[JURIST] Following up on a story reported this morning on JURIST's Paper Chase, the Independent Inquiry Committee [official website] (IIC) into the UN Oil-for-Food program [official website] has released its interim report [PDF text]. The report concludes that the conduct of program head Benon Sevan [official profile] in soliciting oil deals on behalf of a Panamanian-registered trading company was a grave conflict of interest, one that was "ethically improper and seriously undermined the integrity of the United Nations." Although it did not accuse Sevan specifically of bribery, it noted that he had received some $160,000 in large cash payments. Sevan has denied any wrongdoing and has said he got the funds from an alderly aunt in Cyprus. The interim report additionally censured the Oil-for-Food program for selecting contractors without following appropriate financial and competitive bidding rules. The IIC Thursday also released a comparison of estimates of illicit Iraqi income during UN sanctions [PDF text]. AP has more.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has indicated that he will consider the IIC's recommendations and "If there are things that can be fixed in the way the United Nations does business, he will fix those things." Annan's spokesperson said Thursday before the report's public release that "If there are individuals against whom there are criminal accusations [Annan] would waive the immunity of those people and he would cooperate with the prosecution as they seek to defend themselves before whatever judicial authorities have jurisdiction and decide to prosecute." The UN News Service has more. Annan's Chef de Cabinet, Mark Malloch Brown, is expected to present the UN's initial response to the report at 5 PM ET Thursday. The UN will offer a live webcast.