The United Nations will act vigorously to ensure there are no more “bad apples” in its procurement department, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today, pledging that the corruption outlined yesterday in the latest report from the investigative panel probing the Iraq Oil-for-Food-programme “will not happen again.”
“I think we are taking very active measures to ensure that we do not have any more ‘bad apples’ in that department and the new Under Secretary-General [for Management], Chris Burnham, has been in very active discussions with us. My Chef de Cabinet and I are seeing him later on this week for us to discuss this issue,” Mr. Annan told reporters after his monthly lunch with members of the Security Council.
The third Interim Report of the Independent Inquiry Committee (IIC), headed by former US Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, concluded that the former Executive Director of the UN Office of the Iraq Programme, Benon Sevan, "corruptly benefited" from his role in the oil-for-food-programme and accused former procurement officer Alexander Yakovlev of soliciting kickbacks.
Voicing deep concern at the report’s findings, Mr. Annan yesterday waived the immunity of Mr. Yakovlev, and stressed that he would do the same for Mr. Sevan, as soon as he receives any properly supported request from an appropriate law enforcement authority.
“Indeed we are taking it very, very seriously, and we have already taken some steps and done some studies but we are going to act very energetically to ensure that what happened will not happen again,” Mr. Annan said today.
Asked about the delay in the report’s release, Mr. Annan said that the UN would have hoped that the report would come earlier. “But Mr. Volcker and his team have had lost of work to do and the pace of the reporting has been dictated [by the pace of that work]. We just have to wait until the [next] report comes out, which he has indicated will be the first week of September, and I hope [it] will be comprehensive and put things in perspective.”
To a reporter’s suggestion that prospects for Security Council reform seemed to be dwindling with the General Assembly’s World Summit just weeks away, Mr. Annan said that from his discussions, the vast majority of Member States wanted to see Security Council reform and were in favour of change. The debate was over what kind of reform would be achieved under what kind of option or formula.
“I am still hoping that they will reform the Council. I think the reform of the Council is long overdue. I am one of those believes that UN reform will not be complete without the reform of the Security Council. So I would urge Member States to engage each other and find a solution to this issue as soon as possible,” he said.
“I have also encouraged them to resolve the outstanding issues on the other clusters within the month of August. Their leaders are coming here to look at the documents they will put before them. I hope for the sake of their leaders and the people of the world, they will be able to put a solid document before them to review with very serious recommendations,” he said, adding: "If they are not able to resolve it before the Summit, the issue is not going to die. I hope they will resolve it before we all go away for Christmas.”
Ahead of Mr. Annan’s comments, Ambassador Kenzo Oshima of Japan, which holds the Council presidency for the month of August, told reporters that during their lunch, the Secretary-General had briefed the Council members on situations in specific countries, chiefly Cote d’Ivoire and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). He had also discussed Afghanistan and Iraq. The Council appreciated Mr. Annan’s active involvement in all those situations, Ambassador Oshima added.