WFP, Ethics Missing Amid Waste and Garage Scandals as Josette Travels
the World, Food Program Whistleblowers Say
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, August 15 -- In the wake of the World Food Program's
controversial shut down of its Rome headquarters for a "simulated
food distribution" display for the spouses of G-8 leaders,
reported on by Inner City Press and skipped
by both Michelle Obama
and Carla Bruni, more and more whistleblowers from within WFP have
approached Inner City Press with their complaints.
Most center around
what they call the excessive travel and waste of Executive Director
Josette Sheeran, the cover-up of scandals by weak ethical controls
and discipline by promotion out to the field, and use of WFP for
political purposes, fancy junkets and receptions and a make-up post
for UN insider Staffan de Mistura. Inner City Press has asked WFP
about these, and has received some answers.
is a sample
complaint received from within WFP, anonymous due to fear of
retaliation, then some WFP responses:
Your reporting on the "Disneyland" school feeding show for
the G-8 spouses was excellent. And many, many people in WFP agreed
with you and had real doubts about it. The tents have come down but
there's been no word on whether the contributions have increased to
pay for it, and to feed more hungry poor. You should however, be
aware that many WFP workers did attend work that day, even though
parking was very difficult and WFP is not well connected by public
transport to the areas in Rome where most staffers live. There are
WFP staff who do have principles.
8:20, those not involved with the event were told through the PA
system to remain at their workstations until the event was over and
coffee, tea and water was placed on tables by the elevators on each
floor. In other words, the staff were not welcome. Maybe that's why
they were "encouraged" to "work from home".
dedicated long-term WFP staff see the current regime as a joke.
Around the time of the G-8 event, Josette was also slated to attend
the Non-Aligned Movement First Ladies Group in exotic Sharm El
Sheikh. Clearly she's into Wives Clubs, which is not where she should
be. However, perhaps because of the embarrassment of the G-8 wives
event, she canceled.
whistleblowing for WFP's response:
Barrow is on leave. Please find the following responses to your
questions. Ms. Sheeran was invited to the event but due other
commitments, did not attend. She was represented by Ms. Sheila
Sisulu, WFP's Deputy Executive Director for Hunger Solutions, who
delivered a keynote speech and met with the host of the NAM First
Ladies conference, Mrs. Mubarak to discuss school feeding and
is that in the second half of 2009, she will spend perhaps no more
than three weeks in Rome. A lot of her time is in Washington and
elsewhere in the US (are we feeding Americans now, or is she doing
something else there?). And there is a trip to places like Australia
(over a weekend, of course). So who is actually running the
organization? How can she justify, even with annual leave, spending
less than one eighth of her time at her desk? Money which could and
should be spent on feeding people or on properly staffing key
departments or systems is being blown on business class airfares for
her and her accompanying delegations and on school-feeding
conferences near the north Italian lakes when somewhere within
driving distance from Rome would have done, to name a few.
stories of parties being held costing more than 100 Euro per head at
fancy Roman villas, paid for by WFP and/or FAO for people who never
even worked for either organization. 100 Euro can buy about 300kg of
wheat. Instead of feeding/entertaining one fat cat for a night,
that's a lot of children who could be served.
UN's Ban and WFP's Sheeran, similar travel, similar
Again, WFP had a
Sheeran's schedule for the rest of this year is still being finalized
and will be adjusted as the year progresses depending on the most
pressing needs and priorities. As the schedule stands today, she will
be in Rome for a number of weeks. The role of a WFP Executive
Director involves travel demands, which can often be sudden, such as
a trip to Myanmar after the cyclone when WFP has an emergency
response, or to donor countries to meet high level representatives.
This fall, Ms. Sheeran's will make her first donor trip to Australia
as part of a wider travel plan which includes WFP field operation
visits. We believe you are referring to an official event co-hosted
by WFP and FAO in honor of the departing President of IFAD, our
sister UN agency in Rome.
But how much did it
cost? At least on the Simulated Food Distribution Display for
Spouses, WFP has finally given its own figure as to cost: 219,000
Euros. Click here for
Inner City Press' counter calculations.
has asked, twice, about the new but we're told absent held of ethics,
Joe Scalice, and whether notice was given of the vacancy externally
or even internally. The post because open when Shuresh Sharma was
moved to WFP's oversight office. From there, Inner City Press is
told, an official was caught in a scandal in WFP's garage, then
quickly exiled to the Sri Lanka IDP crisis. Inner City Press has
given to internal candidates that they could apply? How many applied?
Also, please comment on fraud case in Johannesburg starting next
month and a whistleblower's statement that the individual "who
headed it previously was very quickly sent out to the field when he
was caught by the security guards in the underground executive car
park in his car with a young lady, and they weren't discussing audit
matters. So they may have had to fill it very quickly. I think it was
done internally. Also, there has been an exodus from audit in the
past year." Steffan de Mistura's post, did anyone previously
hold it? or was it a new / made up post? Was the Executive Board
answers are received, they will be published on this site.
* * *
G-8, Mrs. Obama and Bruni Skip WFP's "Simulated Feeding" of
African Children in Rome
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
NATIONS, July 11 -- On the sidelines of the G-8 meeting on July 10,
Food Program shut down its headquarters for a "simulated
food distribution" for the spouses of the G-8 leaders, flying in
school children from Ghana to put them on display. Many WFP staff
members found the display disgusting, a waste of money and a
disrespect to UN recipients. U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama may have
shared some of the concerns: she did not attend. Nor did French First
Lady Carla Bruni.
Josette Sheeran, rumored to be under review by the the U.S. which
nominated her under George Bush, conducted a "seminar"
which some attendees found awkward and stilted, "a quest for
personal publicity." WFP has yet to provide basic financial
information on how much the "simulated food distribution
display" cost, while Ms. Sheeran complains about not receiving
requested donations. One wonders what new WFP deputy de Mistura,
fresh in from the UN in Iraq, thinks of all this.
event got very
little international press coverage, for which Ms. Sheeran may
paradoxically be grateful. WFP's own write up said that "in most
developing countries women produce between 60 and 80% of food."
But WFP insiders point out that while women make up 60 to 80 of
farmers, commercial plots play a larger role that WFP says, depending
on the country.
First Ladies of Japan, Canada and the UK did attend, among others.
WFP played up -- helped write? -- the blog
entry of Britain's Sarah
Brown, who said that one
six does not know if they will have food today An insider counts
that is an exaggeration:there are roughly 1 billion hungry people but
a large percentage of them are only without food during the lean
season before the harvest when stored food has run out.
The main question is whether the money spent,
on telling WFP
staff not to work on July 10, and flying in children for Ghana as a
"Disneyland Africa feeding station," was worth it. Watch
Sarah Brown went to WFP, Michelle Obama didn't --
cost not shown
Since WFP refused to answer on the record, Inner
asked twice for response from the UN in New York. On July 8:
Inner City Press: In
the G-8, the UN World Food Programme is flying Ghanaian
schoolchildren to Rome for a simulated feeding programme for the
spouses of G-8 leaders at a reported cost of $500,000. Does Mr. Ban
think…Some, including WFP staff, think it’s insensitivity to the
beneficiaries of aid and a waste of money. What does the
Secretary-General think about it and is he or members of his family
participating in it?
Spokesperson Michele Montas:
I know, but I can find out for you, of course, whether he has any
reaction to that.
nothing back, 24 hours later on
July 9, also about North Korea:
City Press: North Korea has said to the UN’s World Food Programme
(WFP) that it should scale back its international staff, including
not having international staff that speak Korean. They apparently
“PNG’ed” a South Korean staffer of the World Food Programme. What does
the UN system think of a country saying that they can’t
have staff in it that speak the language of the country? Is the
Secretary-General following, is he concerned about it?
Montas: I think the Secretary-General is always following what is
happening to the different agencies, but I think you should address
your question to WFP itself.
City Press: And just one follow-up on WFP. This event that they’re
having, now it’s tomorrow, at the headquarters of WFP, will be
closed down for the simulated feeding programme with Ghanaian
children flown in. Yesterday, you said you’d ask. I know he is
busy. Is the Secretary-General’s wife there? Is she going to
No, she is not.
She is not there?
And does he think this is an appropriate use, I guess, of UN system
facilities and funding to fly in children--
Usually, the Secretary-General does not have express specific
opinions on the way agencies deal with their own affairs. As you
know, WFP is an agency. It is independent from the Secretariat,
autonomous from the Secretariat, and they have their own policies. So I
think you should ask them what their justification is for that
event and get more details from them.
Okay. I guess, since it may affect sort of confidence, you know,
people are always asked to give funds to these agencies. So I just
wanted to know whether he thinks it’s an appropriate use, but…
We don’t usually comment on what the different agencies do.
is that wise?
Watch this site.
* * *
G-8 Spouses, WFP Flies in Ghanaian Children for "Simulated
Feeding," $500,000 Cost and Ms. Sheeran Disputed, re N. Korea
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
NATIONS, July 7 -- During the upcoming G-8 meeting in Italy, the UN
World Food Program is flying school children from Ghana to Rome for a
"simulated food distribution" display for the spouses of
G-8 representatives. WFP has ordered staff not involved in the
display to not come to work that day. They will, however, received
"special leave with full pay."
City Press wrote about
this last week, quoting an internal WFP e-mail. On July
7, Inner City Press called in to what was described as a WFP press
briefing about the G-8 and asked for response to criticism of the
event as insensitive to beneficiaries of UN aid and for the cost, as
well as about limitations WFP accepts from the government of North
on the conference call -- who will remain unnamed at their request --
at first did not answer the question, and then stated that the event
would cost only a fraction of the figure Inner City Press used its its July 2
Press asked to be given on the
record WFP's figure, including staff time, accommodation and air fare
-- and carbon offsetting of the jet travel, if any. Four hours later,
after close of business in Rome, a WFP spokesman said that an answer
might be forthcoming. In the interim, WFP had scrubbed up and
approved a quote from the "background" briefing for a less
critical wire service piece.
so, beyond the
WFP e-mail below describing the event, here is the basis for Inner
City Press' estimate of cost:
to the WFP website, 'WFP employed 10,200 people in 2008 (91 percent
of staff serve in the field.)' That means about 1000 work at WFP
Headquarters in Rome. Even accounting for a satellite building that
will stay in operation -- though who knows how many staff will show
up or be able to get near it -- we estimate that 800 staff go home
and that the average grade is the mid range of a P4 (grades are
higher at WFP headquarters than in the field). The direct cost for
such a post is about $100,000 but one must add to that pension, staff
assessment and a large "post adjustment" because the dollar
is weak against the Euro. Therefore a more realistic annual cost for
a mid range P4 is perhaps $150,000-160,000.
The work year has 260
days, so a single day of labor lost costs the organization $576.
Multiplied by 800, one gets about $467,000 -- plus related security
costs, the cost of flying in the Ghanaian children to eat corn-soy
blend in view of the G-8 spouses, the construction of a fake
schoolhouse by WFP's pool, etc. In addition there is the Italian
government paying rent on a building that is not being used to manage
food aid but as a set for this theater. The last public figure on
the website for the building costs was about $45 million per annum
with a daily cost of roughly $123,000. So $467,000 plus $123,000
yields about $590,000.
a senior WFP official on Tuesday's conference call said that costs
were only "a fraction" of $500,000, Inner City Press
formally asked for WFP's estimate of costs, and for confirmation that
a WFP staffer was expelled from North Korea.
UN's Ban and WFP's Sheeran, luncheon
June 2, 2009, 'simulated feeding' not shown
At deadline nine hours
later, the following arrived:
the question regarding the planned event at WFP headquarters on
Friday 10 July, I refer you to the response given during the
teleconference earlier today. On the question of DPRK, I have the
senior WFP official said one WFP staff member in DPRK has had to
leave the country because his visa was not renewed by the
authorities. A number of other WFP staff members have been
reassigned, or rotated to new duty stations because WFP's operations
have contracted and the number of people required to support WFP's
activities have gone down.
WFP continues to operate under the new conditions imposed by the DPRK
authorities, it has not formally accepted them, and WFP is continuing
to push for a return to the original terms of agreement negotiated
with the government at the launch of the current emergency
operation," the official added.
We continue to
wait for WFP's cost estimate. Inner City Press immediately followed
up on the above, asking for the costs, if the WFP staff member who
had to leave DPRK was from South Korea, and another question.
questions were sent to WFP chief Josette Sheeran's e-mail address.
Ms. Sheeran, on whom Inner City Press has previously reported,
including where possible praising her work, has taken to hiring yet
more former colleagues from the Washington Times, most recently
Elizabeth "Lisa" Bryant.
the UN system community in
Rome, many believe that Ms. Sheeran engaged in a quid pro quo with
FAO chief Jacques Diouf, hiring a relative of his for an information
technology post in exchange for FAO hiring the husband of her
personal assistant, Tanujah Rastogi. They snark that since Ms.
Sheeran Shiner bragged that while editing the Washington Times she
ran story after story about the Clintons and Whitewater, the Obama
Administration with Hilary Clinton as Secretary of State might want
to see a change at the top of WFP. Through in the snafu of the
$500,000 simulated feeding program and.... well, watch this site.
you know, Italy will be hosting the G8 Summit next
week and leaders from more than two dozen countries will be in
L’Aquila. We are honored that the Italian government has asked WFP
to host an official program at our headquarters on Friday, 10 July,
as part of the spouse program.
This visit is a profound testament
to the increasing visibility of WFP's work -- and an opportunity to
help the world better understand the important work we do. On our
premises, we are arranging a simulated food distribution and a
symbolic African schoolhouse, where a small group of Ghanaian
schoolchildren will help celebrate our work. (You may have noticed
the large exhibit being erected this morning behind the pool.)
to the security precautions mandated by the Italian government
and the visiting delegations, only those employees involved in the
event or deemed necessary for critical operations by their managers
will be permitted on the main building premises during the morning of
July 10. Among other things, parking will be severely limited at our
main building and automobile access limited in Parco de Medici in
But we encourage you to take advantage of this special
exhibit and bring your families, including your children, on the
afternoon of 10 July – anytime after 2:00 – so they can get a
taste of our field work and meet the schoolchildren. If you cannot
bring your family on 10 July, note that the tent and displays will
remain up on Monday, 13 July, so we invite you to bring family
members to see the display then.
this is a special event,
we realize it might cause some inconvenience. We hope you can
appreciate what an historic opportunity this is for some of the
world’s most influential people to understand what we do and to see
the impact of their donations.
are some guidelines for the
day: If you work in the main building, please do not come to the
office Friday morning, 10 July. The St. Martin’s building will
remain open. As much as possible, please work from home... We expect
the main building to re-open for business as usual at 2:00, so if
it's feasible for you to return, please do so. If returning to the
office in the afternoon is not feasible for you -- we recognize that
some of the Parco de Medici transit options do not run in the
afternoon, for instance – you are authorized special leave with
full pay. Thank you,
Chief of Internal
Communications, World Food Programme
Via C.G. Viola 68,Rome, Italy
one WFP staffer, anonymous from fear of retaliation, asked if Josette
Sheeran would similarly "parade around Food Stamp recipient in
the United States," and went on to suggest that if the G-8
spouses wanted to see "needy Africans" while in Italy, they
could check out the camps on Lampedusa...