of two senior investigators probing the U.N. Oil-for-Food scandal
is the latest blow to the credibility of the U.N.-appointed
Independent Inquiry Committee into the Oil-for-Food Program,
chaired by Paul Volcker. The resignations of Robert Parton and
Miranda Duncan-the former was senior investigative counsel and "the
lead investigator on issues pertaining to allegations of
impropriety relating to the secretary-general and his son Kojo
Annan," and the latter a member of Parton's investigative team-have
thrown the Volcker Committee into turmoil. According to an
Associated Press report, the two resigned because they believed the
Committee's Second Interim Report was "too soft on the
secretary-general," Kofi Annan.
resignations are just the latest developments calling into question
the Volcker Committee's impartiality. Mr. Volcker should step aside
and make way for a new chairman who has no prior ties to
U.N.-affiliated groups and whose objectivity could restore the
Committee's tarnished credibility.
reflect growing tensions within the Volcker Commission over the
interpretation of evidence relating to Kofi Annan's role in the
Oil-for-Food scandal. Mark Pieth, one of the three leaders of the
IIC investigation, has made it clear that Parton and Duncan
resigned as a matter of principle over disagreements with the
conclusions drawn by the Volcker Committee. Referring to the two
investigators, Pieth said, "What we did was we told the story that
they found, but we made different conclusions than they would
have." At least one key
witness, a former business partner of Kojo Annan, alleges that the
Volcker Committee ignored evidence he gave that was damaging to
appearances, Mr. Annan seems to be using Paul Volcker as a shield
to protect his own reputation. A more critical and neutral chairman
would have drawn far harder-hitting conclusions from the mountain
of damaging evidence that has emerged from the investigation.
Despite his investigators presenting an ugly tableau of
incompetence, mismanagement, corruption, and deception at the
top of the United Nations, Mr. Volcker has shied away from direct
criticism of the Secretary-General and the United Nations as an
institution. Where the evidence has been harmful to Mr. Annan, Mr.
Volcker has clearly played down his findings.
There are major
questions about the Chairman's neutrality. Mr. Volcker spent
several years as a director of the United Nations Association
(UNA-USA) and the Business Council for the United Nations. With this background,
he may be unable to cast a critical, objective eye on the U.N.'s
leadership. The Secretary-General was no doubt aware of Volcker's
close ties to the UNA-USA when he appointed him to head the
of two of Mr. Volcker's investigators on the grounds that he has
been 'soft' on the U.N. Secretary-General confirms that there are
serious underlying problems with the Committee. The resignations of
Mr. Parton, an experienced and respected former FBI agent, and one
of his investigators, combined with unanswered questions about Mr.
Volcker's own neutrality, cast doubt over the Committee and Mr.
Volcker's leadership of it.
should step down and make way for a new chairman without previous
ties to the United Nations or its affiliates. Mr. Volcker will
surely appreciate that in the corporate world, an independent
inquiry into fraud and corruption could not be headed by
someone with strong ties and loyalties to the corporation being
investigated. A weaker standard should not prevail at the United
Nations, especially given the weight of the charges leveled against
senior U.N. staff.
U.N.-appointed Independent Inquiry Committee into the United
Nations Oil-for-Food Program released its first Interim
February 3 of this year and its Second Interim Reporton March 29. The
U.N. response to the interim reports has been breathtaking in its
arrogance. Notably absent has been any sign of humility,
contrition, or accountability on the part of the
Secretary-General and his senior aides. Indeed, it is hard to avoid
the conclusion that the leadership of the United Nations is still
in denial over the U.N.'s declining credibility. The ruling clique
that surrounds Mr. Annan at the top of the United Nations continues
to behave with impunity while projecting an air of superiority
deeply resented by many rank-and-file U.N. employees.
Within hours of
its release, the Second Interim Report was greeted with
cries of "exoneration" from Annan and his staff after Committee
Chairman Paul Volcker controversially found "no evidence that the
selection of Cotecna in 1998 was subject to any
affirmative or improper influence of the Secretary-General in
the bidding or selection process." In his press conference
following the release of the Second Interim Report, a
boastful Annan said, "After so many distressing and untrue
allegations have been made against me, this exoneration by the
independent inquiry comes as a great relief." When asked if he was
planning to resign anytime soon, Annan responded, "Hell no!"
A closer reading
of both interim reports reveals however serious leadership failures
at the United Nations. The evidence contained in the reports adds
to the growing picture of mismanagement, incompetence, and
unaccountability at the U.N. Contrary to Annan's claims, the
evidence does not vindicate him or the United Nations.
destruction of thousands of critically important documents by
Annan's Chief of Staff Iqbal Riza, the failure by Kofi Annan to
order an independent investigation into potential conflicts of
interest relating to his son's employment with an Oil-for-Food
contractor, and previously undisclosed meetings between Kofi Annan
and executives of that contractor make a mockery of U.N.
claims of vindication. The document shredding alone gives the
impression of a major cover-up at the very heart of the United
Nations and casts a dark cloud over the Secretary-General.
unwillingness to draw unfavorable conclusions regarding the actions
of the U.N. Secretary-General, as well as his failure to refute
claims of exoneration by Mr. Annan and his staff, have seriously
undermined the credibility of his investigation.
Paul Volcker should step down as Chairman of the Independent
Mr. Volcker should step aside and make way for a new chairman
who has no previous ties to U.N.-affiliated organizations and who
will be better placed to make objective judgments about the actions
of U.N. leaders. The Committee needs a fresh face at the helm. If
Mr. Volcker can no longer retain the confidence of his own top
staff, he will be unable to maintain the confidence of Congress and
the American people.
A Full Committee Hearing of the House International Relations
Committee should be held into the Volcker Committee
Former investigators Robert Parton
and Miranda Duncan should be invited to testify before Congress to
shed light on their resignations and the workings of the Volcker
Committee, which have so far been shrouded in secrecy.
Congress should insist that future inquiries into U.N.
scandals be fully independent.
In the future, the U.N.
Secretary-General should not be allowed to directly appoint
committees to investigate U.N. scandal. Such inquiries will always
be open to the possibility of political interference and
manipulation by those being investigated. Congress should
insist that future investigations into U.N. scandals be completely
independent of the Secretary-General. Chairmen of such inquiries
should also be asked to disclose, upon appointment, all potential
conflicts of interest, whether business or political.
The resignation of two investigators from the
Independent Inquiry Committee, including its senior investigative
counsel, calls into question the ability of the Volcker Committee
to deliver a definitive and objective assessment of the U.N.'s
administration of the Oil-for-Food Program. The unwillingness so
far of Mr. Volcker to criticize the U.N. Secretary-General, despite
the emergence of damaging evidence, represents a failure of
leadership and calls into question both his neutrality and
judgment. It is time for Mr. Volcker to step aside and allow a new
figure to head the U.N. Independent Inquiry Committee, to ensure
that the leadership of the United Nations is held to account for
the biggest scandal in the history of the world body.
Ph.D., is Fellow in Anglo-American Security Policy in the
Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy of the Shelby
and Kathryn Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies at The