- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 3, 2006

As we go to press, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan continues to talk out of both sides of his mouth on the question of submitting a financial disclosure form and allowing the public to see it. In May, Mr. Annan’s spokesman told reporters that even though the secretary-general was not obliged to comply with rules requiring that he submit the form, he would do so in order “to show an example, to be an example to the rest of the staff who need to fill it out.”

But Mr. Annan’s example has been a very poor one. On Sept. 13, he said he would not provide the information, which is required of most U.N. staff under procedures Mr. Annan had instituted in order to make the United Nations a more “open” organization. Two days, later, while he was in Cuba paying tribute to ailing dictator Fidel Castro, the secretary-general took time out of his busy schedule to announce that he would submit a financial disclosure form to the U.N. ethics office. But unsurprisingly, there’s a catch: Although Mr. Annan filled out the form, it will not be made public.

This won’t do. All the talk of U.N. openness is a sham so long as Mr. Annan refuses to make the records public. Given the oil-for-food scandal — and serious questions about Mr. Annan’s own judgement in handling it — anything short of full disclosure will be seen as evidence that the secretary-general has something to hide.

For example, in 2004, Sens. Norm Coleman, a Republican, and Carl Levin, a Democrat, vigorously protested Mr. Annan’s efforts to block access to 55 internal audit reports on the Oil-for-Food program and his refusal to permit subcommittee investigators to interview U.N. officials. A report issued in March 2005 by the Independent Inquiry Committee, headed by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, which investigated the program, raised serious questions about Mr. Annan’s judgment and stewardship. For example, the Volcker report criticized Mr. Annan for failing to order a “thorough and independent investigation” of his son Kojo’s employment with Cotecna Inspection S.A., the Swiss company that ran the Oil-for-Food program for nearly five years. Cotecna retained the contract despite questions about its performance in inspecting supplies that went to the Iraqi people under oil-for-food. Mr. Annan ordered an investigation, completed in a single day, that failed to reflect the fact that Kojo Annan remained on Cotecna’s payroll.

And the oil-for-food debacle is not the only scandal-related problem that has dogged the secretary-general. Earlier this year, he appointed German activist Achim Steiner executive director of the U.N. Environmental Program just months after Mr. Steiner helped award Mr. Annan $500,000 for his environmental work. The bottom line is that Kofi Annan needs to stop stonewalling and make his financial disclosure forms public.

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