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UN Tells ICP To Ask Lykketoft About Ashe Docs, But PGA Served by DGACM

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 4 -- Without one mentioning the name of John Ashe, much less his fellow indictees Ng Lap Seng, Frank Lorenzo and Sheri Yan, on November 3 both UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and President of the General Assembly Mogens Lykketoft gave speeches about post-indictment reform.

  After the two speeches, Inner City Press asked Lykketoft about his proposal still allow financial flows from "host organization[s]" like Ng Lap Seng's Sun Kian Ip Group and if Lykketoft would establish a Freedom of Information procedure so that the Press and public could requested documents. Lykketoft replied, on this, "we have no access whatsoever to documents from earlier PGA offices." Video here.

  Then when Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, "Does the Secretariat have any of Mr. Kutesa or Ashe’s documents?" Dujarric replied, "I’m not aware that we do, because those are the documents held by the presidents themselves."

  This is a major problem - how can this be? On November 4, Inner City Press asked again, video here, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask about these documents as well, because it seems, it was pretty extraordinary yesterday that Mr. Lykketoft said he has no records of Ashe or Kutesa and what you said here.  So I wanted to ask you a very specific question, for example, in the charge document by the FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigation] there is extensive emailing between Ng Lap Seng and his affiliates and the PGA.  There's also reference to the Chief of Staff and people that are actually UN staff members.  And I'm… I've looked at this thing called, which instructs staff to, like, retain records, record-retention policy.  So I wanted you to know or to say maybe later today, would emails from these outside parties to people working in Mr. Ashe's office, such as the Chief of Staff, have been retained?

Spokesman:  I think, the office the President of the General Assembly is run by the President of the General Assembly.  So I would encourage you to aim your questions in that direction.

Inner City Press:  We asked yesterday and he said he has nothing…

Spokesman:  I can't… I can't speak to the details of how either Mr. Ashe or others have run their offices.

Inner City Press:  But do you see the problem on this?

Spokesman:  I'm not arguing with you about the line of questioning.  I just… that's as far as I can go.

  Lykketoft on November 3 published some "transparency" material on his Office's website which, upon Inner City Press review, appears largely derived from a previous PGA Handbook by Switzerland and "its" PGA Deiss. That docuemnt states:

... "the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management (DGACM) Executive Office is responsible for all financial, personnel, and general administrative matters concerning DGACM, including the Office of the PGA.. In executing his/her duties, the PGA is supported by the Office of the President of the General Assembly (Office of the PGA, or OPGA). The team supporting the PGA is also called “the Cabinet of the PGA.” Although the Office of the PGA is independent in the execution of its mandate, for administrative purposes it is attached to the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management (DGACM)."

  So doesn't DGACM have these documents? Here's a UN "Frequently Asked Questions" Inner City Press has found: "records, like all assets, are the property of the Organisation...You need to list the most important groups of records and documents required to fulfill your function. You should be familiar with how these key records are protected, who has access to them and how long they need to be kept. What are you and your team members specific responsibilities?"

 What, indeed. We will have more on this. Watch this site.

From the PGA's Office's transcript:

Inner City Press: thanks for doing the stakeout.  I see in your information note under official travel, it says that other funding sources can be used including host organisation.  And since some of the allegations are that, for example, as recently as August 2015, Mr. Ng Lap Seng and his Sun Kian Ip foundation... he's since been indicted... travel for UN staff, ambassadors and others to Macau, how is this going to close that loophole in which a business... in... in... a business executive can offer luxury hotels, first-class tickets to faraway places?  

And I also wanted to ask you... I'm going to say this, I guess, diplomatically.  The Presidents of the 68th and 69th sessions, both of their spouses took compensated positions with NGOs that have since been... the heads have since been indicted, Global Sustainability Foundation and South-South News, I mean the heads of each.  How would you address that?  

And, finally, would you consider implementing some sort of a freedom of information policy in your office i.e., rather than just putting things on your website, if the press or public make a request for a document, unless there's some reason to withhold it, to make it available in a certain period of time?  Thanks a lot.  Sorry for the long question.

President Lykketoft:  "I think I'm not able to go much further into the accusations raised.  That's not for me to... to comment on.  And I can say that we have no access and thus maybe also a procedure that should be changed in the future, but we have no access whatsoever to documents from earlier PGA offices.  So I can't give you any details about what was present there and... and... in that connection, I think, it's... it's of interest what the Secretary-General just said about the investigation he has put into force about what is of information in connection with the case in other parts of the UN organisation.  But we have no access to any of this now if you look backwards.  

If you look forwards, of course, I would be willing to provide any kind of access to information about travelling I do during my tenure as President.  

Much of what we have committed ourselves to do has to be generalized during the considerations in the General Assembly over the revitalisation, probably in... in the shape... in the form of resolution.  But what I can tell you here is what we will do, how we will proceed with the openness of information during this coming year."

  Inner City Press went to the UN's noon briefing and asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric both about seating at Ban's VIP table being sold by the UN Correspondents Association for $6,000 ("as long as it's transparent," Dujarric replied) and how it could be that the UN does not have Ashe's and Kutesa's documents.

  Dujarric tried to say that having records about the Trust Fund account that Ashe barely used was enough. But where are the documents? Is there no UN document retention policy applicable here? Dujarric did not answer. We'll have (much) more on this.

   Every workday since the criminal complaint, Inner City Press has asked Ban's spokespeople for basic information, and has been rebuffed. Most recently, both the UN Development Program and Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric (previously of UNDP) have refused to provide even a copy of the agreement signed by Ng, UNDP's Teresa Liu and Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit.

  Inner City Press only yesterday reported that UNDP was asking corporations for $100,000 to be seated next to heads of state by UNDP. Closer to Ban, literally, the UN Correspondents Association (which previously took money from Ng's media vehicle, then gave it an UNCA Award and Ng a photo op with Ban) now offers seats at the VIP table, next to Ban, for $6,000 (half table) or $12,000 (full table). By most definitions, this is corruption.

  Mogen Lykketoft, meanwhile, couldn't bring himself to say Ashe's name, only referring to the President of the 68th General Assembly session. Lykketoft, who allowed his Office to be used for fellow Dane Helle Thorning-Schmidt to campaign for the top spot in the UN's refugee agency UNHCR, said he will be making reform proposals. We will be there - with questions for Lykketoft.

  Ban again mentioned what he told Inner City Press at his last stakeout, a task force under his chef of staff Susana Malcorra. But as Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Dujarric, with all due respect, Malcorra accepted one of Ng's South South Awards, for Ban. We'll have more on this.


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