Inner City Press


In Other Media-e.g. Somalia, Ghana, Azerbaijan, The Gambia   For further information, click here to contact us          .

Home -

Search is just below this first article

How to Contact Us


Support this work by buying this book

Click on cover for secure site orders

also includes "Toxic Credit in the Global Inner City"

Inner City Press Podcast --

UN Tour Guide Becomes Albania's PR Minister While Paid by UN, Quits Only After Questions

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

UNITED NATIONS, May 4 -- A UN tour guide, while paid by the UN, sought to become and was even sworn in on April 30 as Albania's minister of public relations, all with the knowledge of the UN's Department of Public Information, UN-DPI.  

            While the guide, Mr. Grid Rroji, had previously been known with in the UN headquarters as the one who escorted ambush comedian Ali G through the building, his Horatio Alger leap from guide to Minister of Information is both impressive and indicative of a lack of safeguards and of candor in the UN system.

            On May 3, Inner City Press asked UN spokesperson Marie Okabe if a Grid Rroji was currently being paid by the UN. "Yes he is," Ms. Okabe answered by email at 11 a.m. on May 4.

            After Inner City Press an hour later at the UN's noon briefing mentioned Rroji's name -- excluded from the UN's transcript but available here in video -- and the Albanian government web page showing Rroji with Prime Minister Sali Berisha on April 30, UN-DPI hastily contacted Mr. Rroji.  Click here for the April 30 photo; the caption presents as the director of the department of information and public  relations for the Government of Albania and the Council of Ministers Mr. Grid Rroji.

            By six p.m. on May 4, after asking Inner City Press to hold off on the story, UN-DPI obtained a letter of resignation, back-dated to May 1. Inner City Press has requested a description of what the UN knew and when, but this have not been received. Sources say that the UN knew for months about Mr. Rroji's job search with the Albanian government, raising questions about the failure to end the UN job and UN payments before or at least simultaneous with taking Albanian government job.

            UN-DPI's first reaction to questions had been to tell Inner City Press it might have "the wrong Grid Rroji," even while acknowledging they knew that "their" Grid Rroji, the tour guide who took ambush comedian Ali G through the headquarters building -- click here for YouTube of the visit -- had traveled to Albania while paid by the UN to seek a job with the government.

Grid Rrodji, left, on April 30 with PM Berisha

      Inner City Press was also chided for publicizing the name of a relatively lower level UN employee -- even if he had leaped to become the Minister of Information of Albania (while paid by the UN).

      Inner City Press has reported on moonlighting at both high and lower levels of the UN. Click here for yesterday's story, in which the UN declines to provide a list of officials paid only "When Actually Working," who may also be working for, and be paid by, private entities. Click here for Inner City Press' story earlier this year on an employee of UN University conducting $99 trainings across town in Times Square.

            Moonlighting aside, Inner City Press often reports on the travails of the UN's "working stiffs," for example the UN Television employees who even after thirty years of service are required to pass through metal detectors easily avoided by freshly hired interns, some of them recommended by power brokers of important member states. Only on Friday, a question from Inner City Press about how the slated headquarters rehabilitation will impact the employees of the contractor, One Source, was met with the response that "they are only cleaning people." In fact, the UN tour guides were only recently given health insurance, and are still deemed not to be staff members, despite being in many cases the UN's public face.

            The question, however, is what policies the UN has to govern its employees' search for jobs with national governments, and what procedures it has, or doesn't, to ensure that a person cannot continue to be paid by the UN even after being named to an outside job, in this case a public relations ministry of the country. The case of Grid Rroji would seem to make clear that there are no safeguards in place.

    UN insiders consulted by Inner City Press during the reporting for this story point to the Office of Human Resources Management, OHRM, as the unit whose lack of safeguards allow this and other double-dippings. The UN Staff Union has asked Ban Ki-moon to remove Ms. Jan Beagle from heading OHRM. The statement provided after-hours Friday, along with word that the back-dated resignation fax had just been received, was that "International Civil Servants have the right to seek alternative employment, provided they do nothing to compromise their obligations to the UN in the process." The resignation letter faxed on May 4 after questions were raised, back-dated to May 1, should be seen in light of the mutual obligation to give 30 days notice.

            For those who marvel at the leap from tour guide to Minister of Information, Inner City Press is told that "Grid Rroji always reads a lot." Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha, in introducing him on April 30 in Tirana, bragged that Rroji "comes from a high position in the United Nations' Department of Public Information." This seems inconsistent with UN-DPI's subsequent statement to Inner City Press that Rroji was "just a tour guide." So too does Rroji's appearance in the Ali G's Show's UN visit. In the seven-minute YouTube clip, Mr. Rroji shows up at Minute 3:30, explaining that the "Jordan" seat in the Security Council is not for the NBA's Michael Jordan.

     In fact, Rroji's last -- for now -- UN job was not as tour guide, but telephone receptionist for that unit. Apparently he got a call from Tirana, and an offer he couldn't refuse. We wish him well. He is a prolific blogger, and reportedly a good friend of Berisha's daughter, who bragged that she made in just four years $800,000 from the UN Mission in Kosovo. Click here for Inner City Press' most recent Kosovo story; again, click here for yesterday's story, in which the UN declines to provide a list of officials paid only "When Actually Working," who may also be working for, and be paid by, private entities. And click here for Inner City Press' story earlier this year on an employee of UN University conducting $99 trainings across town in Times Square. There appear to be neither safeguards nor candor. Developing.

From the UN's transcript of the May 4 noon briefing:

Inner City Press: I asked you yesterday about this (inaudible), a UN employee, a person who is still employed and paid by the UN and you said yes. I think you emailed and said, yes he is. There’s a report that he's functioning as the Minister of Information of the Government Agency of Albania. That's sort of why I asked you whether somebody can at the same time work for the UN and work for a Government or have some other job.

Spokesperson: I have no information on this, so we'll have to look into it definitely.

Inner City Press: But you checked into it, and he's paid by and employed by the UN. Is that the case? (inaudible)

Spokesperson: You asked about a staff member, if he's still employed, and the answer was yes.

  Until six o'clock, that is...

Feedback: Editorial [at]

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

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

Search WWW Search

Other Inner City Press reports are available in the ProQuest service and some are archived on --

            Copyright 2006 Inner City Press, Inc. To request reprint or other permission, e-contact Editorial [at] - phone: (718) 716-3540