Monday, May 14, 2001

NEW YORK — Two U.N. bodies have conducted investigations into the management practices of the U.N. drug czar, whom departing senior staffers have accused of patronage, staff intimidation and secretive or capricious decision-making.
The U.N. Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (ODCCP), based in Vienna, Austria, is said to be in an administrative shambles under the leadership of Executive Director Pino Arlacchi, a former Italian senator and noted Mafia foe.
Six officials have left the ODCCP in the past year, lobbing accusations of mismanagement that have shaken the confidence of donor nations contributing 90 percent of the ODCCPs budget.
The ODCCP is separate from the International Narcotics Control Board, on which the United States lost its seat May 3, the same day it failed to win re-election to the U.N. Human Rights Commission. Both drug agencies report to the same parent agency in the world body. The disarray illustrates concerns that have repeatedly prompted bipartisan dissatisfaction in the U.S. Congress.
That dissatisfaction drove the vote in the House last week to withhold a portion of next years dues unless the United States wins back its seat on the Human Rights Commission. Beyond the more immediate dissatisfaction with recent U.N. votes that have gone badly for the United States lies long-standing concern over what critics see as a cumbersome and inefficient U.N. bureaucracy.

New manager

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan — who has publicly supported Mr. Arlacchi and declined to comment in detail until the investigations are complete — recently requested funding from the General Assembly to create a new deputys position at the ODCCP, according to one diplomat who has followed the matter closely. The deputy would handle day-to-day management of the $100 million agency.
In a public resignation letter, the former ODCCP operations director accused Mr. Arlacchi of nearly four dozen instances of bad management, including threatening dissenting employees with termination or relocation, consolidating all decision-making power behind his own often-closed office door and wasting millions of dollars in donor money on drug-eradication programs that were, from the start, of dubious value or far too ambitious.
“I see an organization that has increased its international visibility while, at the same time, is crumbling under the weight of promises that it is unable to meet under a management style that has demoralized, intimidated and paralyzed its staff,” Michael von der Schulenburg wrote in December.
His 20-page resignation letter was immediately posted on the Web site of Italys Radical Party, which favors the legalization of soft drugs. “You are also the worst manager I have come across.”
That letter and others have triggered two investigations, one recently concluded by the U.N. External Board of Auditors and the other nearly completed by the U.N. Office of Internal Oversight Services.
The auditors looked into recruitment practices, spending patterns and charges of “inappropriate use of (ODCCP) monies.”

Cleared of impropriety

That report, completed on April 24 but not publicly released, absolves Mr. Arlacchi of impropriety, said director David Woodwards cover letter, which was obtained by The Washington Times.
But the review criticizes the offices tendency to “initiate a number of projects before securing all the funds necessary to see them through.” Auditors also questioned the viability of a field office located less than 30 miles from headquarters, and urged the agency to double-check travel expenses.
The U.N. Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) has largely concluded its own investigation of the criticisms leveled against Mr. Arlacchi, but that may not be made public for some time.
It is standard practice for the initial findings to be reviewed and “corrected” by their subjects, with those comments incorporated into the version that is sent to the secretary-general and eventually released.
Mr. Arlacchi declined to discuss the complaints, as did his spokesman, Sandro Tucci.
“Internal procedures advise Mr. Arlacchi … that until the OIOS report comes out, he may not speak,” Mr. Tucci said recently.
Months ago, the former Italian senator did defend himself against critics, saying he had made powerful enemies by going after organized crime figures and drug lords.
U.S. officials have publicly supported Mr. Arlacchi and ODCCP, and have not threatened to withhold Washingtons $20-million-a-year voluntary contribution.
“We give him high marks for having a strong vision,” said one U.S. official, who said Mr. Arlacchis philosophy mirrors the American emphasis on supply reduction more closely than that of most Europeans, who focus more on reducing the harmful effects of drug use.
“But he is not a manager. His background is in sociology, criminology, the fight against the Mafia,” the American said. “There has been a lot of unhappiness” in the ODCCP offices.
The U.N. drug-control program was founded in 1991 to fight drug production, consumption and trafficking through a variety of means. It has a staff of 350 and an annual budget of roughly $100 million, which funds programs in two dozen nations.

Disliked demeanor

Mr. Annans appointment in September 1997 of Mr. Arlacchi was considered a masterstroke at the time.
An eloquent professor-turned-politician and author with unimpeachable credentials, Mr. Arlacchi was to invigorate the sluggish drug-control office, generate media coverage and seduce donor nations into opening their checkbooks.
To a large extent, he has. A 1998 special summit on drug-control issues, for example, produced demand-reduction targets and novel ideas for making drug profits harder to launder and conceal.
“He is, personally, unimpeachable,” said one Secretariat staffer who has known Mr. Arlacchi since 1997. “But he has the kind of demeanor that makes people hate him. Especially those who work beneath him.”
Mr. Arlacchis increasingly erratic and secretive management style has driven off top staff members, compromised the integrity of the agencys recent World Drug Report and rattled the confidence of governments that fund the program, say former staff members and diplomats.
“We have considered it prudent to freeze our contribution this year, pending the outcome of the investigations,” said Petrus Verbeek, a Dutch envoy in New York, who added that his government had halted its $6 million contribution this year. “There is not much disagreement in Vienna that the accusations made against (ODCCP) are serious.”
Informally disseminated correspondence obtained by The Times indicates widespread alarm within the drug office and the Secretariat itself about Mr. Arlacchis increasingly consolidated management, in which midlevel managers are forced to seek approval from Mr. Arlacchi or a handful of advisers before making even minor decisions.
Employees have been summarily dismissed or exiled to Nigeria, and staff have been told to abandon complex drug-eradication programs when the money runs out.
But most of the criticism of Mr. Arlacchi concerns his management style, not fraud or corruption.
Research coordinator Francisco Thoumi, assigned to coordinate the production of the World Drug Report 2000 in April of that year, asked to have his name removed from the finished product after a chapter on synthetic drugs was removed.
“I also find it difficult to understand how a World Drug Report would not have sections dealing with marijuana, drug legalization and the link between illicit drugs and organized crime,” he wrote in a September memo, concluding that “there has been a monumental waste of resources” in the preparation of the report.

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide