The Foreign Service Journal, September 2006

• When Annan announced forma- tion of the Volcker Commission, he enjoined U.N. employees to safe- guard all files. Nevertheless, Annan’s chief of staff promptly shredded sig- nificant portions of the records in the secretary-general’s office and then retired to his native Pakistan. • The Swiss company Cotecna won a large management role in the Oil for Food program by low-bidding, then immediately requested and received a significant contract price increase. This is the oldest trick in the bid-rigging game. Kofi Annan’s son worked for Cotecna and was paid about $500,000 in disguised deposits after he left the company. The secre- tary-general either lied to investiga- tors or misspoke, depending on your point of view, about the dates of his son’s employment, the amounts his son received and about meeting personally with Cotecna representa- tives. • In late 2005 France’s former ambassador to the United Nations, Jean-Bernard Merimee, admitted he had taken payments of $156,000 from the Iraqi government in 2002 in return for support for Iraqi interests. At the time, Merimee was a special adviser to (you guessed it) Kofi Annan. • Under Secretary Maurice Strong, also a Canadian, resigned when it emerged that he had given a U.N. job to his stepdaughter. Even before resigning, Strong had been suspended from his duties as Annan’s personal adviser on North Korea, pending the outcome of an investigation by U.S. federal prosecutors into his alleged financial ties with Tongsun Park (re- member him from Koreagate?). Park was convicted in July of acting as an “unregistered agent” of Saddam’s Iraq regime to influence the Oil for Food program, and faces up to a dozen years in prison for his role in the decade-long conspiracy. (Senten- cing is set for Oct. 26.) Getting Rich in the Procurement Office Another locus of U.N. corruption is its procurement office, which has been under fire for years for rigging bids and taking bribes. In 1993 seven procurement officers were suspended for rigging bids to the benefit of a favored airlifter, Canadian Skylink Aviation. Despite overwhelming evi- dence, a “U.N. administrative body” exonerated them and all seven return- ed to work. Two of the seven procurement officers investigated and exonerated in 1993 were later involved in another major scandal in the context of Oil for Food. Alexander Yakovlev of Russia was indicted in late 2005 for taking $1 million in bribes and pled guilty. His colleague, Alan Robertson of Zambia, was accused by the Volcker Commis- sion of rigging bids in favor of a Dutch company hired to monitor Iraqi oil exports. These two officials were “exonerated” by the U.N. system and returned, as we now know, to corrupt business as usual. The “administrative body” that found Yakovlev and Robertson inno- cent in 1993 was actually a group from the U.N. employees’ association, which performs the appeal function in such cases. In reviewing disciplinary cases this administrative body has almost never found anybody guilty of anything. The lunatics are running the asylum, and that explains in large part the lack of accountability in the U.N. system. Indeed, to my knowledge, no one involved in either the Oil for Food program or procurement office mal- feasance has ever been punished by the U.N. Some officials have resigned or retired to avoid problems, and oth- ers have been suspended, but all apparently still receive their annuities or salaries. (The one U.N. official who was fired in connection with the Oil for Food scandal in 2005, another Greek Cypriot named George Steph- anides, has been reinstated.) Over Labor Day weekend in 2005 Vladimir Kuznetsov, a Russian For- eign Ministry official who has for many years chaired the very critical General Assembly Budget Commit- tee, was also indicted for corruption. It is not clear where this particular alleged malefactor fits into the situa- tion, but it seems likely that his com- patriot Yaklovlev turned him in while copping a plea in his own case. No further public announcements in his case have been forthcoming. Elite Denial Does anyone see a pattern in all of the above? Apparently not in Blue America (uptown liberals, academia, the mainstream media and the gov- ernment bureaucracies). Let us stip- ulate that Tina Brown was correct when she stated in a Washington Post article last fall that New York’s upper East Side “salonistas” will “cling to Kofi” as long as possible. As to the universities, the silence is deafening: no outraged letters to the editor, no broadsides from “Nobel Laureates Against U.N. Corruption,” no student protests. Likewise, the media remain as quiet as possible under the circum- stances. Even the biggest U.N. cor- ruption stories ran below the fold (if they appeared on the front page at all), and were soon buried on page 14. Now they’re ignored altogether, even though much continues to happen. With respect to most of my retired Foreign Service colleagues in the international branch of the blue bureaucracies, the responses to U.N. corruption have been risible. First, it was asserted that it didn’t happen and, if it did, it was an isolated event and — by the way — everyone is innocent until proven guilty. When this line of defense/apology was overtaken by events, efforts at deflection focused on shifting the blame. The “irregular- S E P T E M B E R 2 0 0 6 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L 17 S P E A K I N G O U T