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At UN Environment After Solheim Dodges Travel Abuse UN Tells ICP Serious But Incomplete

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive, CJR PFT

UNITED NATIONS GATE, September 25 – Even on the environment, the UN's last refuge as it fails under Antonio Guterres on conflict prevention and anti-corruption, the UN is in decay. This article is the fourth in Inner City Press' exclusive series on corruption in UN Environment, the re-branded UNEP, under Erik Solheim of Norway. After publishing three, Guterres had Inner City Press roughed up on June 22 and July 3, 2018 and banned since. It is pure censorship. But still our reporting, and that of our sources outraged at what Guterres is doing and others scrutinizing the UN if only their home country officials, see below, continues. On September 17, Inner City Press exclusively published the first in a series on travel waste in UNDP, starting with the bribery-used Office of South South Cooperation, here. This while Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric refuses to answer questions about the public costs of travel, of Guterres or Solheim, preferring to dissemble about why and on what basis Guterres and Alison Smale have banned Inner City Press. On August 27 Dujarric said it was for creating a "hostile environment for diplomats." Vine video here. On September 17 he said, to the contrary, it was all Guterres' Secretariat and there were not "any inputs from any member states." Video here. Which is it? This is today's UN pattern of decision, replicated from Guterres' 38th floor to UNEP, see Solheim's September 17 internal memo, below. On September 26 Inner City Press asked the UN, "September 26-4: Again, on UN system travel spending including the SG's, what is the SG's comment and action on that Two countries have halted their funding to the UN Environment Programme following sharp criticism of its leader’s frequent flying in a draft internal audit. Denmark’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said it was withholding its 2018 contribution of about $1.6m to UNEP. Sweden’s International Development Agency (Sida) said they would not approve any new funding until all the issues raised had been resolved?" Deputy spokesman Farhan Haq replied, "Regarding question 26-4, we are taking the issue very seriously but will not comment on an incomplete audit." From the draft UN Office of Internal Oversight Services audit of Solheim: "Some of the trips to Oslo and Paris were called 'bilateral meetings,' even though they took place during weekends or the Christmas holidays... On one occasion he made an eight hour flight from Washington DC for a weekend in Paris, before he boarded another flight for New York." This is what Guterres has been doing -- 15 times -- including this coming weekend in Lisbon. And Guterres spokesmen refuse to answer Inner City Press repeated questions about the costs, choosing instead to work for Inner City Press' roughing up and banning from the UN, then to intimidate remaining correspondents who attempt to ask about it. But who will audit Guterres? Inner City Press has provided extensive information to OIOS whose Ben Swanson has to his credit confirmed receipt. Now what? The draft OIOS audit of Solheim continues: "The UNEP and UN’s Nairobi office should reclaim from these employees (1) all travel expenses and the related working hours which have not been accounted for; and (2) all additional costs incurred by the UNEP as a consequence of uneconomic and inefficient decisions by the management." So who will Guterres be returning money to? And who will hold him accountable for the retaliatory roughing up of the only journalist who asked about his use of funds to travel to Lisbon, and dared to document by Periscope broadcast on Sutton Place the many times Guterres has been out of New York without disclosure? The use of UN Security to threat Inner City Press against filming on a New York City sidewalk - across the street from Guterres' publicly funded mansion - and subsequent 3 July 2018 assault outside the UN Budget Committee meeting including tearing of shirt, damaging of laptop computer and twisting of arm? Aftenpost runs this quote too: The two other senior staffers were allegedly given permission by Erik Solheim to work out of Paris, in spite of being formally assigned to Nairobi. One of them allegedly received more than 165 000 NOK (20 000 dollars) in a special security allowance for Nairobi, in spite of being relocated to Paris. Permitting these leaders to work in Paris is a direct violation of UN’s regulations, according to the draft report. 'Such arrangements will set the presedent [sic] for other employees who wish to work out of a place of their own choice, and probably lead to speculations about unfair treatment or claims when such request are being rejected.'"  Inner City Press' September 13 question to Guterres' spokesmen has gone entirely unanswered, despite the written promises of Alison Smale. But here's from Erik Solheim, leaked nearly immediately to Inner City Press: "From: Erik Solheim
Date: 17 September 2018 at 16:42:10 CEST
Subject: Update: ongoing audit of UN Environment’s travel
Dear Colleagues,
I hope this email finds you well. As many of you are aware, in recent days, several media articles have referred to preliminary findings of an ongoing audit of mission-related travel within UN Environment.
I am writing to personally address these reports and update you all on the current standing of this audit.
First, I welcome a transparent and fact-seeking audit of any part of our activities. When this audit by the United Nations Office of Internal Oversight Services has come to term, I am certain the findings will help us in our endeavor to continuously improve our work.
If the audit shows that we have made any mistakes, we are committed to take immediate action and rectify every one of them, with no exception. We will admit to any mistakes that may have occurred. Where administrative shortcomings have been clearly identified, we are already starting to take steps to improve processes and procedural controls, particularly as it relates to travel costs.
On this point allow me to state it clearly and to avoid confusion. The Office of Internal Oversight Services earlier this year investigated all my travels in great detail and found three instances of oversight out of all of them. The money was refunded immediately. Better administrative control systems would have helped avoid these mistakes in the first place.
I believe this audit – which is not an investigation but an audit of UN Environment travel processes - will provide us with an opportunity to revise and improve our systems. Rest assured that this will be done in a transparent and efficient manner.
In my two years, as Executive Director of UN Environment, I have been proud to lead teams of dedicated professionals working on the most urgent environmental challenges of our time. This requires global commitment to unprecedented action, driven by new levels of personal action and political will. During my tenure, I have worked tirelessly to deliver such action and mobilize that will for the success of our work together.
Making good on this type of global agenda demands engagement with the world and indeed an expanded approach to our work. I am therefore determined to continue to focus on our mandate – to create real results for real people with real impact on the ground. These necessary results can only be obtained in close dialogue with Member States, businesses and civil society. This is in line with the Secretary-General’s vision for a more impactful United Nations in the 21th century.
At the same time, I want to reassure you that all travel decisions are made with a focus on maximizing the effectiveness of this organization and meeting the urgent environmental challenges we are facing together, everywhere. If in pursuit of that goal, administrative rules are found to have been overlooked, I accept personal responsibility and offer my strong commitment to immediately refine this process going forward.
The leaked preliminary findings, on which these media reports are based, were draft notes as a starting point for consultations between the Office of Internal Oversight Services and UN Environment. As such it may, by its very nature, contain misunderstandings or inaccuracies. As a part of this process, we have provided extensive follow-up information to the Office of Internal Oversight Services. I ask that you keep in mind that many of the findings are in the process of validation.  We are now awaiting a first draft of the report for our comments prior to the report being finalized.
Once the Office of Internal Oversight Services completes its final report, it will be public on its website, as is standard practice. We will then work diligently to implement the auditor’s recommendations.
I look forward to discussing this with you tomorrow at the Townhall.\
Warm wishes,
Erik Solheim
Head of UN Environment

UN Environment." So Solheim blames his administrative staff, while imposing on UNEP staff more bureaucratic restrictions than UN rules require. As with Guterres - and others at the top of the UN, more on UNDP coming - it's a case of "Do as I say, not as I do." Here's just one of Inner City Press' questions to Guterres spokesmen, entirely unanswered after five days: "September 13-2: Regarding the UN system's rules for use of UN funds for personal travel, and in light of the OIOS criticism of Erik Solheim at UNEP (below), what is the SG's comment and action, will be ensure that the OIOS audit be released to the public in its entirety and that his own travel be subject to an independent audit? See, “"Some of the trips to Oslo and Paris were called 'bilateral meetings,' even though they took place during weekends or the Christmas holidays... On one occasion he made an eight hour flight from Washington DC for a weekend in Paris, before he boarded another flight for New York." Has the SG done anything similar since Jan 1, 2017?

"The UNEP and UN’s Nairobi office should reclaim from these employees (1) all travel expenses and the related working hours which have not been accounted for; and (2) all additional costs incurred by the UNEP as a consequence of uneconomic and inefficient decisions by the management." Should the money be returned, does the SG think?

Finally, confirm that the two others at UNEP subject to OIOS criticism are Anne Lemore and Lisa Svensson, or state why you will not do so, given the allegations of waste of public funds, and when you would release the names." We'll have more on this. Guterres' USG Alison Smale twice promised that questions will be answered, but like so much else she has said and written, this is false. To continue reporting we ask questions at the UN Delegates Entrance, or seemingly in the "High Level" Week on Second Avenue and 46th Street - and Smale says this creates a "hostile environment for diplomats." These people are censors and it must all be reversed. They are further killing the UN, and have assaulted press freedom. We will have more on all this.

As Inner City Press reported in March 2018 before being roughed up and now banned from the UN for UNGA73 and beyond, UN Environment, the re-branded UNEP, is paying over EUR 500,000 in a (reverse) corporate partnership with Volvo Ocean Races, see below. Guterres' deputy Amina J. Mohammed has refused Press questions since November on her role in signing 4000 certificates to export from Nigeria and Cameroon endangered rosewood already in China. Guterres, Mohammed and Alison Smale's only response has been to censor and continue to restrict the Press which asks, despite 5000 signature petition, UNanswered. Now whistleblowers in UNEP have written to Guterres, and exclusively sent a copy and documents to Inner City Press on UNEP mis management, harassment and misuse of government resources. Who authorized UNEP to spend EUR 500,000 in a mis-named corporate partnership with Volvo Ocean Races? Before today publishing the documents, Innr City Press on March 1 asked Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric about it, video here, UN transcript here: and below. Dujarric did not explain, then or for the rest of the day; he said he hadn't spoken with Guterres about it. Oh. Inner City Press is today publishing in full, on Scribd and Patreon, the agreement with Volvo Ocean Races signed by Erik Solheim, here, and the EUR 500,000 agreement signed by UNEP's Lisa Emilia Svensson, here and here. This UN agency is paying for "public appearances by Dee Caffari and the crew" -- Ms. Caffari is a British sailor -- and for "hospitality activities." It's a new low. From the March 1 UN transcript: Inner City Press: I also wanted to ask you about UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme).   Whistleblowers there have alleged a number of irregularities, but the one that caught my eye and I've published has to do with the allegation is that UNEP, which claims under Mr. [Erik] Solheim to have a number of corporate partnerships is, in fact, in some cases paying the corporation for the partnership.  I.e., it's not a partnership like, you know, Barcelona Football Club with UNICEF, where they pay.  In this case, they're alleged that, under Mr. Solheim, the UN Environment, as it's now called, is paying $500,000 to Volvo Ocean Races.  And I wanted to know is it… one, I don't know if it's true, but they work there and they have a lot of names and a lot of information. Spokesman:  I think you can ask those questions directly of UNEP.  I have no doubt that Mr. Solheim is operating and running the agency in accordance to all relevant rules and regulations. Inner City Press: Did the Secretary-General receive this e-mail?  Because it was sent out as a cri de coeur of the people who work there, saying… Spokesman:  I have not spoken to him about it." Why not? Here's from what Solheim as written: "Dear colleagues, You may have received or heard about an anonymous email sent to me this week and copied to many. It consists of slander, rumors and false allegations. Worse, the message contains unfounded attacks on many good colleagues working hard for UN Environment. This is unacceptable. We must strive for openness." So here's from the letter: "Dear Mr. Solheim, It is almost 1.5 years since you became the Executive Director of UNEP.   While our wish would have been to address the issues below with you in person, this message is being sent to you anonymously for our protection, and given threats, harassment and actions being taken against staff who have tried to speak out, particularly as pertains to financial and human resource anomalies. i) Executive Office – Waste of government resources: We constantly receive feedback on the limited financial resources in the organisation.  Since you came on board, you have established numerous positions in the Executive Office, leading to an estimated 25 positions with about 14 professionals, while all previous Executive Directors worked effectively with only about 7 professionals...The additional cost of these positions is over USD 1.1 million in a year.  These funds could well be used to implement activities that meet our obligations and those of our Member States.  You have gone ahead to establish a temporary P5 Deputy Chief of Staff, in addition to having a Chief of Staff D1 and a P3 Special Assistant to the Chief of Staff.  The new position will cost another USD 206,000.  This adds up to USD 1.3 million wasted resources. How inefficient can an Executive Office be to warrant so many staff and special support to one person, when there are no sufficient resources to support activities in the substantive Divisions! You have inappropriately announced to the Member States that you will be advertising the positions of the D2 Director, Ecosystem Division and Director, New York Office without even discussing this with Mette Wilkie and Elliot Harris, the incumbents of the posts respectively.  The organisation is being led by your personal preferences and those of, the Chief of Staff, Anne LeMore who you brought into the organisation -and Sami Dimassi, Officer in-Charge of Corporate Services, whom you appointed against the decision of OHRM, given the un-merited selection. You appointed a P5, Gary from another agency to come and lead the Policy Division, while you have an already capable D1, Sheila Aggarwal-Khan.  This is another example of a wasted USD 205,600.
You are hardly available to provide leadership to the organisation as you are constantly traveling together with your special assistants most specifically Hao Chen.  Millions of resources have been lost in your business class travels, some of which are not necessary. ii)  Corporate Services Division, illegal actions, personal gain & conflict of interest: You have still maintained Sami Dimassi as officer in charge of Corporate Services Division, despite the temporary selection being rejected by OHRM. We wonder why Sami has been mandated to be making key management decisions yet he has not gone through a proper recruitment process as officer In-charge of that Division and has no qualifications and experience to match the job profile. His main activities are scuttling other people’s careers and family lives. It is unimaginable that United Nations can allow a staff member in the calibre of a Director to continue in the system and continue threatening other staff members including senior staff while quoting your name. The Secretary General in his previous address to staff has stated that he will not entertain any form of harassment in the Organization yet Sami continues to do this in all his dealing with staff from certain quarters. The following are a few examples of the mandate you have granted to your appointee against the decision of the United Nations Secretary General. Sami who is a Lebanese national, with Canadian citizenship in the system, has appointed Fadi Abou-Elias, another Lebanese to lead the budget activities, separating these from finance and the able leadership of Moses Tefula who is an expert with a doctorate in the field and with extensive experience. It is obvious to any expert in accounting and finance, the separation has been done to benefit specific individuals. Also, other UN agencies have consolidated these functions. Sami subsequently created a P3 position in the budget unit and appointed yet another Lebanese national, Joseph K. against the programme support budget (PSC).  These funds are supposed to provide programme support to the MEAs and Divisions that bring in the resources, in addition to corporate administrative support.  In addition, Sami and Fadi managed to enforce the selection of Fadi’s wife Nada Matta as P3 Fund Management Officer in the Science Division (where Sami worked previously) after being placed on temporary post to enable a quick appointment.  All budgetary matters of the Division are well sorted by her husband Fadi, bringing a conflict of interest, since he is the same one managing the organisation’s overall budget, against the UN financial rules and regulations. Much of her work is managed by her husband which is obvious in her change in decisions and guidance provided to the Division, once she receives her husband’s input to questions she may have answered without much knowledge. Recently, you appointed Emanuele Corino, P4 to lead all human resources and administration issues.  Emanuele is no expert in HR and has very limited knowledge in the field. He is an IT-expert Sir.  You have taken this responsibility from a capable P5, Mariama, with decades of expertise in the field.  Emanuele came on board as a consultant through UNOPS, who was then appointed as a UNOPS staff and despite Secretariat questions of his illegal appointment to UNEP he continued to lead procurement activities.  He is being supported by an excellent P4 who is an expert in HR and would better lead this docket if not the P5 Mariama.  In addition, the cost of paying Mariama,USD 205,600goes to waste as all her work has been handed over to an incapable Emanuele, and staff under her supervision deployed to other Divisions. Emanuele is propagating the use of UNOPS in hiring of HR services and procurement services. Consultants and staff, including in your office Sir, have been hired through UNOPS to circumvent the UN rules and regulations and he endorses it, being a beneficiary of such illegal processes. It also leads to misuse of resources provided by member states as UNOPS charges for these services that are provided for free by UNON. He is doing all this in collaboration with two senior HR officers in UNON and a senior Finance officer in UNON-DAS who has been promised to take over a position in UNEP. We request for a full investigation into this matter and the illegal conduct of the staff including misuse of his position. All the above positions have been granted to men, while you continue to preach gender (and in respect to the gender parity strategy) but unfortunately you are not leading by practice.  Sir, it is now public knowledge that the Chief of Finance in your organization, Moses Tefula has filed a case in the United Nations Dispute Tribunal for suspension of illegal action to move him, and to suddenly and unilaterally reclassify his position to a post downwards and transfer him to a position not commensurate with his grade. More details are publicly available in the UNDT website on UNDP/NBI/017/124. Sami and his support group is the architect behind this illegal action so that he can hand-over the powerful docket of Senior Finance Officer to his friends as is already happening. Sir, we remind you that the Member States have entrusted UNEP with close to a billion US dollars of annual contributions and it is un-imaginable that management of such resources can be delegated to friendship circles. While management may not like some staff members especially those from the black race to hold such key positions, we cannot allow the contributions of member states which come from the taxes of their nationalities to be jeopardized. iii) Harassment and illegal actions to get rid of colleagues who do not meet your, Sami Dimassi and Anne Le More’s liking. Efforts have been made to cause instability in the Divisions with missions purported to review the Division.  This has created fear among staff, uncertainty and worry on who will be gotten rid of, or who will be moved to an extra-budgetary post (XB) or contract non-renewal, in order to be sent home.  In this case XB is assumed to be any funds that are not from the regular budget or from the Environment Fund.  This was done in the Regional Office for Africa, the Communication Division, Geneva office and other offices where missions are being undertaken to threaten staff. A brutal example is the move of a P3 Regional Information Expert from Bahrain, along with four others because Sami did not like her, despite her previous performance appraisals meeting and in some instances exceeding expectations.  She has a young family of two children whom she has had to leave in Bahrain under threat that she either takes up the move to Nairobi or leaves the organisation.  She was moved from a regular budget (RB) post, to temporary Environment Fund (Fund Reserve) for one year and is to then be moved to an extra-budgetary (XB) post that has no resources, in the expectation that if no funds are forthcoming or if she is not able to mobilise funds, she will be out on the streets.  This is after service to the organisation for 10 years. This is brut ant misuse of authority by Sami. It is against the “Family-friendly policies” of the UN system wide policy on gender parity which requires decision on staff mobility to be communicated at least six months prior to the moves and moves scheduled six months following the completion of the school year or accommodate the family needs otherwise as appropriate. The poor staff member is under distress, separated from her family who are in a foreign duty station and has to incur personal trips to see her young ones.
In contrast, you, Sir, have approved that your friend, a D1, Lisa Svensson can work from Europe, because for personal reasons she does not wish to work in Nairobi.  Her big office in Nairobi remains vacant with her name and organisational equipment while the same has to be provided again by another office in Europe.  She leads the marine team remotely as the rest of the staff under her responsibility are in Nairobi. Sir, how inhuman can you and Sami be, to summon one staff member, who is from a developing country against her wish, separating her from her young family, but provide a golden platter for another who is from a developed country... When you came on board in 2016, you immediately began with changing the organisation’s name, claiming not to understand acronyms, which have been used since the establishment of the organisation over four decades ago.  The whole world knows UNEP, UNDP, UNICEF etc.  Are you purporting that these should have been UN development, UN children… so that one day you Sir, can understand what they do, and that the work of the organisation has not been understood since 1972 due to its use of the acronym UNEP?
Despite numerous interventions during the meetings of the Committee of Permanent Representatives (CPRs) questioning the legitimacy of this change from UNEP to UN Environment, you have given a deaf ear.  Most are the times that you open the session and then take off, leaving your Deputy Executive Director Ibrahim Thiaw to find excuses for you... You forget that the rules are not set by the organisation, but through it by the Member States of the UN... You talk of reform and efficiency.  With all the above, and many more examples that would result in a very lengthy document,you have failed the organisation, you have failed us. Your actions are provoking staff to boycott the next Town Hall meeting in respect of all colleagues affected by your actions and those of your circle of friends that are running the organisation to peril. Our plea is to call for an immediate audit of the organisation, intervention and investigation." We'll have more on this. A Climate Risk event was held at the UN on January 31, complete with a delayed press conference with four speakers. Inner City Press asked them about the role of the UN, not just as a venue but as an actor, with a Deputy Secretary General Amina J. Mohammed who in 2017 signed 4000 certificates for already-exported endangered rosewood in China. The UN Global Compact accepted CEFC China Energy until Inner City Press repeated asking about its role as beneficiary of a UN bribery scheme to get oil in Uganda and Chad; China Energy Fund Committee is *still* in Special Consultative status with ECOSOC. Periscope video here, since the UN has withheld its, under UNTV boss Alison Smale.  Among the panelists, Betty Yee, California's Controller, repeatedly cited transparency. Fred Samama of Amundi to his credit acknowledged there is a danger of green-washing. Peter Damgaard Jensen of PKA said the UN could / should help emerging markets. (This is true, but today in Cameroon for example, the UN only supports colonialism and exploitation.) Iconic Jack Ehnes of CalSTRS appeared sympathetic. But will they continue to blithely provide a platform for the greenwashing not only of oil companies like CEFC China Energy, but of censoring UN officials like Amina J. Mohammed, who helped export endangered rosewood then refused all Press questions on it, and continues to censor and restrict the Press which asks? We'll have more on this - and on “The Investor Agenda.” Amid UN bribery scandals, failures in countries from Cameroon to Yemen and declining transparency, today's UN does not even pretend to have content neutral rules about which media get full access and which are confined to minders or escorts to cover the General Assembly.

Inner City Press, which while it pursue the story of Macau-based businessman Ng Lap Seng's bribery of President of the General Assembly John Ashe was evicted by the UN Department of Public Information from its office, is STILL confined to minders as it pursues the new UN bribery scandal, of Patrick Ho and Cheikh Gadio allegedly bribing President of the General Assembly Sam Kutesa, and Chad's Idriss Deby, for CEFC China Energy.

Last week Inner City Press asked UN DPI where it is on the list to be restored to (its) office, and regain full office - and was told it is not even on the list, there is no public list, the UN can exclude, permanently, whomever it wants. This is censorship, and has been accepted and even encouraged by what has become the UN Censorship Alliance, which accepted funds from Ng Lap Seng's South South News and had Inner City Press ejected from the UN Press Briefing Room as it inquired into the story.

When this UNCA held its annual meeting on January 29, it could barely reach quorom (Periscope here); it covered over the glass doors of the clubhouse the UN gives it with a sign board.

Disgruntled members forwarded the "agenda" -- "1) Introduction of the new 2018 UNCA Executive Committee. 2) Presentation of UNCA sub-committees and their upcoming agendas. 3) Presentation of 2017 UNCA & UNCA Awards financials. 4) UNCA 70th anniversary. 5) Other matters." We'll have more on this.


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