- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The media spinners busied themselves yesterday portraying the report of the Independent Inquiry Committee investigating the oil-for-food scandal as a vindication of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. It clearly is not.

Mr. Annan and his apologists noted that the panel, headed by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, did not find “reasonably sufficient” evidence of wrongdoing by the U.N. chief. This is not the ringing vindication Mr. Annan wanted, and perhaps expected. The interim report hurts him and questions his stewardship.

The Volcker report faults Mr. Annan for failing to order “a thorough and independent investigation” of his son’s employment with Cotecna Inspection S.A., the Swiss company that ran the Oil-for-Food Program (December 1998-November 2003). Cotecna retained the contract despite questions about its performance in inspecting the supplies that went to the Iraqi people under oil-for-food. When Cotecna won the inspection contract for Iraq in late 1998, it failed to disclose the fact that it employed the secretary-general’s son, Kojo, as a consultant. Kojo Annan’s employment with Cotecna was first revealed in January 1999 by the London Sunday Telegraph, which reported that Swiss authorities were investigating illegal payments to former Pakistani President Benazir Bhutto.

Following that, Mr. Annan ordered an investigation, which was completed within a day by U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Management Joseph Connor. Mr. Connor concluded that Kojo Annan’s employment with Cotecna was not known to any of the responsible procurement officials and that his employment with the company had ended. (In fact, from that time until payments to Kojo Annan stopped last year, Kojo Annan, who the committee said “has failed to cooperate fully with the Committee’s requests for financial disclosure,” received well over $100,000 in payments from Cotecna.) The Volcker panel found that Cotecna was not required to submit a financial statement as set out in U.N. rules, even though this would have revealed “strains on Cotecna’s financial position” that could have affected its ability to execute the Iraq contract. Mr. Annan “should have referred the matter to an appropriate United Nations department for a thorough and independent investigation.”

The committee severely criticizes the performance of two other senior aides to Mr. Annan: Dileep Nair — U.N. Under-Secretary for Internal Oversight Services, who misspent oil-for-food program money, and S. Iqbal Riza, the secretary-general’s Chef de Cabinet, who “acted imprudently and in violation” of his own April 2004 directive to preserve oil-for-food documents by allowing his secretary to shred them until December.

Contrary to the mainstream media spin, the interim report paints yet another disturbing picture of U.N. malfeasance in running the Oil-for-Food Program.

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