Reacting to a guilty verdict against Sanjaya Bahel, a former senior United Nations procurement official, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today expressed satisfaction that justice has been done and noted that evidence gathered by the UN had been used in the case.
The Secretary-General said he “remains committed to actively pursuing any fraud and wrongdoing at the United Nations,” in a statement released by his spokesperson.
Citing evidence presented at the trial, Robert Appleton, Chair of the UN Procurement Task Force, told a press briefing at Headquarters that, “There was $100 million in contracts at issue, it was a product of fraud.”
Asked to specify a dollar figure of the cost of fraud to the UN, he said, “We’ve had several cases in which there has been significant loss and waste.”
Mr. Ban, through his spokesperson, said, “Such acts tarnish the reputation of the organization, and the tens of thousands of UN employee who work honourably and honestly.”
After an internal fact-finding investigation by the Organization’s own Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) into allegations of misconduct, the UN formally charged Mr. Bahel, an Indian national, with misconduct on 31 August 2006 and suspended him without pay, providing its final report to United States and Indian authorities.
Following a request from United States authorities, then-Secretary-General Kofi Annan waived Mr. Bahel’s immunity from legal process late last year, leading to the levying of criminal charges against him by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.
The spokesperson reaffirmed Mr. Ban’s support for the work of the Task Force, whose 86-page report about Mr. Bahel's conduct was given to United States authorities last year.
“The evidence supporting this guilty verdict was based in large part on the extensive work done by the Task Force,” the spokesperson said.
That evidence supported the criminal charges against Mr. Bahel and Nishan Kohli, a principal of a company that did business with the UN and who pleaded guilty to bribing Mr. Bahel and testified against him, according to the statement.
OIOS chief Inga-Britt Ahlenius told reporters that the Task Force currently had under review contracts worth around $1 billion, and had already found “significant amounts of fraud and waste,” adding that “the UN is a victim of such fraud.”
“In my view, and in the view of OIOS, there is a need for major overhaul of the procurement system in the Organization,” she added.
Mr. Ban said he expects all vendors, contractors, and their representatives, to conduct their business with the UN with the “highest levels of integrity and honesty.”
“Those who fail to do so will not be permitted to continue doing business with this organization,” he stressed.