Wednesday, August 10, 2005


How Naive?

Oil-for-Food Corruption - New York Times: "The report cites instances in which Mr. Sevan argued for easing constraints on Iraq and contends that he knew from personal experience that Iraq was imposing surcharges on recipients of oil allocations yet played down the problem. What's striking is how small-bore the corruption he is accused of looks against the backdrop of a $65 billion oil-for-food program.
The guilty plea from the procurement officer, Aleksandr Yakovlev, had little to do with the oil-for-food program, but underscores how corruption may have infected many procurement programs at the organization. The panel, headed by Paul Volcker, the former Federal Reserve chairman, found that Mr. Yakovlev had unsuccessfully solicited a bribe from a company seeking an oil-for-food contract. It concluded that he had received more than $950,000 in payments from companies that won contracts in other U.N. programs.
Much of the evidence against Mr. Yakovlev seems to have been uncovered by the U.N.'s own internal investigators, who provided leads to the Volcker panel and the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, whose office is doing its own investigation of the oil-for-food program. The accusations were clearly on target. When the U.N. lifted Mr. Yakovlev's immunity from prosecution, he promptly pleaded guilty to several charges.
The U.N. clearly needs management reform and closer monitoring to prevent corruption. But neither of these cases sheds much light on what sins, if any, can be attributed to Secretary General Kofi Annan, or on how Saddam Hussein was able to manipulate the program to gain perhaps $2 billion in illicit revenue. For that, we must await next month's report."

While I shouldn't be surprised at the NYT's lack of disgust, I am surprised at how blatantly they are playing down a huge scandal. The very international body that we all wanted to gain support from prior to the war was a body that had people in it who were monetarily disposed to opposing the war. What was reported yesterday and prior regarding Sevan and Yakovlev is not minor in the face of a $65B program as they were the administrators of that program and have influence over other members regarding issues of U.S. national security. Comparing the numbers is far too simplistic for a writer at the NYT's. Shame. This is an important investigation, and Volcker seemed to say yesterday that this was merely a beginning. Whatever is to come, it is no small thing when an organizations leadership makes close with a dictator, accepts money not owed, and then vehemently opposes a war to oust that dictator.

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