- The Washington Times - Friday, August 1, 2008

UNITED NATIONS | U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has referred the U.N. “good governance” chief to the U.N. Disciplinary Committee, acting just two days before the official’s retirement.

The official, Guido Bertucci, headed the U.N. Department of Public Administration and Development Management (DPADM) until Thursday evening - his final day at work before taking early retirement amid a series of corruption investigations.

His pension benefits, accumulated over three decades at the United Nations, remains untouchable and the prospect of any disciplinary action remote, U.N. officials said.

The case involves a series of internal U.N. audits going back more than a year that focus on mismanagement and misspent money from a $2.8 million trust fund established by the Greek government to help develop “good governance” and “transparency” in the Balkans and Eastern Europe.

“The secretary-general feels that there was no evidence of fraud, but credible evidence of mismanagement,” a senior U.N. official told The Washington Times. “He feels there should be accountability.”

Mr. Bertucci - who stopped cooperating with inspectors midway though the investigations - declined to return phone calls this week, as did his boss, Undersecretary General for Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) Sha Zukang.

Officials in the U.N. press office, the Office of Internal Oversight Services and the Administrative Law Unit of the Human Resources department refused to discuss the matter.

“[DESA] contacted us this morning and told us the media were asking questions and reminded us we cannot respond to cases that are confidential,” said an official with the law unit.

This official, like others contacted for this article, asked for anonymity because they feared retaliation.

The Bertucci affair has been a protracted and complex matter, exposing the limits of accountability at the United Nations, despite a welter of overlapping investigative arms and competing internal justice systems.

At least three former employees have filed grievances against Mr. Bertucci and his DPADM agency for harassment, abuse of authority and wrongful dismissal, said George Irving, a lawyer representing three former staffers.

Mr. Bertucci’s official biography, taken from the DESA Web site, reads in part:

“He has written, spoken and organized meetings worldwide on topics such as democratic governance, civil service reform, leadership, innovation in government and public administration, e-government, decentralization, economic and social governance, ethics and integrity.”

Despite the often-repeated quest for accountability, the United Nations is virtually unable to censure or punish an employee once he or she has left the organization.

If the Disciplinary Committee decides to pursue the complaint, by no means certain, there is nothing to compel Mr. Bertucci to cooperate. His pension remains secure and there is little the committee can do other than issue a pro-forma note in the file.

U.N. officials said it is unlikely the United Nations will ask Mr. Bertucci to reimburse the Greek government for money that he and two subordinates were found to have misused to pay consultants for unrelated projects.

An April report by the U.N. Procurement Task Force found Mr. Bertucci “personally accountable and financially liable” for $34,000.

The money, investigators said, was siphoned from a $2.8 million trust fund established by the Greek government for DPADM to run a governance and transparency program for Balkan and Eastern European countries.

The Greek government accuses DPADM of squandering up to $500,000.

Mr. Irving, the attorney, said that referring the matter to the disciplinary board just before retirement shows the United Nations is not serious about punishing Mr. Bertucci, but simply wants him to leave quickly and quietly.

“There used to be a policy not to send a retiree to the discipline committee, because that’s useless,” he told The Washington Times.

Mr. Bertucci could have been refused early retirement, Mr. Irving said, or kept on leave to keep him within the system, had the referral to the Disciplinary Committee or other steps been taken earlier.

“This is a clear example of where the rhetoric does not match the action,” Mr. Irving said.

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