February 1, 2005 | News Releases on International Organizations
WASHINGTON, FEB. 1, 2005- Early this month, the
Independent Inquiry Committee (IIC) into the United Nations
Oil-For-Food Program will release its interim report. Though
charged with investigating one of the largest financial scams in
history, the IIC report is expected to focus on breakdowns in
process rather than theft on a massive scale.
But as Nile Gardiner points out in a new paper from The Heritage Foundation, U.S. policy-makers shouldn't stand by while a committee compromised by conflicts of interest clears a secretary-general of faulty oversight and allows a group of U.N. officials to escape overall responsibility for the biggest financial fraud of modern times.
The committee's credibility problems begin with a lack of power to subpoena people to testify or even to demand to see relevant documents, Gardiner says. They continue with mysteries surrounding who sits on the committee. Only 10 its 60 members have been publicly identified-all of them senior staff and none from among those doing the actual investigating.
Gardiner also raises questions about former Federal Reserve Board chairman Paul Volcker, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's handpicked choice to lead the inquiry. Volcker has served on the boards of two U.N. advocacy groups: the United Nations Association of the United States and the Business Council for the United Nations. An additional sign that his loyalties may lie more with the U.N. bureaucracy than with accountability was his choice for the IIC's communications director, Anna Di Lellio, who resigned last September after it was revealed she had given a newspaper interview comparing President Bush to Osama bin Laden.
With Annan's job and the image of the organization he heads hanging in the balance, this is no time for a whitewash, Gardiner says. To that end, Gardiner proposes:
"The United Nations faces a major crisis of public confidence, and it needs this to be an independent, transparent and effective investigation," Gardiner says. "Regrettably, the Volcker Committee is failing on all these counts. As such, it should be viewed not as the definitive investigation into Oil-For-Food, but as one of several and not even the most credible among those."