Tuesday, March 29, 2005


The independent Commission probing the UN's Oil-for-Food scandal today issued its second report. The Commission, chaired by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, previously revealed UN bureaucrat Benon Sevan had siphoned over $100,000 from the program. Though fingered, Sevan's still on the UN staff and -- after denying it for months -- the UN admitted it picked up the tab for Sevan's lawyers.

The second report focuses on Secretary General Kofi Annan himself, and Kofi's son Kojo, and confirms long-standing rumors of conflict of interest and payoffs. Kojo Annan worked for a Swiss company, Cotecna Inspection S.A., that was awarded a $60 million UN Oil-for-Food contract while officially concealing Kojo's ties. Unofficially, however, according to the Report (page 6):
Kojo Annan continued to perform consulting services for Cotecna during 1990 and 2000, and he also had a non-competition agreement with Cotecna that resulted in monthly payments from January 1999 until February 2004 of $2,500 (including health insurance). Contrary to statements made by Kojo Annan and Cotecna, these payments were hidden by channeling them through two other companies.
In particular, the Commission found (page 4) that:
At no time during the bid process were relevant decision-making personnel of the procurement department, OIP, or the HCC [United Nations Headquarters Committee on Contracts] advised or aware of Cotecna’s employment of Kojo Annan.
There's some evidence Cotecna's success derived from Kojo Annan's influence and name, according to The Scotsman:
A proper investigation of Cotecna would have made it "unlikely" that the firm would have won the contract, the report found, especially since the UN ignored allegations that the firm had made illegal payments to the family of former Pakistani premier Benazir Bhutto to facilitate winning an inspections contract in Pakistan.
The monthly payments alone amount to $155,000; The Financial Times estimates Kojo's total take exceeded $300,000.

The report stopped short of tying the Secretary General to Kojo's crimes. Still, AP acknowledged the Commission "did not completely vindicate the secretary-general":
Although it found no wrongdoing by Annan, it clearly faulted the secretary-general's management of the world body and his oversight of the scandal-ridden oil-for-food program in Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
Roger Simon argues Kofi has no credibility:
[T]he Sec'y General lied or "misspoke" to the committee when he said he had never met Elie Massey, the head of Cotecna, before that rather ethically-challenged company got the Oil-for-Food contract. According to the interim report,(p. 45 and thereabouts) Kofi's own personal computer recorded two such meetings. The Sec'y General is evidently a forgetful man. He forgot he had lunch with his own son and Mouselli in Durban (also documented).
Moreover, Simon says UN corruption is endemic:
[F]ormer UN Chef de Cabinet S. Iqbal Riza . . .directed his assistant to shred many documents concerning Oil-for-Food. His assistant wondered if she should be doing this with so many documents but Mr. Riza told her to go ahead and scrawled his gratitude on the memorandum: "Fine. Thanks. (A heavy task!)" . . . Riza destroyed three years' worth of documents!
Further, the Commission interviewed Kojo Annan only once, before he clammed up. Thus, the Volcker Commission probably underestimates the scandal's scope. As RightPundit notes, "this report is based only on the documents that Kofi Annan allowed the committee to see, the people that Annan allowed the committee to interview and the documents that survived the shredding."

Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman, who has been examining the Oil For Food program as chairman of the Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, says Secretary General Annan must go:
Kojo Annan lied. He lied to investigators. He lied to the public. And, worse, he lied to his father. While Kofi Annan may not be responsible for the acts of his son, he is responsible for failing to reveal a serious conflict of interest. Specifically, he permitted the U.N. to give massive contracts to the company that employed his son. This egregious conflict of interest is simply inexcusable and further damages the credibility of the organization he leads. . .

Mr. Annan is incapable of providing that leadership. His credibility has been seriously undermined by his conflicts of interests and poor management of the Oil for Food program. While Mr. Annan’s reform recommendations made in the last several days are admirable, and an appropriate starting point for discussion, there is no possible way he can be the person responsible for leading the debate over the improvement and implementation of any U.N. reforms. The arrow that has been shot at the heart of his leadership did not come from the quiver of Congress, but his own U.N. investigators.
Unsurprisingly, the Secretary General thinks otherwise. Asked whether he thought the good of the organization counseled quitting, the Secretary General replied, "Hell, no."

Brave words. But instead of echoing Bastogne, it sounds more like bluster.

Roger Simon's follow-up analysis.

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