- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 27, 2005

The final report on the investigation into the scandal-plagued Iraq oil-for-food program, due out today, will reveal a “shocking list” of companies that abused the program and “maladministration” in the United Nations’ top ranks, the report’s chief author said yesterday.

“We found extraordinary corruption in the purchasing area of the oil-for-food program,” said former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, head of the United Nations-appointed panel investigating the scandal.

U.N. oversight of the program “was mired in political differences in the Security Council,” he added.

Previewing the report in a Washington address yesterday, Mr. Volcker proposed an independent body to inspect U.N. management, staffing and finance.

“The U.N. needs a much stronger oversight — an international oversight body managed by professionals,” Mr. Volcker told an audience at Johns Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies.

He also advocated the appointment of an undersecretary to take over much of the day-to-day oversight of the U.N. bureaucracy, an idea endorsed by U.S. officials.

“The organization needs to focus on the internal management,” Mr. Volcker said.

Mr. Volcker predicted resistance to both these suggestions, but reiterated the need to make the United Nations more transparent.

The 18-month oil-for-food investigation has collected enough evidence to support serious corruption charges against top U.N. officials, Mr. Volcker said. Evidence includes computer data, cell phone bills and thousands of pages of records from the regime of Saddam Hussein.

Many of the Iraqi records are meticulous, tracing surcharges and kickbacks paid to Saddam’s government, Mr. Volcker confirmed.

The oil-for-food program had allowed Saddam’s regime to rake in an estimated $12.8 billion through illegal oil deals and kickbacks, the Volcker commission said in an interim report.

Mr. Volcker’s probe has exposed conflicts of interest and mismanagement of funds that have damaged the reputations of Secretary-General Kofi Annan and other top U.N. officials.

“The secretary-general was not forceful in carrying out his responsibilities,” Mr. Volcker said.

Because the program was administered on the ground in Iraq by non-U.N. contractors, Mr. Volcker said, it should have been managed better at the center.

Mr. Volcker said the program has challenged the world body’s high degree of integrity.

“We will have to wait till the General Assembly meets to see if these recommendations are adopted,” he added.

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