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French Defense of Payments Is "Pressure on UN Procurement," Says Churkin, History

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 12 -- The UN spends public money but refused to make it public or even take questions about it.

About UN Peacekeeping payments to France for airfield services in Mali, Inner City Press was told by French Ambassador Gerard Araud to ask the spokesperson of the UN, including to compare UN payments to Russia to those to France.

But the UN Spokesperson refused on December 12 to take this basic question, only the second one Inner City Press tried to ask. Instead, Spokesperson Martin Nesirky gave the last question to a correspondent he'd already given three questions to.

  For now, Inner City Press asked Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin for a comment (see below), and is on record that UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous, the fourth Frenchman in a row to control that Department, should answer on the payments and separately on any role he plays in them before or at tomorrow's noon briefing, when he is to be the guest.

On December 10, as transcribed by the French Mission to the UN, Inner City Press asked Araud:

Inner City Press: France has a Letter of Assist from the UN to pay for airfield services in Northern Mali, to be paid from UN budget funds. They wouldn’t say the amount. On behalf of France, could you say if you have ever considered donating these services? Why are you charging and how much is being charged?

Amb Araud: I think you know better than I do the UN Procurement procedures. The procurement system is managed by DFS. So I think it is to Mrs. Haaq to answer. Every year DFS is issuing hundreds of tenders. You will not be surprised that French corporations are answering to some tenders.

If you look at the figures you will see that, considering all the tenders on peacekeeping operations, France is getting between 2.5 and 2.6% of the amount of the tenders for peacekeeping operations. I draw your attention to other figures: Russia is getting 14%, our part in the world GDP is between 4 and 4.5%, our part in the budget of peacekeeping operations is 7.5%, which means that France is the third contributor to the peacekeeping operation budget after US and Japan.

On the basis of these figures I am sure you are going to rush to the spokesperson of the UN to ask why French corporations actually don’t get their fair share of the tenders of the UN and why Russia is getting much more of the tenders of the UN.

  But as noted, Spokesperson Martin Nesirky refused to take this second Mali question. For now, we publish Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin's response, Google-translated from the Russian:

"We believe the statements of the Permanent Representative of France to the UN Gerard Araud are inappropriate, and unacceptable pressure on the procurement services of the Secretariat. It distributes contracts on a competitive basis. Talk about any "shares" or "quotas," contracts for specific countries on the basis of such tenders, causes us puzzlement. This will only increase the cost of services."

  In fact, Inner City Press has previously covered French domination and manipulation of UN procurement, doctoring a tender so France could get selected and paid for services in another "austere field environment" -- Darfur:

Three weeks after the UN had promulgated a formal Request for Proposals for a large contract in Sudan's Darfur region, a counselor at France's mission to the UN e-mailed to the head of the UN's Procurement Service to suggest amendments to the RFP, to change the criteria of which companies would be eligible. France proposed lowering the required size of previously completed projects, and including not only peacekeeping projects, but any in "austere field environments."

A mere three days later, the UN accepted the French amendments, substituting the phrase "hardship area" for France's "austere field environments," the chief of the Procurement Service acknowledged Monday to Inner City Press, asking that the e-mails not be published and demanding to know who had leaked them. The chain of events raises questions about whether other countries have similar access, and about the UN's acceptance of investigative reporting on its business dealings, particularly with countries like France.

The February 7 message of Eric Duedal to then UN procurement chief Paul Buades, obtained by Inner City Press and placed online here, suggests switching the qualification of having done "construction of military camps in peacekeeping mission in Africa" with a more general (and undefined) "austere field environment." France's Mr. Duedal also suggests a change downward from the RFP's requirement that qualified bidders list a minimum of three completed projects, each with a minimum value of $50 million. Click here for more.

  Now in 2013, France was given a secret letter of assist with the amount of payment not disclosed, by UN Peacekeeping which has been run four times in a row -- sixteen years and counting -- but a French official, now former French deputy ambassador to the UN Herve Ladsous.

  Again, Ladsous should answer on the payments and separately on any role he plays in them before or at tomorrow's noon briefing, when he is to be the guest. Watch this site.


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