DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the UN Secretary-General.
In a late night meeting that ended just five minutes before the end of the Brazilian presidency, the Security Council decided to refer the situation prevailing in Darfur, Sudan, to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. In the presence of the Secretary-General, the Security Council adopted the resolution by a vote of 11 in favour, none against with 4 abstentions, by Algeria, Brazil, China, and United States.
In a statement issued last night, the Secretary-General commended the Security Council for using its authority under the Rome Statute to provide an appropriate mechanism to lift the veil of impunity that has allowed human rights crimes in Darfur to continue unchecked.
The Secretary-General also calls on the Government of Sudan, all other parties to the conflict in Darfur, and all other States and concerned regional and other international organizations to cooperate fully with, and provide any necessary assistance to, the Court and the Prosecutor. He also emphasizes that lasting peace in Darfur can only be based on a negotiated settlement between the parties to this tragic conflict, and calls on them to return to negotiations in Abuja to bring it to a speedy end.
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, also welcomed the resolution’s adoption, saying referral to the ICC was the best means to halt ongoing violations and prevent future ones. And, the ICC Chief Prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, has requested the Commission of Inquiry on Darfur to hand over thousands of pages of documents it used to compile its January report.
Meanwhile, on the humanitarian front, the World Food Programme said that shootings, attacks on drivers and thefts of WFP-contracted trucks carrying critically needed food aid were seriously threatening the ability of WFP to deliver food aid to Darfur.
The attacks, it said, were part of a rapidly deteriorating security situation in Darfur that was contributing to a climate of fear. Many drivers were now refusing to move through sections of the road corridors to the three Darfur states. WFP said it had protested the attacks in the strongest terms.
Today is the first day of the Chinese presidency of the Security Council for the month of April. The Council President, Ambassador Wang Guangya, is holding bilateral meetings today on the month’s programme. Ambassador Wang will brief you on the programme Monday following those consultations.
In a presidential statement on Guinea-Bissau adopted yesterday afternoon, the Security Council urged all political actors in Guinea-Bissau to show their commitment to a peaceful electoral process.
The Secretary-General, in response to a request by the Security Council, names a three-member panel of experts to undertake a number of tasks in connection with the reinforcement of an arms embargo on Côte d’Ivoire. The names are contained in a letter to the Security Council, which has been issued as a document.
Next week, the Secretary-General will travel to Geneva, where he will address the Commission on Human Rights on Thursday, the 7th of April, and chair a regular biannual meeting of the Chief Executives Board. While in Geneva, the Secretary-General will also meet with the staff at large of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as the staff of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
On Monday morning, the 11th of April, the Secretary-General will speak at the opening session of the Oslo Donors’ Conference on Sudan, at the invitation of Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik of Norway.
The Secretary-General has invited all staff members to a meeting at 10 a.m. next Tuesday, in the General Assembly Hall. He will make brief opening remarks, and then open the floor for questions.
The Secretary-General looks forward to discussing the UN's immediate priorities in light of his recent report, “In Larger Freedom”, and the forthcoming September summit -- particularly as they relate to staff -- as well as concerns arising from the latest interim report of the Independent Inquiry Committee into the “oil-for-food” programme. He particularly wants to discuss internal changes, which will make the UN more effective in the future. The session will be webcast live, for those unable to attend and for offices away from Headquarters.
The UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo says that it’s seeing a rush by militia members in the Ituri district, in the country’s north-east, to take part in the disarmament and community reintegration programme there, the deadline for which is midnight tonight.
The Mission’s latest figures indicate that approximately 9,000 militiamen have disarmed out of an estimated total of 15,000, with two thirds of them being child soldiers. From tomorrow onwards, Ituri will become after an “Arms Free District”, so that apart from UN peacekeepers and the DRC national army, anyone found with arms there will be considered an outlaw under Congolese law and dealt with accordingly. The Mission says that while there is no extension to the deadline, child solders are welcome to enter the disarmament programme at any time.
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, in his capacity as Chairman of the Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed Commission, regrets that the Joint Technical Team of the Mixed Commission was not allowed by Nigerian authorities to carry out its tasks in a border area around the village of Koja, in the Adamawa region.
The Joint Technical Team was undertaking a pilot phase of the field assessment to test the verification of the boundary line on a small portion of the land boundary. Ould-Abdallah added that this decision could have the effect of holding up the entire demarcation process. Ould-Abdallah is in touch with both parties and is confident that the problem will be resolved soon.
**Nuclear Terrorism Convention
The General Assembly’s Ad Hoc Committee on terrorism this morning adopted, by consensus, the text of a draft convention on nuclear terrorism. The treaty, which was first proposed in 1998, will define acts of nuclear terrorism and require those who threaten or commit such crimes to be extradited or prosecuted.
Speaking on the occasion of the convention’s adoption, the Secretary-General said that nuclear terrorism was one of the most urgent threats of our time, and that the present treaty would help prevent terrorist groups from gaining access to the most lethal weapons known to man.
Now that the Ad Hoc Committee has adopted the text, the convention will go before the General Assembly. If it is adopted there, it will then be opened for signatures in September.
The Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee, Rohan Perera of Sri Lanka, will come here to this room at about 1 p.m. to tell you more about the convention. He’ll be joined by the Coordinator for the draft nuclear terrorism convention, Albert Hoffmann of South Africa, and the Coordinator for the draft treaty on international terrorism in general, Carlos Paniagua of Costa Rica. We have a press release with more information upstairs, as well AS the full text of the Secretary-General’s remarks.
**World Bank President
We put out a note yesterday, saying that the Secretary-General congratulated Paul Wolfowitz on his election as the next President of the World Bank.
The UN Mission in Haiti began yesterday a major operation aimed at bringing law and order to the Cite Soleil neighbourhood, where armed groups have been active in the capital, Port-au-Prince. Around 1,000 men -- made up of UN peacekeeping troops, UN police and members of the Haitian National Police -- surrounded the outside perimeter of the neighbourhood and have set up checkpoints at the entrances, and begun patrols. The operation is the second phase of one started in December last year, and the Mission says it’s an ongoing one, which means it’ll maintain its presence there as long as necessary. The Mission says it regrets any disturbances the operation may cause to the local residents, and is asking for their understanding and help.
For your information, next week a photo exhibition will open in the Public Lobby near the entrance to the Conference building. The exhibition is called “The surge in U.N. Peacekeeping”, and illustrates the fact that UN peacekeepers are deployed around the world in near-record numbers, and the challenges this poses to the United Nations. That opens on Monday.
We have the “week ahead”’ for you to help you in your coverage of the UN next week.
**World Chronicle TV
The World Chronicle TV programme, hosted by Tony Jenkins, will be shown at 3:30 today on in-house television channel 3 or 31. The guest is Winston Tubman, the former UN Representative to Somalia. The programme will discuss the prospects for Somalia.
Now, on the many questions put to me yesterday, I have a few answers for you:
Mr. Riza issued an open letter to you explaining why he took the decision to shred his chron files. I hope you all saw that.
Then, the Assistant Secretary-General for Central Support Services, Andrew Toh, gave you a note on your questions, or many questions, yesterday about access to the procurement unit.
James asked this morning about the number of staff in that procurement unit. It’s 32 Professionals and 38 General Service staff, for a total of 70.
On Diana Mills-Aryee, you wanted to know when she joined the UN system. She started as a tour guide in 1976. She left two years later. She got a master’s degree at ColumbiaUniversity’s School of International Affairs, as it was then known. She worked outside the UN system for a few years before rejoining it in Geneva as a personnel officer. She spent some time in the UN peacekeeping mission in Lebanon. Then, she came to New York Headquarters as a procurement officer, in 1993. And as the Volcker report pointed out, she joined the UN Mission in Iraq as a procurement officer in 1998 through 2000.
James wanted to know whom she reported to in Baghdad -— the answer is the Chief Administrative Officer of that mission, and in the three years she was there, there were three different people in that job.
She is described by her current supervisor as a very capable procurement officer. And, the Secretary-General had no role in bringing her into the UN system.
Joe asked yesterday about Cotecna’s earlier bid for a UN contract in February 1992. Kofi Annan was Controller until March of that year, but the Controller has nothing to do with contracts, and Kofi Annan had nothing to do with the awarding of this contract. For those who did handle that contract for the UN, please see footnote 29 on page 14 of the Volcker report.
On Carina Perelli, she handed in her defence to Kieran Prendergast yesterday. She did not win a “manager of the year” award, as one of you claimed yesterday. She was, in fact, nominated by staff for that award, but she was not selected by the award committee of the Group on Equal Rights for Women in the UN, which grants the award. And, you wanted to know what the award is -- it’s a plaque.
Finally, we are still struggling to gather information, comprehensive information, for you on the dollar-a-year contracts. You also wanted to know the implications of dollar-a-year contracts on tax, immigration and immunity. And, we want to give you a comprehensive answer to those questions, and beg you to give us a little bit more time to put it together.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Just the Andrew Toh document, I didn’t see that yesterday. You have it upstairs. You put together a paper or something?
Spokesman: Yeah, yeah. Well, he sent me an e-mail. I asked him if I could share it with you. He said I could. We put it out, and you can pick it up from my Office.
Question: Just to follow up on the answers you gave me -- Diana Mills-Ayree, actually I asked who she reported to, in general. You said that she had reported to the chief administrative officer in Baghdad. Is that the chain of command for award of contracts? I mean, she was a procurement officer in Iraq. I gather she was working for OCHA, so I assume that she was somehow involved in award of contracts on the humanitarian supply side. My question was, did she report back to anybody in the procurement department in New York? Do you know if that’s the case, or was it all handled by the chief administration officer in Baghdad?
Spokesman: I’m pretty sure that, I can say with confidence that a procurement officer in a UN mission would report directly up the chain of command of the mission. So, in this case, she was the only procurement officer, I was told, and she reported directly to the chief administrative officer.
Question: Just one clarification. You said that Kofi Annan didn’t bring her into the system. Obviously, she first joined the system when she was a tour guide. Was he responsible for her rejoining the system at all?
Spokesman: No, no. He told me personally he had nothing to do with her coming to the UN at any time. Mark?
Question: I just want to clear up on Dileep Nair. First of all, could we have more details of what this third party that is investigating the allegations brought by the Staff Committee is all about, because I remember yesterday you couldn’t give us more details on who it would be? I wonder if I understood correctly that you claim that everything, that what was in the Volcker report supersedes what happened before, so there’s no link, just to understand that this is what the UN is saying -- is there no link that the UN sees between the allegations raised in the Volcker report and the allegations raised by the staff?
And, a final question. I understand there are some other allegations against Mr. Volcker, which were neither... (talkover) I apologize, against Mr. Nair, which were subsequent to the staff complaints, but were not in the Volcker. A separate group of complaints subsequently brought by different people, which have been put to Mark Malloch Brown’s office. I was just wondering if there has been any action on this, as it were, third group of complaints against Mr. Nair?
Spokesman: No, this is the first I’m hearing about a third set of complaints. I would have to...
Question: I didn’t recall a set, per se, but there are further complaints, other than raised just in that staff package.
Spokesman: Okay. Well, I would have to ask, you said Mark Malloch Brown was presented with these (talkover). I would have to ask him. I’m not aware of any third set of complaints.
On the superseding comment that I made two days ago, that then has been overtaken by events, because yesterday we said we’d address both issues, and we told how we are going to deal with the staff complaints and with the adverse finding by the Volcker Commission, so...
Question: Fred, do I understand you correctly that the UN sees the staff complaints and the Volcker Commission finding as two separate unrelated issues?
Spokesman: I would have to say that, because of the way they came to us, they’re being dealt with separately. I can’t say, and it’s not for me to judge, whether, in the end, there’s any link between the two. Although, as I pointed out, I believe yesterday, the issue raised by Mr. Volcker was not how this individual was hired, but the fact that he appears not to have done what he was hired for, whereas the Staff Committee on hiring practices alleged bias in hiring and irregular hiring practices. And, when that had been initially looked into in what is called a “desk audit”, not an investigation, by the Management Department of the UN, they found that his hiring practices conformed to UN rules.
But, now, of course, I don’t, I went through this history before, where it went from there, the various steps. So, where we are now, we have asked a third party, because of the head of OIOS’ independent status within the system. I can’t today give you any more information on the third party. It’s not our intention to keep this confidential for long, but I’ve been asked not to give you any information yet on the third party. You will eventually get it.
Question: Just to follow up on the third party, to understand how this is going to work, because I was left a bit confused. It may be my misunderstanding. Will, given that Nair is going to leave anyway in three weeks, will this third party continue to have investigative capacity into Mr. Nair after he leaves the UN as an employee? Does the UN have any plans to give Mr. Nair a dollar-a-year deal, or something like this, so as to retain, in effect, his status as a staffer? What will be the status of Mr. Nair when he leaves in April, and how can we be assured, as it were, that this third party will be able to investigate him after he leaves?
Spokesman: His status will be that he’s no longer a UN staff member. I haven’t heard any mention of an intention to try to put him on a dollar-a-year. It’s my understanding that the investigation, if there is one, would go ahead, that Mr. Nair would see it in his interest as a chance to clear his name. And, we would see it in our interest in the effort to establish justice. Let me take...
Question: Fred, I have an important question. I doubt you can answer immediately, but I’d ask you to check. In the Volcker report, it talks about the head of Cotecna, the founder of Cotecna, approaching Mr. Annan about setting up an international lottery, I believe, through another company. My question is, has Cotecna, has any other company affiliated with Cotecna, previously had any UN contracts, i.e., are there any companies under different names that we might not recognize as Cotecna-linked companies, that have had any other UN contracts, particularly in the peacekeeping area?
Spokesman: I, I have no idea, but I think the Volcker report did address the lottery issue saying that the Secretary-General referred the Cotecna official to his chief of management, Joseph Connor. I don’t...
Question: What I want you to check is whether there are any other companies affiliated with Cotecna who have been awarded any other UN contracts.
Spokesman: I can try to look into that for you, certainly.
Question: Mark Malloch Brown, in his press briefing after the release of the Volcker report, said, talked about the inevitability of some sort of disciplinary proceedings against Nair. And, one thing I’m curious about, it seems that this practice of taking money out of one account to pay for something you need in another area is a kind of routine practice. It came up in Carina Perelli’s report. I remember this was something that Connor used to do pretty regularly in terms of trying to deal with the American cut-off of aid and trying to sort of move money from one account to another. I mean, is it a sort of standard kind of institutional or informal practice that keeps the organization functioning? And, if you’re going to take disciplinary action against Nair for this offence, I would imagine that many managers in the Organization are responsible for the same kind of misconduct. Are you going to... ?
Spokesman: I have no idea how widespread this might be, but I would assume that whoever is looking into these allegations would take that into account in judging Mr. Nair’s actions. Joe?
Question: Fred, what is your reaction to Nair’s release this morning of confidential letters between himself and the Secretary-General, a very angry letter from his lawyers that was released this morning -- about him feeling there’s no need for this independent review, that he’s been cleared, even names the women who are charging him -- I don’t think that’s been done before. How is this going to complicate...
Spokesman: I did not see those documents, so I can’t comment on them.
Question: Let me follow up on the history quiz that I gave you yesterday. Thank you for telling me he had nothing to do with the contracts. Could you find out what his role was with the first oil-for-food programme? I understand he was to negotiate with the Iraqis to try to get them to agree to it, and to collect money from frozen accounts to put into a escrow account, which presumably would have had oil money, as well. Can you find out what his duties were?
Spokesman: I will do that. Yes, I will.
Question: When you read this report, it becomes clear that the relationship between Kojo and Kofi is pretty close; they are not estranged by any means.
Spokesman: It’s father and son.
Question: What is it about that relationship that, given that Kofi, the father’s future hangs in the balance that makes it so difficult for him to tell his son to cooperate with the committee? Is the Secretary-General expected to continue pressing Kojo to cooperate with the Volcker panel, if indeed he is?
Spokesman: He hasn’t told me, but from what I think he’s told you publicly, you can assume that this is his position: he would like his son to cooperate.
Question: In Mr. Riza’s statement, he said that guidance was issued in October 1995 by the United Nations Archives and Records Management Section explaining the retention schedule for records. He claims that “chron” files are supposed to be destroyed one year after they are closed. Would it be possible to get a copy of that? Because I was only able to get a copy of the Administrative Records memo from October 1995, which says all correspondence, memos, cables, faxes and e-mails and reports for any documents relating to a work programme are supposed to be retained in archives permanently.
Spokesman: But I would also caution you to look at the official definition of a “chron” file because it sounds like what you’re describing there is not a “chron” file.
Question: Well, can you try and get the memo that Mr. Riza mentions?
Question: Fred, it would be welcome to have a clarification from Mr. Riza, which he doesn’t address in his release, about why the documents about Mr. Connor’s investigation into Cotecna in January 1999 did not appear in the archives, why he didn’t, why Mr. Riza didn’t feel they ought to appear in the archives -- those documents relating to Mr. Connor’s investigation into Mr. Annan’s son?
Spokesman: Yes. I’m not sure we have an explanation for that, but all along we’ve been saying that these documents are copies and you can usually track them down one way or the other.
Question: In the report, Mr. Riza is quoted as saying that he didn’t think that they should have been in another archive, those particular documents.
Spokesman: If I could just finish. The Secretary-General was travelling at this time, so when the Secretary-General is travelling, the document flow goes from Headquarters to wherever he is. And, then there are travel folders, which are yet other records. So, eventually I think this Connor memo, which had been forwarded to the Secretary-General while he was travelling, was found in the travel folder. I don’t think there’s an explanation of why it didn’t find its way into the registry. I assume that was a lapse of some kind. But, anyway, we eventually found the piece of paper.
Question: One question on cooperation -- I didn’t know whether it was a misstatement by you the other day, but you said something about there being no charges against Mr. Riza, yet. Are you considering any charges? I particularly would like your comment on the relationship between Mr. Riza’s decision to start shredding and the resolution passed a day before, which, in the text of the resolution calls on all staff, emphasizes the importance of all UN staff and personnel providing full cooperation to the inquiry. Would that be the basis for any kind of disciplinary action?
Spokesman: What we’re doing now is we’re looking at the Volcker report, as it applies to Mr. Riza. We’ve already taken a decision on the adverse finding on Mr. Nair. That’s why I said “yet”. The judgement hasn’t been made yet.
Question: Do I understand you are considering whether to bring disciplinary charges against Mr. Riza?
Spokesman: I think that would be going too far because (talkover)... well you’re trying to prejudge...
Question: No, I’m not trying to prejudge. I’m just trying to get, you know, we have to describe in our stories what the position of Mr. Riza is. You use the word “yet” the other day, so I’m asking you what...
Spokesman: We haven’t yet made a decision. We’re looking at...
Question: Looking on what?
Spokesman: On whether or not there was any violation of staff rules in what Mr. Riza was described as doing by the Volcker committee regarding his chron files.
Question: So we can say then, because you don’t like to use negatives, we can say you’re studying whether or not there was, whether there was a breach of staff rules?
Spokesman: Yes. Let me see. Let me take Ricardo.
Question: Fred, on Carina Perelli, do you know what she was [inaudible] to Mr. Prendergast?
Spokesman: No, but I mean the idea was that she had a deadline, I believe, of yesterday to present her defence, and whatever she gave him was her defence.
Question: What’s next?
Spokesman: I think I’ve already described this. Mr. Prendergast, as head of the department, who would have already looked into these issues through his executive office, would weigh those findings against Carina Perelli’s defence and decide whether what’s at issue here is merely a departmental management issue that can be resolved within the department, or whether it needs to be passed upstairs for possible disciplinary action. Mark?
Question: Is there any UN guideline, or practice, which somehow determines where responsibility lies? I’m trying to clarify where the buck stops, in the sense of, are there any guidelines that would say if somebody commits certain actions, that boss is in some way responsible or not. I just wonder how that sort of chain of responsibility, of where responsibility lies, is determined. For example, if we might just also ask a question within political affairs -- if one part of that department is considered to be whatever it is -- where does ultimate responsibility for that lie? Does the responsibility go up to the Department of Political Affairs or does it even go up to the Secretary... how does that work in this Organization?
Spokesman: I don’t know that there’s anything in writing. I’ll have to check, but I think you just use good judgement. Someone misbehaves at level 4, is it also the responsibility of the supervisor at level 3? Should a level 3 supervisor resign in disgrace because someone under their supervision did something wrong? Most likely, you would look at whether the supervisor at level 3 had been acting responsibly, but that the person at level 4 had so successfully covered up what they were doing that it wouldn’t be reasonable to assume that the supervisor would know, or should have known. So, I think those kinds of judgements are made.
Question: Let me ask you a related question in the case of Mr. Riza. What we’re discussing in this briefing about the secretaries asking for more shelf space so the files were destroyed, actually it talks about the assistant, Sita Agalawatta. Is Sita Agalawatta a professional, or is she a General Service person? Is it a she or a he? I think it’s a she.
Spokesman: It’s a she. My understanding is that she is General Service. She is one of three people that sit in the outer office that provides secretarial and administrative support to the Chief of Staff and the professionals working for him.
Question: And, where is she from?
Spokesman: I don’t know. [She is an international civil servant.]
Question: Would it be unusual, I mean you can tell yourself how it’s not some internal, low-level bureaucratic thing to destroy these chron files. It strikes me as slightly unusual that she would, since she sits next to Mr. Riza, that there would actually have been an exchange of memos about the destruction of these files, where she could just say, “listen I’ve got all this old stuff on the shelf, there’s copies of it all, why don’t we just get rid of it”. And, Iqbal Riza could just say, “yes, get rid of it”. It seems to me slightly unusual that there would be a full exchange of memos, as there was, dated, etc.
Spokesman: No, I don’t think in a bureaucracy that that’s unusual. But, she was interviewed by Volcker’s people, as was Mr. Riza. And, so I think all of this has been looked into.
Question: I have another question on that point, then. When people are interviewed in a law enforcement investigation, they’re interviewed under oath, but that’s not the case with Mr. Volcker, that they aren’t interviewed under oath and there’s no sanction for anybody to lie if they’re interviewed by Mr. Volcker and they don’t tell the truth.
Spokesman: Well, if they don’t tell the truth, and Mr. Volcker knows about it, he puts that in his report, as he’s already done.
Question: Well that’s, for instance, the case with Mr. Annan, who didn’t tell the truth about meeting Mr. Massey...
Spokesman: Well, the Secretary-General’s view is there was a 15-minute meeting seven years earlier was something he didn’t remember. Now, you can believe that or not, but that’s his position.
Question: Normally when people don’t tell the truth and they’re caught, they try and they say their memory was faulty, which is, obviously, in some cases, that is the case, and, in some cases, that isn’t the case. What I’m asking is, there isn’t any formal status, they didn’t take an oath before they talked to Mr. Volcker or anything, did they?
Spokesman: To my knowledge, no.
Question: And, there’s no formal sanction if their memory is faulty or they, they...
Spokesman: Now you’re talking about Mr. Volcker’s procedures. I’m not really the one that can answer that. I think you have to ask him. Joe?
Question: Fred, lost in this is the fact that Volcker’s going to be looking at the 661 Committee and all those people on the list that were found in Iraq, and Edie had a very interesting story yesterday in which she’s saying the Americans are not cooperating with Volcker. One of them said, “this is supposed to be about UN officials. Leave us alone”, basically. So, given that the UN did cooperate quite a lot with Volcker -– you turned over hard drives, records -- those that weren’t shredded, and all kinds of others, made everyone available for interviews, including secretaries, what is your reaction that the Americans are stonewalling Volcker? Now, this is their legitimate right to look into their role there...
Spokesman: Now, I can’t comment on an article by Edie Lederer, or any allegation she might have made against a MemberState. Mark?
Question: Fred, just to clarify on the Perelli matter –- do you have a sense of how long it would take, the official in charge, to conduct his inquiry into her response... and in the actual allegations?
Spokesman: No, but I assume it’s not going to drag out, because while she was preparing her defence, he already had his executive office looking into these same issues on his part. So, I would assume he could reach a judgement relatively quickly, but he has not told me how long he expects it would take.
Question: Just a follow-up, so then they’ve been since this report, which is dated February 16th I believe, they’ve been already investigating the harassment and all that?
Spokesman: It’s not called an investigation, at this stage. So, it’s just merely his executive officer looking into these questions raised by the management consultants.
Question: Is the Perelli letter, is that her defence, is that going to be made public? Is she going to make it public or...?
Spokesman: I think this is all very internal stuff. And, I mean, you’re free to ask her, but I doubt that anything would be made public until this process had completed. Ghida?
Question: On this issue, just to clarify the procedures that are usually followed at the UN when a UN official was charged with anything, pending an investigation -– do they get suspended? Do they continue their work as usual?
Spokesman: I think I answered that yesterday. It’s usually a personnel department call as to whether the evidence, the initial evidence, is so overwhelming that suspension of duties is warranted or not.
Question: In this case, has it been deemed...
Spokesman: Which case? Carina Perelli? No, we’re not there yet. So, we’re still within the department. We haven’t moved on. No one has brought a complaint or charges to the personnel department. It’s now in the hands of the department chairman.
Question: They have Judge Goldstone today on Fox saying it was wrong by Kofi to claim exoneration. Given that, how can you still claim that he has been vindicated?
Spokesman: This is really up to... I don’t understand why both Judge Goldstone and Mark Pieth have been making these evaluations of the Secretary-General’s view. Our reading of this report -- and if they said we’re reading it wrong, that’s fine -- but our reading of this report, our reading of Mr. Volcker’s comments to the press the day they released the report was that they did not find evidence that the Secretary-General either interfered in the process of granting this contract to Cotecna, or sought or benefited financially from it. Those were the principal charges all along.
Question: He also said in our interview that he feels that Kofi made a mistake not to sort of show more, that he took responsibility, for this whole mess on Tuesday at his press conference. What is Kofi doing to show that he is taking this more seriously?
Spokesman: Well, you know, that’s a subjective judgement. The Secretary-General on Monday expressed his relief that what he felt happened was vindication, that they had found, as he had always said, that he had not interfered improperly in this contract procedure. We said, Mark Malloch Brown and I have said, since Tuesday, that the Secretary-General accepts -- in fact, I think the Secretary-General himself said in his opening statement -- that he accepts the criticism of the report. So, it’s not that he doesn’t accept responsibility. He does. And, I said a few times this week that he’ll be looking to correct whatever can be fixed.
But, he really, as I’ve also been trying to say, is trying to get down to business. He feels that, with this report on Monday, he’s now free to go full speed ahead with his reform agenda.
Question: But how is it that all these people around him –- Dileep Nair, Benon Sevan, Iqbal Riza, his son –- seem to be so implicated in these shady dealings, and he somehow is above all of that?
Spokesman: You’re characterizing the report -– seemed to be implicated. The report says what it says. We accept the findings of the report. We want to get on with our lives and our business. Joe, then I’ll take Mark and then I’ll take...
Question: If I could go back to Nair again, is there something new, a new allegation that’s come up that has prompted this independent review, or are they going back over what Bertini had already looked at?
Spokesman: To my knowledge, it is the written complaints brought by the Staff Council. I’m not aware that there’s anything new, but was it you who asked whether further complaints had been brought... oh, it was Mark. I’ll look into that, but to my knowledge, what’s on the table is the Staff Council’s written complaints. Mark? [He later confirmed that was so.]
Question: Just to go back then to the question of where responsibility ends, whether the supervisor of somebody who’s committed inappropriate action also bears some responsibility or not. You said the judgement, you use good judgement, but I was just wondering who uses the judgement? If there is no guidance, where does the judgement come from? What is the procedure here? Most organizations have a procedure for these things, but you’re suggesting it’s an ad hoc decision taken by maybe even the people themselves, who could be accused of being irresponsible.
Spokesman: No, I said I would look to see if there was anything written. I’m not sure there is. The Secretary-General isn’t really the equivalent of a CEO of a corporation, because power lies with the 191 Member States. So, in who should judge the Secretary-General as to whether he should be held responsible or not...
Question: ... it’s not just the Secretary-General I’m talking about, but heads of departments, I mean just...
Spokesman: Well, let’s start at the top. You say, where does the buck stop, it would be, I think, the Member States.
Question: So, it doesn’t stop with Kofi Annan, is what you’re saying?
Spokesman: What I’m saying is he is subject to 191 bosses, which is not really the case with a corporate executive.
Question: [inaudible]... is that what you’re saying?
Spokesman: James, can we maintain a certain level here, please?
Question: Okay, I have a question, an informational question. We did ask yesterday and the day before for the release of the 12, or the dozen names of the dollar-a-year. Are you going to release those to us today? And, if you’re not, can you explain why not and explain why...
Spokesman: It’s because you made it so complicated by mentioning taxes, immunity, and immigration. We’ve probably got 40 lawyers upstairs working on this question. It’s going to take some time.
Question: It’s a different issue. The first issue was the names, irrespective of what it implies, we just want the names.
Spokesman: Well, this cluster of questions you’ve given me has gone into the bureaucracy.
Question: Well, I don’t want to be blamed for delaying release of the names. So, please if you have the names, just release them right now. I’ll be quite happy with that. I don’t really want to take the blame. I don’t understand why I’m being blamed for that.
Spokesman: No, I’m not blaming you, I’m just saying, you ask complex questions, and they’re in the process of putting together a comprehensive answer.
Question: Is that why we’re not getting the names yet, is that...?
Spokesman: That’s what they told me, yes. They want to answer these questions comprehensively.
Question: But, there is a list of the names handily available somewhere, surely?
Spokesman: There is a list of names, and we are looking into these other issues that you asked about.
Question: ... when will we get the list of 12?
Spokesman: They will not release the list of names to me today, or they would not yesterday. They said they’re looking...
Question: ... when will we get them?
Spokesman: I don’t know. Whenever they finish putting together all this information.
Question: So there has been a decision to release the names?
Spokesman: No, they have not even told me that, but they’re looking into it.
Question: So, can we then therefore get an explanation of how it is there’s about a dozen senior UN officials whose identity is not known?
Question: Secret list?
Question: Yes, these are the unidentified UN top brass -- because they are at the highest rank.
Spokesman: Well, they just went up to 14 today.
Question: Okay, so they’re 14, how many are USGs?
Question: You’ve added two overnight?
Spokesman: Well, we finished the paperwork on Bill Clinton and his deputy, so they’re now two more. There’s Paul Volcker, there’s a third one for you. There’s Benon Sevan, there’s a fourth one for you. These are all ones that we have gone public with, or we would...
Question: I don’t understand? Paul Volcker? What do you mean, one... we talked about...
Spokesman: He’s a dollar-a-year; Paul Volcker’s a dollar-a-year. (talkover)
Question: Can you explain the substantial savings, the Organization, all these salaries you’re not paying, is it bringing down the budget?
Spokesman: We’re grateful to have the services of very senior people who are willing to work for a dollar a year.
Question: If these people are supposed to be applauded for working for a dollar a year, then why is the list being kept secret? Why are the names not coming out? We don’t understand how an organization like this can have, for instance, secret under-secretaries-general? I’m of the understanding that even the Member States don’t know who some of these people are.
Spokesman: Let’s just let them finish their decision-making process upstairs and we’ll see what wee can give you next week.
Question: I understand that you said Mr. Volcker receives a dollar a year, but what are his fees as Chairman of the independent investigation?
Spokesman: There are no fees as chairman. His panel has a budget. [Inaudible interruption] Excuse me. I’m trying to do a briefing please. So, the panel has an approved budget covering the salaries of all the participants. But the Chairman waived his salary, so the total cost of the panel is reduced by one Under-Secretary-General’s salary.
Question: So he is not being paid the salary of an Under-Secretary-General, which is what I’d heard?
Spokesman: No. He has the title of Under-Secretary-General, but he has waived the salary. He’s taking a dollar a year.
Question: I’m sorry. I don’t think I was aware that Mr. Volcker was earning a dollar a year.
Spokesman: I think we announced it at the beginning.
Question: I see, OK. But how is that consistent with this being an independent investigation? If he is a UN employee, how can this commission be independent?
Spokesman: His independence comes from his terms of reference. In setting up the Committee, we established its terms of reference. It’s an independent Committee –- he’s not getting paid anything by us.
Question: But he’s getting paid by the UN. How can he be independent?
Spokesman: This is out of a pool of money from the 2.2 account that’s paying for this whole exercise. The fact that it’s coming from a UN-managed pool of money doesn’t, I think, in any way compromise the independence or integrity...
Question: The dollar a year is being paid out of the 2.2 account?
Spokesman: Everything, the whole budget...
Question: Including the dollar a year?
Spokesman: All the salaries are included in the budget out of the 2.2 account. In this case, the dollar-a-year is saving 2.2 money because it’s not a full Under-Secretary’s pay.
Question: Are they all getting the same immunity and other things that come with being a former UN official?
Spokesman: Well, that’s a good question. I don’t know the status of all these individuals, so I’d have to check.
Question: The list that we have been interested in is the list of former United Nations officials such as Benon Sevan and Iqbal Riza and so forth.
Spokesman: Yes, but I thought you were asking do all of the staff of the Independent Commission have the status of UN staff members, with immunity and all the rest.
Question: No. I meant Volcker.
Spokesman: That I don’t know, but it’s easy to find out. I can tell you after the briefing.
Question: Is Mr. Goldstone getting a dollar a year?
Spokesman: To my understanding, only Mr. Volcker volunteered for the dollar a year.
Question: Mr. Goldstone told us that they didn’t even know that Mr. Riza was on this type of contract.
Spokesman: Well, we announced it in this briefing, did we not? Let me check the record.
Question: Is (Joseph Reid) around? I still see him around the Building. I know he was on a dollar-a-year contract.
Spokesman: I tried to mention those that we went public with, so don’t try to pick us off name by name, so we give you the entire list by default. Can we call it a day? Thank you.
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