February 1, 2005

February 1, 2005 | News Releases on International Organizations

Don't Let Volcker Report Whitewash U.N. Oil-For-Food Scandal, Analyst Says

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:

  • Bringing transparency to the IIC's operations. Identify all 60 people working on or with the committee, complete with all of their prior affiliations.
  • Publicly disclosing all interviews between the IIC and U.N. officials and all findings from the committee.
  • Furnishing monthly updates on IIC activities and progress to Security Council members.
  • Setting and honoring a date for publication of the final IIC report to remove the timing of its release from U.N. political manipulation.
  • Forcing the U.N. to make all of its personnel who were involved in the Oil-For-Food program, as well as all relevant documents, available to the various committees of the U.S. Congress that have opened investigations.

"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."

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