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On Scandal, ICP Publishes GSF, Kutesa & ITU Awards to Bongo & Hasina, Murky

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive follow-up

UNITED NATIONS, October 17 -- Some in the UN still purport to be surprised by the indictment of 2013-14 President of the General Assembly John Ashe on charges of soliciting bribes from Macao businessmen including the Sun Kian Ip Group's Ng Lap Seng and the Global Sustainability Foundation, while using and being used by South South (which, among others, gave money to the UN Correspondents Association, more here).

But there's more, much more.

On October 9, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric about the murky ITU and Kutesa award event on which it has already exclusively reported. Dujarric said to ask the ITU.

 Now Inner City Press has obtained the video of the September 26, 2015 event, ITU with the Global Sustainability Foundation, one of only two NGOs Ban Ki-moon has asked OIOS to audit. In the video, Sheri Yan, charged with corruption, blathers at the microphone, followed by leaders such as Bongo of Gabon, Fiji's leader, UNESCO's Bokova, until “the Honorable Kutesa” hands awards to Asian businessmen, followed by “eager children.” Inner City Press is presenting the video here:

We'll have more on this.

  Tellingly, the two UNCA-world questions about the expanding scandal consisted of “any update” and a defense of the NGOs which are being accused. Well, South South gave money to UNCA. This is part of the story - and of the non-telling of the story.

What is surprising is that it took this long for the laxness not only of Ashe but of the President of the General Assembly office's structure and UN's easy penetration by business interests to lead to this. This includes dozens of Ambassadors flown to Macau in August 2015, and senior UN officials' interactions with NGOs beyond the two belatedly named by Ban Ki-moon on October 8. Inner City Press has asked, why not South South News, which gave money to the UN Correspondents Association and got a prize from it.

Just last month Inner City Press witnessed this event inside the UN where Kutesa gave awards to Chinese businessmen, after ITU gave some to African strongmen. Who paid for this?

  Even just looking at the Global Sustainability Foundation, it paid Ashe's successor Sam Kutesa's wife and took Kutesa to China. Ashe's chief of staff now works for Kutesa's successor as PGA, Mogens Lykketoft, who has already let his PGA Office be used as part of the campaign for fellow Dane Helle Thorning Schmidt to take over the UN's refugee agency UNHCR. 

On October 9 among five documents provided by the UN Spokesman to purportedly show that there ARE UN audits of PGA office functions or trust funds is one (A/68/628) acknowledging what must be acknowledged: that while Dujarric says the UN Secretariat has no connection to (or power to audit) over PGAs' trips, the UN Secretariat pays for “close protection detail” for the PGA on those trips.

Another, A/69/5 (Vol. 1), has a single line:

"Trust Fund in Support of the Office of the President of the General Assembly 53 483 365 171"

  That's it, for “president.” Compared to the details in the US affidavit against Ashe, it is laughable. As are the connections, South South and otherwise, with the UN Correspondents Association with which the UN partners. Simply as two examples, South South News gave money to UNCA; an UNCA president worked for South South Awards - this is the same UNCA whose president rented one of his apartments to Palitha Kohona then unilaterally granted his request, as Sri Lanka's Ambassador, to screen his government's war crimes denial film in the Dag Hammarskjold Library Auditorium, here.

Now we can add: after South South gave money to UNCA, suddenly it was given an UNCA journalism award, such as UNCA will be doling out again in December, depending on the progress of investigation of the corruption scandal. Watch this site.

Inner City Press on October 8 asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, about who changed A/66/748 (no answer), why no answers from UNDP South South, and what the UN's and Ban's links with the South South Awards are and have been.  On the last, Dujarric blurred it with South South News. On UNDP, he said he would “share” what he read out - but two hours later neither that, nor what he called audits of PGA accounts were provided.

As on October 7, Inner City Press asked about Ashe's chief of staff now working in current PGA Lykketoft's office. Dujarric said to Ask Lykketoft. We'll see.

  Inner City Press asked point-blank for Dujarric to confirm or deny what it reported on October 6, that the UN had slated the Assistant Secretary General for Partnerships position for Ashe. He would neither confirm nor deny, saying like SG trips, it only happens when it happens. But how much is NOT happening?

   OIOS, looking into only two NGOs, does not have jurisdiction over UNDP.  Ban's report on the cover up of peacekeepers' rapes in Central African Republic was due in September, then postponed to November. Such inquiries can serve as cover ups. But the questions will continue: watch this site.

As Ban head to Peru, here was the UN's October 8 statement:

"In light of the recent accusations announced by US federal authorities, the Secretary-General is requesting that the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) launch an audit of the interaction between the United Nations and the Global Sustainability Foundation and the Sun Kian Ip Group, and the use of any funds received from these entities.

"The Secretary-General is concerned about the serious nature of the allegations, which go to the heart of the work of the United Nations and its Member States.  The Secretary-General reaffirms that there will be no tolerance for any corruption at the United Nations or in the name of the United Nations.  He is committed to ensuring that funds received from such private entities were handled properly according to relevant UN rules and regulations."

   Inner City Press on October 6 asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric about Sun Kian Ip and why the UN had sent out a press released by South-South ("NGO 1" in the indictment) as it were a UN entity. Transcript here, video here.

 On October 7, Inner City Press asked Dujarric about "UN Official 1" in the indictment, and millions that Sun Kian Ip gave the UN. Video here. Then Inner City Press asked about hold-over staff with PGA Lykketoft:

Inner City Press: Yesterday the current PGA [President of the General Assembly] did a press conference that you referred to, I don't know if it's the UN system's response or you just heard he was going to respond.  What I wanted to ask is that there are a number of people that are actually named in the indictment as having traveled with John Ashe to Macau that work in the current PGA's office.  If you actually look at the teams, they overlap quite a lot, which is not to cast aspersion on all of them, but to say, if people are referred to in the indictment, what is… he presented it as there's a total lack of continuity.  He's brand new here.  He knew nothing about it.  What steps are being taken at the UN to actually read the document and see who still works in the UN?

Spokesman:  Well, I think, as far as the PGA's office goes, I would encourage you to ask his Spokesman, which… who's down the line.

Inner City Press:  Okay.  My point, I guess the overall question I wanted to ask is, it seems clear that at least some Secretariat money goes to that office.  Some salary lines are funded by the Secretariat, and some salary lines are funded by countries, seconded staff.  I mean, I've asked him to name which but, given that Secretariat funds go there, has the PGA's office… is it subject to OIOS or board of auditors auditing, and if not, why not?

Spokesman:  I think… I can't answer you that question in detail, but I think that is a question for the PGA.  The PGA's elected by the Member States.  He is responsible to the General Assembly.  As far as authority of investigation, I will check.

Correspondent:  But if you pay the staff…

Spokesman:  I understand.

While nine hours later and counties there was no answer on that - nor written answers from the referenced “South South” UN office - here are a few of the holdover staff, including Ashe's chief of staff, named in the indictment as traveling to Macao, now still in Lykketoft's office:

Ashe's Chef de Cabinet Ambassador Paulette Bethel

Lykketoft's Special Adviser, Coordination and Engagement H.E. Paulette A. Bethel

  There are others but this one should be answered first, since she is named in the indictment as traveling to Macau. We'll have more on this.


  Inner City Press' continued digging finds that Sun Kian Ip Group and Ng Lap Seng in March 2015 promised $5 million a year for three years to the UN: “Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the United Nations and President of the High-level Committee on South-South Cooperation Dr. A. K. Abdul Momen, UN Secretary General’s Envoy and Director of the UN Office for South-South Cooperation Mr. Yiping Zhou and Chairman of the Sun Kian Ip Group Mr. Ng Lap Seng signed the agreement.” See here.

  The question to be pursued is obvious: what was THAT money for? Or this, described on a UN / UNDP website of August 25, 2015:

"Macau, SAR, China: 25 August – A High-level Multi-stakeholders Strategy Forum on South-South cooperation for sustainable development got off to a strong start Tuesday, with more than 200 delegates, from 50+ countries. The two-day Forum began with a opening ceremony featuring distinguished and powerful champions of South-South cooperation... This Strategy Forum is a timely opportunity to 'review, consolidate, and enhance existing instruments and institutional arrangements,' said Ambassador Denis Antoine of Grenada, on behalf of Sam Kutesa of Uganda, President of the 69th Session of the UN General Assembly."

 Inner City Press is informed that dozens of ambassadors also went to this Macau junket, where the casino owner lobbied that all future meetings of South-South Cooperation be held there. We'll have more on this.

Sources exclusively tell Inner City Press that John Ashe, whom Inner City Press saw about the UN during General Debate week, was offered an Assistant Secretary General post, for Partnerships, and that a previously scheduled Ban trip to Shanghai will now not happen. “They're hoping it blows over,” one well placed source told Inner City Press. But will it?

   At the October 6 noon briefing, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric expressed faux surprise at the number of journalists in the room. He gave the first question to Reuters, which asked a generic softball question; he said new President of the General Assembly Mogens Lykketoft would answer at 3 pm (Ban is going out of town, to Peru).

  Inner City Press asked Dujarric to confirm or deny that Ashe gave Ban Ki-moon a document about a proposed UN Macau Conference Center. Dujarric said the UN couldn't find it. Long Periscope video here with these questions near the end.

   So Inner City Press asked about another document - a press release by the “South South Awards,” which UN DPI next to Dujarric office sent to UN journalists last week. Isn't that a “non-UN” group? What is its relation with the UN?

  After Dujarric emphasized the PGA's office does not report to Ban, Inner City Press asked if Ban after seven years sees a need to more transparency, as one example, who pays the people in the PGA's office? We'll have more on this.

   During Ashe's tenure, Inner City Press covered his various failures; the example of an indigenous conference is below. But it's been similar with other PGAs, who travel around the world with little press coverage or accountability, often cutting deals.

  It's not even a full time job: as Inner City Press first reported and got confirmed, in 2014-15 Sam Kutesa remained Uganda's foreign minister, while PGA. (Kutesa tried to place his chief of staff as head of Africa 1 in the UN Department of Political Affairs, here.)

  More recently, Inner City Press has reported that current PGA Mogens Lykketoft's office has been used to lobby for the candidacy of fellow Dane Helle Thorning-Schmidt to take over the UN's refugee agency UNHCR, despite her own record as Danish PM being criticized by UNHCR.

   There are a number of business groups which use the UN -- one of them was even allowed to sponsor the annual event of Herve Ladsous' UN Peacekeeping -- and get awards, like just last week in an ITU event inside the UN. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is aware, or should be aware, of all of this, but won't even disclose who pays for his trips (Inner City Press and the new Free UN Coalition for Access have asked).

  Apparently Ashe excused his wheeling and dealing by referring to “South South Cooperation.” While a laudable concept, Inner City Press was struck last week when Ban Ki-moon's UN Spokesperson's office sent out to journalists the news of a non-UN “South South” group at which Ashe had previously appeared. It's a murky world.

Update: an African diplomat, by the UN Security Council after publication of the above, told Inner City Press Ashe taking bribes to pitch a UN Conference Center was "not suprrising." Another said, "They're ruining the UN's name." Ruining?

  So is UN corruption a surprise? Hardly. Ashe's indictment, however, and where it leads, bear watching.

Ashe Background: On May 23, 2014, hours after the end of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the buzz at the UN was why and by whose decision the finale of the Forum was taken over by the Crimean Tatar issue.

   Many participants sympathetic to the Tatars' plight nevertheless opined that it was a misuse of the Permanent Forum. They said they had not been consulted and asked, Who decided? The chair.

  When a constituency lets their issues be taken over in the heat of the moment, it might seem strategic - and might turn out not to be. The issue of injustice to the indigenous is too serious to be a play-thing for the flavor of the month, the Free UN Coalition for Access opines.

  Nearly unanimous, however, was criticism of UN President of the General Assembly John Ashe.

Background: The failure of UN President of the General Assembly John Ashe to “show leadership” in setting up the World Conference on Indigenous People scheduled for September was strongly criticized on May 23.

For more than a week, Inner City Press had been asking indigenous leaders what they expected from PGA Ashe. Only that he implement the “modalities” already agreed to for the Conference, was the answer. One speaker, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, noted that Ashe's office had tried to blame a member state for blocking things but this wasn't true.

  But at 4 pm on May 23 in the General Assembly, when a statement was read out for Ashe, it said that “no consensus” had been reached, even on Monday's watered-down proposal, and that Ashe would be calling for another meeting next week.

 There followed speeches of disappointment, not only from indigenous representatives but also countries: beginning with Mexico and Norway, through Denmark and Guatemala's Permanent Representative Rosenthal, heavily indigenous Bolivia, Finland, Australia and New Zealand.

 Nicaragua's deputy Permanent Representative spoke, then Sweden. Kenneth Deer called for full and equal participation. Panama spoke, and a representative of the United States, with obstructed view.

Earlier in the week Inner City Press asked Grand Chief Edward John from Western Canada about the proposed oil sands and tar sands pipelines there. He said the Harper government is expected to gives its approval. Then what?

Footnote: at these indigenous press conferences, the new Free UN Coalition for Access thanked the speakers; the old UN Correspondents Association was generally not there, except an appearance that triggers a response that Morocco is not in the African Union and therefore didn't participate in its programs. UNCA big wigs were trying a scam elsewhere, it emerged. Typical.


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