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After Exposure by ICP & Dispute Tribunal, UN Oversight Unit Spins, Censors Circle

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive / Follow Up

UNITED NATIONS, January 14 -- How does the UN work, or not work? Here's one example: in April 2009 Inner City Press exclusively exposed that in the UN Medical Service "a group of largely unlicensed doctors and nurses are dispensing and in some cases taking and self-medicating with Valium, Diazepam, Demerol, Ambien and other controlled narcotics."

  While this exclusive, picked up with credit to Inner City Press in other media six days later, itself sparked a UN investigation by the Office of Internal Oversight Services, the UN's response to Inner City Press was to demand that portions of the expose be removed from the Internet.

  The investigation churned along, and last month the UN Dispute Tribunal issued an order finding misconduct in OIOS, reciting that

26. On 23 April 2009, an article outlining the allegations of misconduct being investigated by the Applicants appeared in the Inner City Press, a daily online media outlet that specializes in reporting on the United Nations.

  The UNDT order when on to find misconduct in OIOS. On December 31, Inner City Press asked UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky:

Inner City Press: there was a decision in the last week by the Dispute Tribunal on the Head… Acting Head of Investigations for OIOS [Office for Internal Oversight Services], Michael Dudley, and it seemed to… it was pretty damning and it said that evidence was altered and withheld in an investigation of the UN Medical Service. So, I wanted to know, now that that investigation, or the Dispute Tribunal process is finished, what is the thinking of OIOS in terms of a Head of Investigations that was found by a UN body to have altered it or withheld evidence?

Spokesperson Nesirky: I do not speak on behalf of the Office of Internal Oversight. As you know, it reports separately, so therefore, I will check to see if they have anything to say. But I do not speak on their behalf.

  In the two weeks since, Nesirky has not returned with anything from OIOS. But whistleblowers have provided Inner City Press with OIOS director Carman Lapointe's internal OIOS email:

Dear Colleagues:

A number of you and others have expressed concern about the possible fallout from this recent judgement and have asked what OIOS management is doing, if anything, in response.

First of all, as the judgement itself is subject to potential appeal, it would be inappropriate for me to comment publicly on a matter that cannot yet be considered final.

Nevertheless, management in OIOS is not doing nothing.... Specifically with regard to the handling of reports of possible misconduct by staff of the Investigations Division, there are also developments ongoing. A formal group has recently been formed of representatives of investigative functions in the United Nations, its separately administered funds and programs and specialised agencies. While the draft Charter for the group is currently being consulted, its work has already begun. A formal mechanism has been outlined and proposed for the handling of complaints against staff members of the member organizations' investigative units. The mechanism will provide for independent investigation of such complaints to avoid actual or perceived conflicts of interest. This mechanism has already been operating informally, and will be formalised following review and adoption by member organizations.

Finally, as you are aware, we are currently working with an organizational development specialist to diagnose and hopefully improve the less than ideal work atmosphere, particularly in the New York office of the division. I hope that 2014 will be a turnaround year, where our competent and professional investigators will be able to direct their energies to their work and the important difference we make to transparency and accountability in our organization.

Despite all the changes that have taken place and are underway, rest assured that OIOS senior management is actively reviewing this judgment carefully to determine whether additional actions may be appropriate.

  Further action is clearly not only appropriate, but needed. Meanwhile an account by another media, that was nowhere on the UN Medical Service story, reports on the UNDT decision which specifically names Inner City Press by saying only that the story was was broken when "evidence was leaked to a blogger at the UN;" a Mission in the UN is trying similar strong-arming about another Inner City Press expose. This is why the new Free UN Coalition for Access is needed. Watch this site.


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