The UN, fraud and failure (not irony)

Tsunami reconstruction funds worth $US500 million are being lost to fraud and corruption because of the failure by the United Nations to implement its own anti-fraud measures.

This claim is made by the UN’s former deputy director of investigations, Frank Montil, a former ASIO officer who for a decade was the deputy director of the UN’s internal watchdog unit, set up to investigate fraud and corruption within the UN and its agencies.

In an exclusive interview with the Herald, Mr Montil said “the oil-for-food scandal taught them nothing”. The fraud and corruption which had been occurring during the tsunami reconstruction period would come back to haunt the UN, which had wilfully ignored all the warning signs.

Sadly this is not an area of my expertise. My colleague-in-teaching-Economics would do better with this one (he knows corruption, and was mobilised by the US to help administer their response to the tsunami). However.

The line “former ASIO officer who for a decade was the deputy director of the UN’s internal watchdog unit” – does this not make him a poor choice for bone-pointer? He says “the oil-for-food scandal taught them nothing”, but I assume he meant to say us, because his tenure strikes me as co-inciding with exactly that scandal.

One gets the impression that this is one person’s claim, however large the department under him that wrote the/an original internal UN report:

“My estimations of fraud were that at the bare minimum in Banda Aceh alone there would be at least $US80 or $US90 million disappearing in fraud and corruption. That’s only in emergency funds. That doesn’t include the half a billion that will be lost to fraud and corruption in reconstruction funds,” he said.

Half a billion is a big jump from an apparently specific USD80 or 90 million. I tend towards the view of my colleague, actually – these are typical small, relative to the total. Even the USD12bn Paul Bremer apparently lost – the Iraq war burns up more than that in a fortnight, you know? The real question is, what gets done? Are these areas properly put back together? If so, then bribes are just another rent extracted by assholes along the way. If not, then bribes are still not the problem, surely.

I’m not suggesting we give no thought to the matter, but the UN/US/etc. should be more focussed upon proper re-construction. If KBR and every other outfit in Iraq built the towns, bridges, hospitals, properly, we really wouldn’t care if they skimmed. It’s when these are not built that we get upset.

Speaking – obliquely – of which. Still no real updated information on the First Kuwaiti potential-scandal. A new one has arisen, of course. The Mother of All Embassies has been delayed because it was so poorly built. Ah, dear. We have a saying, either down under or just in my family: if you didn’t laugh, you’d cry.

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