Tags: U.N.'s | Kofi | Annan | Staggers | Into | Final | Year

U.N.'s Kofi Annan Staggers Into Final Year

Wednesday, 28 December 2005 12:00 AM

"You've been behaving like an overgrown schoolboy ... you are an embarrassment to your colleagues and to your profession."

That stunning attack on a veteran news reporter by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan at a news conference shows the kind of pressure the embattled U.N. chief has been under.

Annan heads into the final year of his 10-year reign battered and bitter.

This week also marks the official conclusion by Paul Volcker of his investigation into the scandal-plagued U.N. oil-for-food program in Iraq.

While Volcker could find no "smoking gun" pointing directly to Annan, he did characterize the U.N. system, which Annan has headed for the past nine years, as "corrupt" and one in sore need of serious reform.

More than $20 billion is believed to have been siphoned off from activities related to oil-for-food operations during its six-year lifespan, with more than $2 billion stolen directly from the program.

To date, nobody has been arrested and less than $15 million has actually been recovered.

Volcker and his investigative team spent more than $30 million on the investigation.

Annan, who had contemplated creating a new panel to examine any legal actions the Volcker reports may have warranted, has decided to unilaterally proclaim himself "vindicated" and "move on to other issues."

He used that approach last week at his traditional year-end news conference, only to be continually peppered with oil-for-food questions.

He finally lost his cool and lashed out at James Bone, a correspondent with The Times of London, who had raised questions about Annan's son Kojo's possible involvement in the oil-for-food scandal.

"Please stop misbehaving," Annan told Bone, "and let's move on to a serious subject."

As for the "reforms" called for by Volcker, Annan had trouble on that issue as well.

Late last week, negotiators reached a consensus on a new 2006 U.N. budget. Under U.S. pressure to cut costs, the U.N. committed to keeping its 2006 budget just under $1 billion. What happens in 2007 is another matter.

That will be left for a new secretary-general to tackle.

The subject of fiscal "belt tightening" became somewhat controversial when it became known that under Annan, the budget of the office of the secretary-general has ballooned.

Last year, the U.N. chief made approximately $314,000. That does not include perks such as the use of a three-story mansion on Manhattan's Upper East Side and an unlimited travel budget.

According to the U.N.'s Office of Human Resources Management, Annan paid approximately $96,000 in "staff assessments."

The "assessments" are a U.N. version of an internal salary tax.

However, when one factors in the "perks" Annan got the U.N. General Assembly to approve, his tax bite was reduced to less than $6,000.

In short, the U.N.'s highest paid official paid nearly the least in taxes. This comes at a time when the United Nations contemplates even more staff cuts, and a 2005 budget deficit in excess of $300 million.

And while Annan does declare his U.N. compensation, he has steadfastly refused to disclose any other income he may receive outside the world body.

The man who campaigned for office on the promise of "transparency" shows little of it when it comes to his personal finances.

Unlike the president of the United States, congressmen and senators, who routinely disclose personal financial records, Kofi Annan – who receives more than 25 percent of his salary from American taxpayers – refuses to disclose his net worth.

Former U.N. chief Boutros-Ghali publicly donated to charities most of the income he received from activities related to, but not part of, his U.N. post.

Kofi Annan refuses to disclose any of his "outside" income, nor what he does with it.

The only "honorarium" Annan has publicly donated to any charity was his recent Nobel Peace Prize award.

For the last 18 months, as the United Nations was plagued by the worst financial scandal in its history, Annan has refused to publicly disclose any stock or real estate holdings, leaving reporters to speculate about potential conflicts of interest.

Annan, who has "retired" virtually his entire senior staff since the oil-for-food scandal broke, has done little since, allowing some to live in luxury.

And his current chief of staff, Mark Malloch Brown, has found himself embroiled in a financial controversy.

Last summer, several publications reported that Malloch Brown, a British national, was renting a mansion from financier George Soros in suburban New York.

The reported rent of $120,000 seemed to be "rather pricey" based on Malloch Brown's U.N. income, and just what U.N. compensation he was receiving became the subject of several NewsMax stories.

Based on partial figures provided by the U.N., NewsMax estimated Malloch Brown's income to be in excess of $260,000 a year.

That was more than the U.S. vice president and the chief justice of the Supreme Court.

"The place is falling apart," exclaimed one veteran U.N. staffer.

Reacting to the recent NewsMax report on Malloch Brown's salary, the staffer said, "I have been here for 30 years and I can only dream of such a salary."

That will be the legacy awaiting Kofi Annan as he limps into his final year as the world's number one public servant.

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"You've been behaving like an overgrown schoolboy ... you are an embarrassment to your colleagues and to your profession." That stunning attack on a veteran news reporter by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan at a news conference shows the kind of pressure the embattled...
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Wednesday, 28 December 2005 12:00 AM
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