- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 31, 2005

NEW YORK — U.N. inspector-general Dileep Nair yesterday accused the second-ranking official at the United Nations of impeding his efforts to take his concerns about the Iraqi oil-for-food program to the Security Council.

Mr. Nair, who is responsible for rooting out corruption and mismanagement through the U.N. Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), said Deputy Secretary-General Louise Frechette had prevented him from sharing reviews of the oil-for-food program with the 15-nation council.

“I was blocked by the deputy secretary-general from putting my reports into the Security Council,” said Mr. Nair, who himself is being criticized by investigators for his handling of the oil-for-food account.

“I wanted to put my reports to the Security Council so it will get visibility and accountability,” Mr. Nair said. “But Benon [Sevan] turned it down. And Louise Frechette said no, I shouldn’t do it.” Mr. Sevan is the former administrator of the oil-for-food program.

Miss Frechette said yesterday she did not recall Mr. Nair’s seeking permission to share the reports, which were considered to be internal documents and not destined for public distribution.

“In any event, I could not have blocked Mr. Nair because he does not report to me,” Miss Frechette told The Washington Times yesterday.

“He reports to the [General Assembly]. I have no authority over him.”

Mr. Nair leaves the United Nations on April 20 at the expiration of a five-year, nonrenewable contract.

Under U.N. regulations, the full internal audits were not distributed to member states before December, and only brief highlights of the findings were made public.

“The only member state that asked questions was Iraq,” said Mr. Nair, of the early 2000s. “Mostly, the member states were mum, and I took my cue accordingly.”

Mr. Nair said he did not try to informally lobby member states, either in the General Assembly or the Security Council, to take a closer look.

Mr. Nair, undersecretary-general for internal oversight services, acknowledged that Miss Frechette is “probably right” that she did not have the authority to stop his approaching the Security Council.

But he said a proper referral from U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s office was required.

In January, the 55 internal audits of the oil-for-food program were released — largely in response to congressional demands — by the U.N. investigation panel that is led by former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Paul Volcker.

Mismanagement of the seven-year, $64 billion program has made for negative headlines, and threatens to derail U.N. efforts to reform itself.

Mr. Nair, of Singapore, was harshly criticized by the Volcker committee on Tuesday for hiring a special assistant using funds earmarked for management of the oil-for-food program.

The assistant, also from Singapore, estimates he spent less than 10 percent of his time on program-specific tasks.

Mr. Nair also has been under investigation for improper hiring and sexual harassment.

U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard told reporters yesterday that the charges substantiated by the Volcker panel “supersede” the previous complaints, and vowed that still-unspecified disciplinary proceedings are “inevitable.”

The accusations against Mr. Nair have been an embarrassment to Mr. Annan, who has spoken repeatedly of creating new accountability and transparency in the organization.

OIOS was created a decade ago by major U.N. contributors in an effort to rein in waste, fraud and corruption.

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