- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 11, 2005

The U.N. Security Council, of which the United States is a key member, should take responsibility for the Iraq oil-for-food scandal along with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, because it was in charge of managing the program, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said yesterday.

“The secretary-general will have to be accountable for those management problems,” Mr. Powell said in an interview with Fox News Channel, which will air tonight.

But “the responsibility does not rest entirely on Kofi Annan,” said the outgoing secretary, according to a transcript provided by the channel.

“It also rests on the membership, and especially on the Security Council, and we are a member of the Security Council. It is the Security Council that had the responsibility for the day-to-day management of this program,” Mr. Powell said.

He added that he was not “sure if there were any criminal problems” in the program’s mismanagement, and that he trusted former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, who leads an internal U.N. investigation, to find out the truth.

“I have a lot of confidence in Paul Volcker,” Mr. Powell said. “I, frankly, participated in pushing him forward as a candidate for this investigation. He is a man of great skill and competence and credibility.”

The Volcker panel last week released several audit reports on the multibillion-dollar oil-for-food program that showed lax oversight, understaffing and widespread inefficiencies within the system, but no evidence of fraud or corruption.

Further problems within the program are expected to be disclosed when the commission releases an interim report at the end of the month.

Administrators of the 1996-2003 program appear to have been easily misled by contractors, banks and key suppliers, according to internal audits conducted since 1998 by the United Nations’ inspector general.

U.N. agencies operating in Iraq paid for ghost employees, failed to properly account for currency fluctuations and apparently lacked the expertise to properly draft or negotiate a contract, all of which cost the program millions of dollars, the panel found.

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