BREAKING NEWS ~ Annan accepts responsibility for oil-for-food lapses

BREAKING NEWS ~ Annan accepts responsibility for oil-for-food lapses

[JURIST] BBC News is reporting that UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has accepted responsibility for mismanagement of the now defunct UN Oil-for-Food program [official website; JURIST news archive]. The Independent Inquiry Committee [official website] investigating the program delivered its final report [BBC report] to the UN Security Council Wednesday morning and will soon make the full report available to the public. According to an IIC press release [text]:

With respect to the Programme as a whole, the Committee’s central conclusion is that the United Nations requires stronger executive leadership, thoroughgoing administrative reform, and more reliable controls and auditing.

However, responsibility for what went wrong with the Programme cannot be laid exclusively at the door of the Secretariat. Members of the Security Council and its 661 Committee must shoulder their share of the blame in providing uneven and wavering direction in the implementation of the Programme. …

However well-conceived the Programme was, in principle, the Security Council failed to clearly define the broad parameters, policies and administrative responsibilities for the Programme. This lack of clarity was exacerbated by permitting the Iraqi regome [sic] to exercise too much initiative in the Programme design and its subsequent implementation. Compounding that difficulty, the Security Council, in contrast to most past practice, retained through its 661 Committee, substantial elements of administrative control. As a result, neither the Security Council nor the Secretariat leadership was in overall control.

For all that uncertainty, the Secretariat had significant responsibilities in implementing and administering the Programme. As the Chief Administrative Officer of the United Nations, the Secretary-General, in turn, carried oversight and management responsibilities for the entire Secretariat. That included auditing and controls functions that had demonstrable problems with respect to the Programme.

Within the Programme itself, problems arose almost from the start. This report records the reluctance of both the Secretary-General and the Deputy Secretary-General to recognize their own responsibility for the Programme’s shortcomings, their failure to ensure that critical evidence was brought to the attention of the Security Council and the 661 Committee, and their minimal efforts to address sanctions violations with Iraqi officials; altogether there was a lack of oversight concerning OIP’s administration of the $100 billion Oil-for-Food Programme, and, above all a failure shared by them both to provide oversight of the Programme’s Executive Director, Benon Sevan.

In sum, in light of these circumstances, the cumulative management performance of the Secretary-General and the Deputy Secretary-General fell short of the standards that the United Nations Organization should strive to maintain. In making these findings, the Committee has recognized the difficult administrative demands imposed upon the Secretariat and the Secretary-General, both by the design of the Programme and the overlapping Security Council responsibilities.

The final report will also reaffirm the committee's prior findings [JURIST report] that there was not sufficient evidence to conclude that Annan personally sought to influence the procurement process.

11:40 AM ET – The committee's final report is now available.

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