Pressing ahead with his campaign to improve United Nations management, Secretary-General Kofi Annan today named a leading business consultant as his special adviser, while his senior management chief laid out an immediate two-track policy of whistle-blower protection and financial disclosure, including the establishment of an ethics office.
Under the new system, the worth of gifts that UN officials will be required to disclose will drop from $10,000 to $250, and financial disclosure forms will be required from a far broader spectrum than the current range of assistant secretary-general and up.
These reforms, long in the making, have gained added momentum in light of the independent inquiry into charges of mismanagement and corruption in the UN-administered Iraq Oil-for-Food Programme. Reform is a major plank of Mr. Annan's blueprint – In Larger Freedom – for bringing the UN into the 21st century, and figured high on the agenda of the UN World Summit in September.
Rajat Kumar Gupta, Senior Partner Worldwide and former Managing Director of the global consulting firm McKinsey & Company, will act as personal adviser to the Secretary-General on overall strategy. He will also participate in the Deputy Secretary-General's Coordination Committee overseeing implementation of the Summit decisions, spokesman Stephane Dujarric told the daily noon briefing.
Mr. Gupta "will help to ensure that the overall management reform programme is in line with best global practice and provide focused, specialist assistance on key issues of concern," the spokesman said.
Meanwhile, Under-Secretary-General for Management Christopher Burnham told a news briefing that a functioning whistle-blower protection system was essential for preventing waste, fraud and abuse.
The UN is seeking out a wide spectrum of views on the issue from the staff council, the global accounting and consulting firm Deloitte Consulting LLP, and the World Bank, which has gone through an even more lengthy process and review than the UN Secretariat, he said.
"I think it is very important that we share what they have learned and what best practices they have identified," he said. "The United Nations does not presently have a functioning whistle-blower protection system. We have an organizational culture whereby staff members do not come forward to report wrongdoing owing to fears that their careers will be on the line or some other retaliation."
Mr. Burnham said a far more comprehensive system of financial disclosure, drafted looking at the best practices of umber of Member States including the United States, will be ready within days, providing the UN with additional safeguards.
It "will exceed what we feel was best practice," he declared. "There will be a system stronger than the US system and stronger than many Members State systems as well."
An ethics office will be set up to review the financial disclosures on an annual basis. It will also develop annual ethics training and also advise on what is appropriate, for example if somebody wants to take an official to a ball game or the theatre.
"An ethics office is not a 'gotcha' office," he explained. "It's an office that is set up to prevent and to try to keep individuals and the United Nations from getting into potential conflicts of interest."
The lower gift limit is "an essential ingredient in restoring the confidence that the United Nations is a beacon of honour and probity and dignity and integrity," he added.
"We absolutely trying to create the ability here and the confidence here that if there is fraud and abuse we want you to come forward, and if there are certain things that make you uncomfortable then we're going to have other solutions to that to encourage you and to empower you to come forward," he declared.
"It has my complete commitment to get this right on behalf of the men and the women who labour here at the United Nations to make the world a better place."