Last Friday, while U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon was laughing it up at the U.N. Correspondents Association annual Christmas ball, his chief of staff, Vijay Nambiar, prepared a memo that denied gifts to U.N. staff.
Late that evening, Nambiar, on behalf of the secretary-general, sent an e-mail to all U.N. staff worldwide on the issue of "holiday gifts." A copy of that e-mail obtained by Newsmax tells U.N. employees that they cannot accept any gifts this holiday season.
"The independence, impartiality and integrity of the United Nations staff may be influenced by a number of factors, including the acceptance of gifts and favors, from both public and private sector sources . . . No staff member shall accept any honour, decoration, favour, gift, or remuneration from any Government."
What sets this "advisory" apart from previous years is that the value limit was reduced from a "traditional" $250, to $0.
"What does this mean? Can I not accept a Christmas card?" asked one staffer.
Another staffer pointed out that the "advisory" said that any gifts presented should be turned over to the secretary-general who would decide what to do with it.
". . . in recognition of the potential for public embarrassment which may be caused by the refusal of an unanticipated honour, decoration, favour, or gift from a Government, staff members may receive it on behalf of the Organization but then must report and entrust it to the Secretary-General, who will either retain it for the Organization or arrange for its disposal."
Nambiar also revealed that he sent a separate e-mail to member states suggesting that any "gifts" given to staffers be "symbolic in nature" and "must not involve cash remuneration."
Seems a little late for that.
The U.N. has yet to account for almost $2 billion that still remains missing from the scandal-plagued Iraq oil for food program.
Well, the United Nations has over 100,000 staffers in more than 190 nations. Are all expected to send their holiday gifts to the secretary-general?
"Can Ban really handle that kind of traffic?" asked the staffer.
The decision by Ban has not sat well with many U.N. employees who see the secretary-general as an office that is loaded with perks while the regular U.N. staff is constantly forced to belt tighten.
Ban's official residence on Manhattan's Upper East Side was recently renovated at a cost of almost $5 million.
He also received a new Mercedes-Benz limo valued at more than $100,000.
While the U.N. attempts to clamp a lid on Christmas gifts, it not only has yet to resolve the oil for food fiasco it also faces stinging criticisms for its New York headquarters renovation program.
Not yet underway, the program is reportedly almost $200 million over budget.
And where is Ban while all this is going on? In warm, sunny Bali, Indonesia where he is attending the U.N. conference on climate change far from the dreary winter cold in mid-town Manhattan.
U.N. sources say is staying in Bali as a "guest" of the Indonesian government.
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