Posted by: Alex Chory
In reply to: bartermania who wrote msg# 1467 Date:1/18/2006 11:11:42 AM
Post #of 1469
Is there any honest people left in this world!
U.N. puts 8 staffers on paid leave in expanding probe of purchasing fraud, mismanagement
Associated Press WorldStream via NewsEdge Corporation :
UNITED NATIONS_The United Nations on Monday ordered eight staff members to take paid leave as part of its expanding investigation of fraud and mismanagement in U.N. purchasing for the world body's far-flung peacekeeping operations.
One company, which was not identified, has also been suspended from doing business with the United Nations pending further investigation, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
He said the eight staff members were put on paid leave to protect the organization as a result of an audit of the U.N. peacekeeping department's management and procurement practices by the U.N.'s internal watchdog. The United Nations did not identify the staff members but two U.N. officials said they included Assistant Secretary-General Andrew Toh, who headed the division responsible for procurement.
"This is just an administrative action," he said. "It is not at all a disciplinary action as this audit is not yet been finalized."
Asked why the United Nations had taken this action, Undersecretary-General for Management Christopher Burnham said "this is an indication that we have a vigorous and ongoing and expanding investigation."
He said Secretary-General Kofi Annan has ordered that the U.N.'s Office of Internal Oversight, its internal watchdog, cooperate fully with an ongoing criminal investigation by the U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York. That cooperation has already led to U.N. procurement officer Alexander Yakovlev pleading guilty in August to wire fraud and money laundering during his time in the Procurement Service.
A senior U.N. official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said the internal audit outlined specific cases of mismanagement and potential cases of fraud which are now being investigated by a team led by Paul Roberts, a senior investigator with the European Commission's anti-fraud unit.
Roberts will also look into more than 200 whistleblower tips received by the United Nations in recent months, the official said.
Annan ordered the urgent investigation because of compelling evidence turned up in the internal audit, the official said.
Last month, an independent review by the international accounting and consulting firm Deloitte & Touche said the U.N. Procurement Service is poorly managed and staff don't know even the basic rules governing their work. The report said the U.N. operation was too dependent on its staff to make sure purchasing contracts are free from fraud.
Burnham had ordered the review after Yakovlev pleaded guilty in federal court. A probe of the U.N. oil-for-food program had also implicated Yakovlev in corruption in the Iraq operation.
The United Nations recently retained Deloitte Consulting to undertake a six-month comprehensive audit of U.N. procurement, including the last five years of purchases for U.N. peacekeeping missions.
In 2005, the Procurement Department handled almost US$2 billion (€1.7 billion) in purchasing for the Department of Peacekeeping, almost double the amount in 2003, U.N. officials said.
"We expect the internal investigation to be completed in the next few months and we expect the forensic audit by Deloitte ... to also be completed in the next few months. Thus, we hope the actions we have taken today will last no longer than a few weeks or months," Burnham said in an interview.
As for the eight staff members placed on paid administrative leave, he said, "the secretary-general expects their complete cooperation with any and all aspects of the investigation."
The senior U.N. official said four staffers from the Department of Management had been placed on paid leave along with four members of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations who had been recalled from posts overseas.
Four other U.N. staffers from the Peacekeeping Department were recalled from field assignments to respond to the audit, but they were not ordered to take paid leave and are now being returned to their duty stations, Dujarric said.
While the U.N. refused to identify any of those involved, the two U.N. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because no names have been released, identified several of them.
Last summer, after Yakovlev pleaded guilty and the oil-for-food probe exposed the flaws in procurement, Annan transferred authority from Toh, the assistant secretary-general, to the U.N. controller. The chief of procurement, Christian Saunders, was also switched to a different job.
Both Saunders and Toh insisted that the Deloitte findings were not news to them and they had been trying to fix the problems.
The two U.N. officials said Toh and Saunders were among those placed on paid leave along with Sanjaya Bahel, who was in procurement and most recently headed commercial activities under Toh; Christopher Fathers, who was previously in charge of logistics and transportation in the procurement office; and Paul Johnson, who previously was in charge of logistics operations in the Peacekeeping Department.
Toh and Saunders did not return calls, Bahel is on leave, and efforts to reach Fathers and Johnson were unsuccessful.