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New Carpet in UN's Shell Quietly Confirmed After Denial, Waste,  and Questions Dodged

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 9 -- The UN issues many denials, but sometimes only by reflex. The UN's retractions of denials are done much more quietly. It begins with small things. On October 7 and 8, Inner City Press was told by a number of UN staff members about office space on the 23rd floor of the UN's headquarters building, vacated in the name of the Capital Master Plan rehabilitation, being re-occupied and even outfitted with new carpet.

  The staff members who told this to Inner City Press, asking who was paying for the new carpet which by the Plan will shortly be torn out, had personally seen "brand new carpet." UN Spokesperson Michele Montas vociferously denied this on October 8, reported here and below. Then her Office on October 9 sent Inner City Press the following:

Subj: answer to your question on carpeting
To: Inner City Press
Sent: 10/9/2009 11:52:25 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time

The UN is optimizing vacant space in the Secretariat for interim office space accommodations for temporary UN staff and others in an effort to minimize costs while additional space is in the procurement process.

A few offices on the 23rd floor temporarily used by UN staff have received new carpeting.

  But on October 8, Inner City Press asked UN spokesperson Michele Montas, video here from Minute 25:35, transcript here

Inner City Press: A couple of people have asked me this. Some of the floors are being vacated here, particularly, for example the 23rd floor.

Spokesperson Montas: Yes.

Inner City Press: They’ve said that, that the offices that once vacated are actually being filled now with other people, in some cases UN units moved in, in some cases contractors like [Richard L.] Hoffman and Associates handling [inaudible] the move, and new carpets put down, this is a thing that people that work up there, I mean, you can, you look, if you could, can you confirm to me whether new individuals are being moved into floors like the 23rd and the offices outfit with new carpets, it’s new…

Spokesperson: I would doubt that. I would strongly doubt that. Whether people working from the contracting groups are up there, that’s another story. But in terms of new carpets, new facilities, frankly, I doubt that. Yes.

Inner City Press: So, I mean, I guess, ask the Department of Management? Get them to say that there’s not new a carpet on the 23rd floor?

Spokesperson: [laughs] Of course I will.

Inner City Press: People wanted to know is what, who’s paying for it. Is it the UN paying for it or is the contractor…?

Spokesperson: Paying for what?

Inner City Press: For the new materials being put into the vacant…

Spokesperson: But I told you I doubt there is any new material being put up there. What is being done, there is new material coming in to refurbish the spaces where you guys are going to move to, where our offices will be moving to, where people moving to the lawn building will be moving to. There are no new materials being imported or brought in for the people on the floors that have been vacated. It doesn’t make sense, Matthew. It does not make sense and you’re asking me a hypothetical question. Who’s paying for it? For what?

Inner City Press: There have been people that saw it, have witnessed it, asked me, so I’m asking you, but that’s fine.

Spokesperson: If they are carrying carpets up there it’s not necessarily for there. I’m sorry. Thank you all.

UN's Ban and Spokesperson with 2 journalists, new rugs and waste not shown

Later on October 8, Inner City Press obtained photographs of the door of Room 2362.

The door to S-2362, with new lock, new blue rug behind smoked glass

   Other rooms on the 23rd floor, which used to house Chinese translators, all have cold rugless floors. But 2363, with a new lock installed on the door, has brand new blue carpet. Ms. Montas never did obtain a denial from the Department of Management or Capital Master Plan, at least not by the time, after five o'clock, when the transcript goes online. Ms. Montas said it does not make sense, and in that she is right: it does not. We hope to have more on this.

Other questions this week have simply gone unanswered. On Monday October 5, Inner City Press asked Ms. Montas

Inner City Press; Carol Browner, who’s President Obama’s main adviser on climate change, has been quoted over the weekend as saying that any climate change legislation in the US this year is very unlikely. I wonder if the Secretary-General, given his interest in sealing the deal and all of that does he, does he, what does he think of that?

Spokesperson: We are not commenting on internal processes. It’s something between the Americans, really.

But Ban Ki-moon has commented on legislation by Representatives Markey and Waxman, and just this week commented on an internal Guatemalan election of judges.

On Tuesday October 6, Inner City Press asked Ms. Montas

Inner City Press: On the Capital Master Plan, I just wanted, the, the, I guess, two questions. One, the statement about the blast film at Madison Avenue was made during a High-Level Committee on Management by the Staff Union, so I just want to be, you’re saying erroneous media, media council [inaudible]. Has the Staff Union been informed, that’s what they say…?

Spokesperson: I don’t know whether the Staff Union was informed, but I do know that they have the films on the windows…

Inner City Press: Okay. What about in the, in the, what they call the luggage building, the building on the corner of 42nd and 2nd?

Spokesperson: I haven’t asked, but as they mentioned, all the buildings were inspected by DSS [Department of Safety and Security].

Inner City Press: Right, but the Staff Union says there was a safety plan, but that the blast film wasn’t put on. I am just saying there’s a dispute between the Union…

Spokesperson: I haven’t, but the Capital Master Plan, they know what they have done, right?

Then we'll expect an answer about the 23rd floor, and any other floor to which new carpets or office equipment is being moved.

On Wednesday October 7, Inner City Press asked Ms. Montas:

Inner City Press: On Iran, can you confirm that Foreign Minister Mottaki when he was here complained to Ban Ki-moon about the United States taking a nuclear scientist of Iran while he was in Saudi Arabia?

Spokesperson: I’ll check what the readout said for you and I’ll check with someone who was at the meeting. I was not at the meeting.

Inner City Press: I wanted to just, on Myanmar, I was just down in the Fifth Committee. They just presented the OIOS report and one of the things that it says among many critiques is that up to 59 per cent of the UN funds spent through NGOs in Myanmar are not monitored at all and it says, she complains [inaudible] does that, that, this is a recommendation that was not followed as were other ones. When, can we get a briefing by Mr. [inaudible] and also by Angela Kane or whoever it is who decides to follow or not to follow the recommendations of OIOS?

Spokesperson: I can try to ask, but at this point, the process is right now in front of the Committee, as you said yourself. So we usually wait for the Committee to act on something before we actually do anything about it.

  This statement, about inaction, is true. The OIOS report mentions situations in which it was recommended that vendors be pursued for overpayments, and those who confessed guilt, including to possessing child pornography, be left go, and yet the Secretariat did nothing. Also on October 8, Inner City Press asked:

Inner City Press: That’s what I was asking yesterday, because this is all taking place in the Fifth Committee, these reports. I understand that the Department of Management will answer in some forum, but there’s a few of them that are really, really kind of newsworthy. One is a vendor that OIOS said should be, you know, prosecuted and the Department of Management didn’t. Another one is this pending child pornography case of the guy who was caught in Canada, who’s still apparently a UN staff member. Can we get, I want to add those two, if you are going to, able to get answers on some, because they, it doesn’t seem that waiting for December to figure out what the UN’s policy is on…

Spokesperson: Well, usually the OIOS gives a report to the Fifth Committee. The Fifth Committee reacts and it’s a decision, a General Assembly decision. But I‘ll try to get additional information on those two different cases for you.

We'll be waiting. Watch this site.

* * *

UN Admits Union Chief was Barred by Doss' MONUC, Maintains Malcorra Satisfied by LRA Fight

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 1 -- The UN is shameless in its defense of itself and its embattled high officials like Alan Doss, the Congo envoy who asked the UN Development Program to bend or break rules to give his daughter a job, and then oversaw the lock-out of the head of his Mission's staff union. Last week Inner City Press reported, based on documents, that MONUC union chief Mr.Guershom Nondo said he had been barred from MONUC premises.

The UN wrote to Inner City Press that the report was "incorrect," that Nondo was never barred. Inner City Press then ran a second story, complete with the denial and Nondo's e-mail. Now the UN writes to belatedly admit that yes, Nondo was barred by MONUC -- "MONUC security issued an incorrect internal instruction to its personnel to prevent him from entering the mission's premise" -- but it was by mistake. But why then did the UN claim that the report was in error? To defend itself and Doss.

  Meanwhile when straight-shooting UN official Susana Malcorra was quoted in Uganda that a new mandate is needed to more effectively combat the Lord's Resistance Army rebels, the UN in New York quickly claimed she was misquoted, and issued a carefully crafted version of what she supposedly said. Inner City Press asked, is that what she said or what you wish that she had said?

    Tuesday, after the New Vision of Uganda followed up saying that the UN in Sudan and Alan Doss' MONUC should to more to fight the LRA, Inner City Press asked again.

Alan Doss and Ambassador of Uganda, nepotism, lock-out and new LRA mandate not shown

  Associate Spokesman Farhan Haq said that the statement read out by Spokesperson Michele Montas is the UN's position. It's a shame, because Malcorra's quote about a need for changes to fight the LRA is the truth. But at the UN, apparently, the truth must immediately be denied.

  A graphic novel about the LRA has been published, "Unknown Soldier" from Vertigo. It is better than it might have been, with references to President Museveni and the Ugandan People's Defense Force. It errs in letting the UPDF off the hook, saying that the LRA dressed up in official army uniforms to commit atrocities in their name. Ask the people of Karamoja, where its the "real" UPDF that torched whole villages. Still, the graphic novel is welcome.

Here's the UN Spokesperson's Office e-mail:

Subj: Re: Your Report/Question on MONUC and Mr. Nondo
From: unspokesperson-donotreply [at]
To: Inner City Press
Sent: 8/31/2009 11:56:48 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time

A clarification regarding your earlier question on Mr. Nondo:

As indicated earlier, he is neither banned from MONUC premises, nor suspended.

MONUC administration has spoken directly to Mr. Nondo and explained this point. On the morning of 25 August, MONUC security issued an incorrect internal instruction to its personnel to prevent him from entering the mission's premises. This was rescinded officially by MONUC Administration the following day.

    So why did the UN claim that "Your report regarding MONUC and Mr. Nondo was incorrect. MONUC informs that Mr. Nondo has neither been banned from MONUC premises, nor suspended"?

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

* * *

These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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