Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Boy, Those UN Guys Sure Can Waste Money

Another Black Eye for the UN
Ann Shibler JBSTuesday, February 26, 2008
Several internal audits by one of its own agencies reveal that the UN has wasted tens of millions of dollars in its "peacekeeping operations" in Sudan over the past three years.
Follow this link to the original source: "Audit of U.N.’s Sudan Mission Finds Tens of Millions in Waste"
The UN Security Council established its mission in Sudan in March 2005, under the guise of helping to settle a 22-year-old civil war that has left 2 million dead, leaving tens of thousands, if not millions, homeless and hungry.
Earlier this month, the Washington Post obtained a copy of a confidential audit from October 2006 where "a number of potential fraud indicators and cases of mismanagement and waste," were noted by the UN Office for International Oversight Services, the UN agency conducting the audits.
Irregularities that have been identified so far include:
• Thousands of food rations being lost to theft and spoilage.

• Millions of dollars being wasted by renting warehouses that were never used.

• The unnecessary expenditure of $1.2 million used for booking blocks of luxurious hotel rooms for UN staffers that were never used.

• A UN agent is accused of steering a $589,000 contract to Radiola Aerospace for solar airport runway lights when the company helped his wife obtain a student visa.

• Two senior procurement officials, one U.S. citizen and one from New Zealand, are charged with misconduct for not complying with rules designed to prevent corruption.

• A $200 million contract with Eurest Support Services, a British catering company, is being examined, as the company has already been charged with rigging bids in three different African countries.• One contract to supply gravel for peacekeeping barracks was described in the audit as "exorbitant."

• Over $9 million in unnecessary fees went to a Canadian company, Skylink Aviation, by releasing it from its obligation to fulfill a contract.

• Another $9 million was wasted by hiring a company to clear UN goods through customs instead of UN staffers doing the job.
Now, for the excuses:
• UN peacekeeping officials, while acknowledging problems in Sudan contend that procurement officials were "perhaps in over their heads, but not corrupt."

• Understaffing and changes in troop deployment schedules upended UN plans and led to higher costs.

• UN officials agree costs are high, but it is the government of Sudan that has prohibited the UN from doing the job.

• The UN procurement division "did not have the necessary capacity and expertise to handle the large magnitude of procurement actions" in Sudan.

• "This is seen as a witch hunt that is not warranted given the fluidity and complexity of that mission," said one UN official not authorized to speak publicly about the investigations.

• Skylink Aviation said the terms of its initial contract with the UN were unfair because the slow deployment of troops reduced the amount of fuel needed. "We were losing money big time," said Jan Ottens, senior executive at Skylink.

• Radiola’s managing director Brent Albiston admits it violated UN rules when it sponsored the visa for the UN official’s wife in exchange for the contract, "but absolutely no money passed hands," he said.
Keep in mind these are the admitted activities of just one UN mission — the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
Faith McDonnell is director of the Institute on Religion and Democracy’s Church Alliance for a New Sudan. She added these comments:
The greatest tragedy here is that a little money can go a long way in helping those Sudanese who are in need. While nonprofit aid organizations and churches can do wonders with just a few hundred or thousand dollars, the UN wastes millions. The lost opportunities are staggering.
There are reports in Juba of UN workers served luxurious brunches by five-star chefs while southern Sudanese outside scramble to piece together paltry school tuition fees. It is nothing short of a travesty.
Southern Sudan is really the best hope for peace in the entire country. Marginalized people/groups are coming together with Southern Sudanese as never before. All Sudanese who want just peace, secular democracy, and religious freedom are counting on the UN and African Union forces to assist them in stabilizing and developing their country, not taking control from indigenous leaders and replaying the same corruption we’ve seen in many other countries.
How corrupt does an organization have to be, with examples abounding of every kind of immorality, criminal behavior, abuse and corruption committed by UN individuals and agencies as a whole, before people wake up to the reality of its workings and agenda?

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