stones at Glasshouse
NEW YORK - The conventional wisdom is that the sins of the fathers
should never be visited on the sons. But how true is the reverse?
Should the father bear punishment for the son's perceived inequities?
right-wing neo-conservatives keep gunning for UN Secretary-General
Kofi Annan - despite assurances by the Bush administration that
it is not seeking his resignation - the charges of corruption against
the world body have reached out to his son Kojo Annan who lives
in Lagos, Nigeria.
his annual year-end news conference last week, Annan was asked whether
he agreed with his son who had characterized the widespread allegations
as a "witch hunt" against him and his father.
don't agree with that," the Secretary-General responded bluntly,
but did not elaborate further. However, Annan admitted to reporters
last month he was "disappointed" that he was not made
aware of the fact that his son continued to receive about $2,500
a month from Cotecna Inspection Services, even after he left the
company was one of the contractors for the UN-supervised, now-defunct
"oil-for-food" programme in Iraq, which is under investigation
for mismanagement and corruption on its multi-million-dollar contracts.
Kojo left in December 1998, the company kept paying him through
early 2004 on what is called a "non-compete" agreement.
agreement, which is also common among US companies, ensures payment
to an employee to prevent him from starting a new company in competition
with the one he left. Sounds like a payoff but is still an accepted
says his son is an independent businessman. "He is a grown
man, and I don't get involved with his activities and he doesn't
get involved in mine." But that assurance is not good enough
for right-wing conservatives who keep relentlessly hammering the
for a Kofi break", says a sarcastic headline in the Wall Street
Journal. "My Son, My Son", says William Safire in the
New York Times. "Swiss Firm Suspected of Fraud Paid UN Chief's
Son $50,000', says another newspaper headline.
the Secretary-General has refused to answer most of the detailed
charges because an independent committee - created by the Security
Council and headed by a former chairman of the US Federal Reserve
Bank - is already investigating the allegations.
his silence on the oil-for-food scandal is understandable, he is
probably more concerned with charges of fraud, waste, nepotism,
mismanagement and sexual harassment involving UN staffers, senior
managers and peacekeepers.
week he announced plans to create an "accountability task force"
to clean up the UN system and protect whistleblowers. The UN Staff
Union has already complained about the lack of transparency in an
internal investigation of charges of sexual harassment against an
Under-Secretary-General based in Geneva.
an inquiry by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS),
Annan decided - "within the discretionary authority afforded
to him" - that the allegations could not be sustained.
second Under-Secretary-General based in New York was also exonerated,
this time on charges of improper appointments. The Staff Union is
seeking to reopen the investigation.
year the OIOS cleared a senior official in the UN Office on Drugs
and Crime in Vienna of charges of corruption and mismanagement.
A report by the OIOS released last month catalogued a long list
of corrupt practices in peacekeeping missions, mostly in Kosovo,
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Sierra Leone and Ethiopia-Eritrea.
cases include: abuse of authority by a senior manager: misconduct
by a senior manager in creating and working for an NGO while being
a staff member; unauthorised acceptance of donor contributions;
and unauthorised opening of bank accounts.
there were cases of fraudulent overcharging by a vendor for shipments
of personal effects; a waste of resources in a flawed procurement
exercise for the purchase of equipment that was unsuited to requirements
and quickly rendered inoperable; and violations of rules and regulations
by a staff member who embezzled $4.3 million.
senior staff member in Kosovo, a former African ambassador once
based in Germany, is accused of receiving a gift of a Mercedes Benz
car for favouring a particular vendor on a procurement contract.
The car has been stashed away in neighbouring Macedonia, away from
the prying eyes of UN investigators.
least 150 vans purchased for use by UN personnel in Kosovo were
found unsuitable and dangerous for travel in winter. The transport
director who approved the flawed purchase and the chief of procurement
who picked the particular vehicle model were a husband-and-wife
"Bonnie and Clyde" team working for the United Nations.
slew of charges against UN peacekeepers, both civilian and uniformed
personnel, also include sexual exploitation and abuse of young girls,
particularly in DRC.
to OIOS sources, there have also been cases of senior UN officials
in New York routinely abusing their first class or business class
airline privileges by re-routing their official travel plans to
make unauthorised visits to their home capitals - all at UN expense.
hundreds and thousands of "frequent flyer miles" accumulated
by senior officials on official travel - which rightfully belong
to the United Nations - are being used by family members for holiday
travel. As one UN watcher puts it: "The problem with the UN
is that it is surrounded by a culture of walls when what we need
is a culture of windows."