Tags: 'Failure | Leadership' | Prompts | Call | for | Overhaul

'Failure of Leadership' Prompts Call for UN Overhaul

Thursday, 08 December 2005 12:00 AM

UNITED NATIONS –- A pattern of mismanagement and fraud in the U.N. oil-for-food program in Iraq reflects a "failure of leadership" at the United Nations and underscores the need for urgent reform, a draft congressional report said Wednesday.

The report, written by Republicans on a House International Relations subcommittee, called for better accountability and oversight at the United Nations and demanded new investigations of corruption in its purchasing department.

It largely echoed the findings of a recently completed oil-for-food investigation led by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker. But the report also contained the transcript of a candid discussion among investigators on how U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan should be judged for his involvement in oil-for-food failures.

Ultimately, the subcommittee withheld judgment on whether Volcker's report was too soft on Annan, as one of Volcker's former investigators had alleged. The investigator, Robert Parton, resigned from Volcker's team in April, reportedly because he believed it had ignored evidence critical of Annan.

In an interim report March 29, Volcker's investigation team concluded there wasn't enough evidence to prove Annan influenced the awarding of an oil-for-food contract to a Swiss company that employed his son, Kojo Annan. But it faulted the secretary-general for not properly investigating allegations of conflict of interest in the awarding of the contract.

Parton touched off a firestorm after the subcommittee subpoenaed documents he took with him when he quit. The subcommittee eventually heard testimony from Parton but did not make a determination either way on his claims.

That will likely come as a relief to Annan and his staff, who long insisted the secretary-general was judged fairly when he was cleared of trying to influence the oil-for-food contract.

The draft includes a rough transcript of a March 8 meeting of Volcker, Parton and several other members of their investigation team. That document shows just how conscious Volcker was of the fact that an accusation against Annan could force his resignation.

"Well, my general feeling about the report is that if you accuse him of lying, he is gone and I don't know if we have the evidence to make that accusation – but, we have a lot of unexplained business," the transcript quotes Volcker as saying.

The subcommittee falls under the House International Relations Committee, chaired by Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Illinois. Hyde is a leading critic of the United Nations and authored a bill that passed the House in July seeking to withhold half of assessed U.S. dues if the United Nations does not take steps toward reform. The Senate is considering two competing versions of its own.

The subcommittee report said the United Nations' failures in the oil-for-food program reflect far larger, and more grave, management problems in the world body.

The program ran from 1996 to 2003 and provided food, medical supplies and other humanitarian goods for millions of Iraqis trying to cope with tough U.N. sanctions imposed after Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

Saddam, who could choose the buyers of Iraqi oil and the sellers of humanitarian goods, manipulated the program by awarding contracts to – and getting kickbacks from – favored buyers, who most often supported his regime or opposed the sanctions.

The flaws in the program "are symptomatic of a pervasive mismanagement and failure of leadership at the U.N.," the report said. It added that the U.N. "suffers from a lack of proper leadership and commitment to excellence by the organization's senior-most leadership."

Democrats on the subcommittee refused to back the report, saying the Republicans didn't assign enough blame to U.N. members like the United States in the failures of the oil-for-food program.

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UNITED NATIONS -- A pattern of mismanagement and fraud in the U.N. oil-for-food program in Iraq reflects a "failure of leadership" at the United Nations and underscores the need for urgent reform, a draft congressional report said Wednesday. The report, written by...
'Failure,Leadership',Prompts,Call,for,Overhaul
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2005-00-08
Thursday, 08 December 2005 12:00 AM
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