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

Reuters AlertNet 7/14/07 6/29/07 6/14/7 6/1/7

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 --

"You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet," UNDP Whistleblower Vows, Calling for Ban Ki-moon's Action

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

UNITED NATIONS, July 20 -- The UN Development Program, an agency embroiled in scandal not only in Asia but also Africa, Latin America and Russia, "'has a culture of retaliation," according to Tony Shkurtaj, who served as the UN's and UNDP's Chief of Operations and Security in North Korea. On June 5, Mr. Shkurtaj filed a whistleblower complaint with the UN Ethics Office, which was to have been ruled on in 45 days.

            On Friday, Mr. Shkurtaj sat down with Inner City Press in the Ambassador's Grill, just across from the UN Secretariat, for an exclusive on-the-record interview. He said he believes in what the UN and UNDP stand for. "The objectives and mandates are noble," he said. "But at UNDP they are undercut by certain corrupt managers, who live in impunity surrounded by bullet-proof glass made of UN immunity."

            Shkurtaj says he reported wrongdoing in UNDP's North Korea office, including the holding of counterfeit U.S. currency, as far back as early 2005.  Inner City Press asked, to whom did he report? To the Controller and Director of Finance Darshak Shah and UNDP Treasurer Julie Anne Mejia, he said. Then up the chain to Director of the Bureau of Management Akiko Yuge, Associate Administrator Ad Melkert, and Administrator Kemal Dervis.

    Rather than leading to any clean-up by UNDP, the result was Shkurtaj being separated from service in March 2007. UNDP told the UN Department of Safety and Security to include Shkurtaj's photo in an array that guards use to bar threats from UN grounds. The Ambassador Grill, while in basement of the same building as UNDP, thankfully is not patrolled by UN security.

Ban Ki-moon and Kemal Dervis, July 5, 2007, whistleblower Tony Shkurtaj not shown

            "I am not the first person to be retaliated against by UNDP," Shkurtaj says, quoting from reports of UNDP's Ombudsman, from 2004 through 2006, which describes "pre-taliation" and retaliation and abuse of power in the agency.

            "To UNDP, relations with governments are more important than treating its staff members fairly. To UNDP officials, especially Ad Melkert, staff members are disposable," Shkurtaj says.

            Meanwhile, Inner City Press' reporting reveals that Melkert himself may soon become disposable. An attempt to insulate him from the scandal he has denied was scheduled for June 29: a meeting including the Ambassadors of the Netherlands (where Melkert used to be a politician, and may hope one day to be again), Japan and the United States. That morning, however, a New York Times article was published, sourced to UNDP, which named and attempted to preemptively undermine the credibility of "Artjon Shkurtaj." The meeting was cancelled, and has not since been rescheduled.

            Meanwhile, Shkurtaj says that under Article 8 of UNDP rules for the management of counterfeit currency, a person is obliged to return counterfeit bills to the local banks, and if they are not accepted, to inform the embassy of the "country which owns the currency."

  Article 8 of "UNDP Procedures for Offices Using Cash" (click here for a copy) provides that

"In the event a vendor or individual reports receiving counterfeit banknotes, the incident should be reported by the recipient to the local authorities and when foreign currency is involved, to the embassy of the government which issued the bank notes."

  Shkurtaj says, "That's what I did -- I followed the rules."

            UNDP spokesman David Morrison has said that UNDP asked Shkurtaj to cooperate and provide information, but that he refused. Shkurtaj, calling Morrison a "well-paid professional liar," showed e-mails reflecting he offered to meet with UNDP's audit unit, as long as a Staff Union representative could accompany him. UNDP's Antoine Khoury said no.

Subject: Re: Cooperating with UNDP

From: antoine.khoury [at]

To:Tony Shkurtaj

cc: salleppan.kandasamy [at], [at], peri.johnson [at]

Date: Tue, 05 Jun 2007 18:41:49

 Dear Tony,  I appreciate the quick response.    While I am glad to note that you express willingness to meet with OAPR, as mentioned in my earlier message, I reiterate that we cannot accept to have conditions and terms set for this meeting to take place.  Please be advised that OAPR does not have the intention to invite representatives from OLPS to participate in our meeting with you in order to discuss the matter pertaining to the counterfeit currency notes that were in the possession of UNDP-DPRK.  Please also note that we cannot accept to have a representative from the Staff Council present at this meeting.

            Shkurtaj describes a situation in which UNDP, after failing to act on information that it was violating laws and its own rules in North Korea, tried to "shoot the messenger," and then to destroy the evidence. "While Ban Ki-moon called for an audit on January 19, UNDP closed down the North Korea office without any mandate either from their Executive Board nor from the Secretary-General, and this they did in order to avoid the audit," says Shkurtaj.

            The UN Board of Auditors has completed phase one, an audit that did not include any visit to North Korea. "You need to understand the limitations that were placed on the auditors," Shkurtaj says. "When you read the audit closely, you will see that the Board of Auditors complained that UNDP failed to provide them with documents that they had promised in the media to provide, with [resident coordinator] Timo Pakkala, since March 2007... By rushing to give back project asset to the North Korean government, the UNDP corrupt managers wanted to prevent any further audit to the projects."

 "The Kim Jong Il regime has successfully played the UN for cash," Shkurtaj says. "Despite the hundreds of millions of dollars invested in DPRK by UN agencies, the status of the North Korean people has not improved.  This makes me wonder where did all the money go."

            Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for a second phase of audit, including a visit to North Korea.  Shkurtaj says he supports the decision of the Secretary-General for a second  phase audit, while he still believes that a fully independent inquiry may be needed.

            "And Ban Ki-moon should hold Ad Melkert and UNDP officials who retaliated against me accountable," Shkurtaj says.

            Ad Melkert, already being questioned about UNDP's lack of transparency in December 2006, before the North Korea scandal broke, told Inner City Press that he would ensure improvements, in terms of accountability. "You ain't seen nothing yet," Melkert added.

            Tony Shkurtaj, a close reader of Inner City Press, turned the phrase back on Melkert, saying "he's right." Emerging from the basement Ambassador Grill, the UN Secretariat building behind him, Shkurtaj said, "They ain't seen nothing yet." The saga continues.

            So will this series.

Feedback: Editorial [at]

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

Reporter's mobile: 718-716-3540

Search WWW Search

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

            Copyright 2006-07 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

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