under the scope of his authority and to consider different options for the staff member: either a position within the Bank beyond the scope of his authority (such as the Evaluation Group) or a secondment outside the Bank or a separation -- in all cases with a possible arrangement that might take into account compensation for the interruption of the staff member’s career at the Bank.

 As the Ethics Committee can not and should not deal directly with staff matters, its responsibility was to advise the President on options, and it was then up to the President to instruct relevant managers on how to proceed. Technical documents provided by Bank management to the Ethics Committee had given rise to the expectation that in pursuing any of the potential options, normal practice and relevant staff rules would be taken as the guideline for implementation.  It was Mr. Wolfowitz’s decision not only to instruct the Vice President of Human Resources to settle the matter, but also to direct the terms and conditions.

 Mr. Wolfowitz informed me on 12 August 2005 that he had decided that the potential conflict of interest would be solved by having the staff member detailed outside of the Bank.  After and because this had been implemented, I informed him on 24 October 2005 that the Ethics Committee considered the matter closed.  At no time did Mr. Wolfowitz or anyone else in Bank management disclose to the Ethics Committee the terms and conditions of the external assignment. Whether or not the terms and conditions were reasonable, in the context of the Bank’s standing practice, was entirely management’s responsibility.

  The advice of the Ethics Committee (to consider having the staff member redeployed beyond the authority of the President and to take into consideration appropriate compensation for the interruption in her career) was a good faith effort to meet some of the personal concerns (of Mr. Wolfowitz in his personal relationship) whilst saving the Bank from a damaging ongoing debate on the potential conflict of interest.
There are also different perceptions on the role of the Ethics Committee relating to anonymous emails received by all Board Members in January and February 2006.  The Ethics Committee reviewed the matter as follows
 In the case of Ms. Riza the Ethics Committee was not in a position to comment on any salary increase for the same reason that led to its earlier conclusion that it could not become involved in the original negotiation of her terms and conditions, i.e. these were the responsibility of management.

 The cases of Ms. Cleveland, Mr. Kellems and Mr. Jackson centered on management decisions vis-à-vis staff and therefore did not pertain to the Ethics Committee’s role.  For that reason the Ethics Committee informed Mr. Wolfowitz that they did not appear to pose ethical issues appropriate for further consideration by the Committee.  

            As some some folk wisdom has it, if it takes you 700 words to say "I didn't do it," maybe you did it... Click here for Inner City Press' previous story on Melkert's role, none of which the above contradicts or even contests. But it sure is long. And mobile, too. It has.... mobility.

Update of April 20: Regarding the UN Ethics Office staffing and statement(s), the following has been received from UN Associate Spokesman Farhan Haq:

"The Ethics Office, which opened its doors on 2 January 2006 has been fully staffed and effectively implementing the policy areas under its mandate. At no time did a UNDP staff member approach the Ethics Office with this complaint and no such response was ever given to any staff member seeking the assistance of the Ethics Office."

  We will have more on this, some of it goes back to a question posted to UNDP on March 25 and re-posed to the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary General on April 14 and still not answered -- watch this site.

    Again, because a number of Inner City Press' UN and World Bank 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 system 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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At UNDP, Ad Melkert's Political Hiring Rivals Wolfowitz's, World Bank Documents Disclosed

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

UNITED NATIONS, April 14 -- The World Bank has released documents which show that Ad Melkert, then chairman of the World Bank Ethics Committee and now Associate Administrator of the UN Development Program, was, contrary to last week's claims deeply involved in the granting of promotions and pay raises to Paul Wolfowitz' girlfriend Shaha Riza. Click here for the documents.

            In last Saturday's edition of the Financial Times, which has called for Wolfowitz' resignation,  Melkert's spokesman was quoted that it was "entirely up to management to determine the specific terms and conditions of the placement" and that Melkert and  the other members of the ethics committee "were not aware of, nor did they approve, the details of the agreement".

  But a July 22, 2005 document since released by the World Bank

"The Committee therefore decided that the best possible option to be conveyed to the Requestor would be one in which the staff member concerned is reassigned on external service or to a position beyond the potential supervision of the Requestor and, at the same time, due to the potential disruption of the staff member's concerned career, an in situ promotion should be considered. This advice would be communicated by the Requestor to the Vice President, MNA and the Vice President, Human Resources.  The Committee believed this was an appropriate course of action , especially since this matter could be potentially damaging to the interests of the World Bank Group.  It was agreed that the Chairman would continue informal discussions with the Requestor with the view to finding an appropriate solution to the matter."

   Inner City Press understands that Mr. Melkert and his spokesman, left unnamed by the FT, were last week presented with a choice between accepting blame for the Riza raises or, in essence, throwing Wolfowitz under the bus. Melkert not surprisingly chose the latter route, apparently in the hopes that contrary documents would not be released, or would emerge only after a Wolfowitz resignation. Melkert must also have hoped that no one would consider his own unexplained human resources irregularities.

    Prior to his time at the World Bank, Ad Melkert was a politician with the Dutch Labor Party. Having lost out to Kemal Devis to head UNDP, Melkert took the slot as Dervis' second in command.  Melkert was assigned an assistant, Georgina Fekete. This wasn't enough, so brought into UNDP as Mr. Melkert's second assistant was Mr. Eelco Keij, who just happens to be the New York secretary of the Dutch Labor Party. Click here for that, and here for Mr. Keij's Labor Party blog.

            It was raised to Inner City Press by UNDP staff that there are ethical issues with Mr. Melkert hiring with UNDP money, and outside of the normal, competitive channels, the New York secretary of the political party he used to serve. In March, Inner City Press directed an e-mail requesting an explanation to Mr. Melkert, Mr. Keij, UNDP's spokesman David Morrison, Administrator Kemal Dervis, and others, stating that the question was on deadline.  There was no response, even after the question was reiterated to Mr. Melkert and Mr. Keij, and request was made at a subsequent UN noon briefing on March 26 to put the question to Mr. Melkert in person before or after he met with UN Deputy Secretary General Migiro.

Ad Melkert: living in a glass house

  From the March 26 UN noon briefing transcript:

Inner City Press: And the other thing is: I noticed on the Deputy Secretary-General's meeting with Ad Melkert of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) this afternoon... I guess I want to know the purpose of that, and whether we could speak to either or both of them before or after, given the North Korea-UNDP situation, and we also have a question for the UNDP about some hiring by Mr. Melkert.  So, it would be very timely if you could at least put in a request for a brief stakeout.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Sure.

            Melkert declined to speak with the press that day. Two days later, Inner City Press broke a story about UNDP senior officials being summoned to the U.S. Attorney's Office in UNDP's North Korea hard currency and counterfeit scandal. Since then, including in response to a detailed written request submitted to Melkert and others on April 12, Melkert and his spokesman David Morrison have refused to comment not only on Melkert's hiring of Eelco Keij of the Dutch Labor Party, and on developments in UNDP's North Korea scandals, but also on UNDP's alleged support of controversial gold mines in Romania and on UNDP acceding to Gambia's president's mystification of HIV / AIDS.

     Prior to this 2007 stonewalling from Melkert, he had previously tried to position himself as a force for transparency within UNDP. In a December 15, 2006, press conference at the UN, Melkert answered Inner City Press that "I'd like to bring our transparency in line with the UN procedure." This answer came after UNDP had refused to provide copies or even summaries of audits of its admittedly troubled Russian Federation office, and after Inner City Press pointed out that the UN Secretariat at least provides full copies to any of the 192 member states which make a request. Mr. Melkert added, "That should be normal... Talking about transparency, the best criteria for me is my own transparency.. I'm looking into that right now." Video here, from Minute 45:46.

            Inner City Press inquired into a meeting Mr. Melkert held on December 1 with the staff of UNDP's Poverty Group, concerning steps taken to bend or break UNDP hiring rules. Having just referred to transparency, Mr. Melkert nevertheless began with the "hope you are not going to ask me about all the meeting that I've had." He continued that "for this exception case, yes, this First December meeting, I was... It was a managerial decision to merge, it's my responsibility, everybody can and should work with that. With respect to staff rules, we have tried to make the best out of that."

    UNDP's hiring of Eelco Keij of the Dutch Labor Party is another example of Melkert "making the best" of the UNDP rules -- that is, bending or breaking them, as is alleged of Wolfowitz at the World Bank. While on December 15 confirming much of what Inner City Press sources have said about the December 1 meeting, Melkert denied that he has told staff not to speak to the press. Now he himself avoids the press, while dissembling through a spokesman about his role in human resources irregularities at his previous employer. Will it work? Time will tell.

On 4th Day of N. Korea Audit, UNDP Spins From Leaked Minutes

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

UNITED NATIONS, March 22 -- As the delayed "urgent audit" of the UN Development Program's operations in North Korea went into its fourth day, UNDP spokesman David Morrison dismissed the leaked minutes of a meeting of UN Operation Management Team in North Korea, which specifically asked that cash payments in hard currency stop. "We are clear on the record that we don't deal in cash," Mr. Morrison said.

            Minutes of a December 8, 2005 meeting in Pyongyang involving local officials of UNDP and five other UN agencies clearly stated that "CASH payments should be eliminated." Click here to view. While in the online version of the minutes, the names of meeting participants were whited-out, Inner City Press today in this article, below, publishes the names of operations managers. All of these individuals, each of whom, unlike spokesman David Morrison, has direct knowledge of UN practices in North Korea, has yet to be interviewed by the UN Board of Auditors.

   Meanwhile, for two weeks after UNDP ostensibly ordered the suspension of its operations in North Korea, staff members seconded by the Kim Jong Il government were still allowed access to the computer files and ATLAS financial records needed for the audit. As acknowledged Thursday by UNDP's Morrison, four such seconded staff still have access to UNDP's computer system. These include ostensible drivers, who according to published reporters cash checks into hard currency, so such access may be hard to defend. Concerns about destruction of and tampering with evidence have been raised to the agencies and to the auditors. The response has been retaliation.

Dervis: 1st of 2 press conferences in 19 months

            Since UNDP sent its spokesman David Morrison to the UN's televised noon briefing on Thursday, Inner City Press asked that he take questions on camera. From the transcript:

Inner City Press: I noticed the Spokesman for UNDP is here and I'm assuming this is about these memos that have surfaced showing that requests were made earlier than previously recorded about cash payments and seconded staff.  Is he going to come to the podium?

Spokesperson:  I understand that we do have Dave Morrison here and he is willing to take questions.  I actually don't know whether he is coming to the podium but we do have a guest first.  So, maybe you can talk to him immediately after the briefing....

...Inner City Press: I guess I just want to say on the UNDP thing, it will work much better that Morrison come to the podium, whatever we're calling it, just because on procurement, I know that you did... by Friday, they came, but they did it in the hall and today they’re coming back.  So it just seems it’s just more efficient to just do it on the record or whatever.

Spokesperson:  Okay, well let's ask him after we finish.

            Despite a second request, David Morrison declined to speak on camera, but rather waited in the hall. At 1 p.m., Inner City Press asked him if UNDP fires or suspends staff for providing documents to the press. Mr. Morrison responded, "I don't know, I don't know enough about the intricacies of UNDP's human resources policy.... I can look into it." Ten hours later, no information had been provided.

   During those ten hours, UNDP management continued on what staff describe as a "witch hunt," demanding to know who has spoken to the media, to Inner City Press, by name. Ban Ki-moon has spoken of transparency and of rooting out corruption. Suspending and threatening to retaliate against those who blow the whistle on irregularities is inconsistent with this -- it is "criminal," in the words of one UNDP staff member.

            The local UN staff in North Korea raised their concerns about cash payments and seconded staff to the UN's Resident Coordinator Timo Pakkala in January 2006.  Thursday Inner City Press asked David Morrison how and when this information was conveyed further up inside UNDP. "I don't know what is our standard procedure with minutes of country team meetings," he said. "Can we find out?" There was no answer. Meanwhile, the practice is that minutes of country team meetings go to Regional Directors of each UN Country Team member -- in the case of UNDP, to Hafiz Pasha.

            Inner City Press is told that the warning was conveyed to officials including UNDP Director of Finance Darshak Shah, to Treasurer Julie Anne Mejia and to Jan Mattsson, the head then of UNDP's Bureau of Management and now the Executive Director of UNOPS. Thursday, Inner City Press asked again that UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis take questions. Morrison said that he is the spokesman, and that "Kemal Dervis, as I think is established, meets with the press on a very regular basis."

  At UN headquarters, Dervis last took questions in December 2006, before this North Korea scandal broke, and before that not for sixteen months. Even to the UNDP Executive Board session about the North Korea issues, Dervis did not appear. Sources say that Dervis will not last long on the job. But the scandal will not go away.

The attendees of the December 8, 2005 meeting in Pyongyang, calling for reform: Wannee Piyabongkarm (WFP); Lorraine Lamtey (WFP); Tony Shkurtaj (UNDP), Charles Lolika (UNICEF); Toe oung (WFP); Umesh Gupta (WHO); Withers U (UNFPA).


Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service.

            Copyright 2006 Inner City Press, Inc. To request reprint or other permission, e-contact Editorial [at] -

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

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