Copyrighted material


by Thalif Deen

on Bolton at the UN

(IPS) UNITED NATIONS -- The 15-member United Nations Security Council, whose primary responsibility is maintaining international peace and security, is scheduled to meet next week to discuss something outside its traditional purview: charges of corruption and malfeasance facing the world body's Secretariat.

The controversial U.S. Ambassador John Bolton, who is currently presiding over the rotating monthly chair of the Security Council, is using his discretionary powers to summon an open meeting to review a 45-page report by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) that is loaded with accusations of fraud and mismanagement in UN procurement.

Bolton probably thinks the Security Council has the right to discuss the issue because most of the corruption is related to UN peacekeeping operations overseas. But 132 developing nations, an overwhelming majority of the 191 member states in the world body, beg to differ.

A spokesman for the Group of 77 (G77), which represents both the developing nations and China, says the Security Council is encroaching on the functions of the 191-member General Assembly, the highest policy-making body at the United Nations.

The group has already accused the UN Secretariat, presided over by its chief administrative officer Secretary-General Kofi Annan, of trying to usurp the powers of member states as represented by the General Assembly.

"It is a peculiar coincidence," says Ambassador Nirupam Sen of India, an active member of the G77, "that the (recent) attempted arrogation of the functions of the General Assembly by the Secretariat comes at a time when we are witnessing a similar arrogation by the Security Council."

He said that later this month the Security Council will meet on the management of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), specifically related to procurement and the OIOS audit.

"But procurement and audit, as with other aspects of management, are the prerogative of the General Assembly," not the Security Council, Sen told delegates early this week.

The proposal for a comprehensive management audit of DPKO, he pointed out, was introduced jointly by a few developing country delegations, including India, and was subsequently adopted by the General Assembly.

In effect, he said, the Security Council has no business hijacking something that was within the purview of the General Assembly.

On Tuesday, the G77 sent a letter to Annan complaining that Under-Secretary-General for Management Christopher Burnham had briefed the media on the findings of the OIOS audit even before member states had access to the report.

"Rather than briefing member states in the General Assembly on the outcome of the audit, we have on the one hand the under-secretary-general for management briefing the press, and on the other, we have the Security Council organizing a meeting on the subject," Sen complained.

He also pointed out that an earlier attempt by the Security Council to get involved in the management of the oil-for-food program in Iraq was criticized by a committee that probed corruption and mismanagement of the $64 billion program.

"The searing criticisms of the role played by the Security Council are all too fresh," Sen added.

The OIOS report that is to be discussed by the Council next week reviews 27 contracts totaling about $1 billion during 2000-2005.

The audit cites several instances where the UN's peacekeeping budget was "over-estimated or inflated, which in some cases led to the build-up of a reserve of supplies above the actual needs."

For example, the fuel contracts for the UN Mission in Sudan (for 2005-2006) and the UN Mission in Haiti (2004-2006) were in excess of the requirements by at least $34 million and $31 million, respectively.

The UN Mission in Sierra Leone, which closed up shop last December, was not associated with DPKO's decision in New York to raise a $10.3 million requisition in the year 2000.

Additionally, the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo received seven aircraft hangers valued at $2.4 million that are still not being used in 2006.

The UN Mission in East Timor had no requirement for a Mi-26 helicopter that was leased at a cost of $10.4 million.

The OIOS report says that in many cases, UN peacekeeping operations depended on a limited number of vendors, which made the missions vulnerable to overcharges.

The study blames "lack of proper care and attention by officials" who should really be responsible to design and implement internal controls. As a result, there were both resource mismanagement and fraudulent activities, the study says.

From 2002-2004, UN procurement, including for peacekeeping, amounted to about $3 billion. Of this total, $2.5 billion, or 82 percent, represented purchases by peacekeeping missions overseas.

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Albion Monitor   February 10, 2006   (

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