August 6, 2005

CLAUDIA ROSETT:

It’s rich that the former head of the United Nations Oil-for-Food program, Benon Sevan, is now protesting the secrecy surrounding U.N. records that he himself set up as confidential. . . .

But it would have worked out far better for the U.N., and the rest of us, had Sevan achieved this appreciation of transparency and access back in the years when he was running Oil-for-Food, from 1997-2003. Today, Sevan remains on the U.N. payroll as a $1-per-year “adviser,” retained by the secretary-general with no apparent duties but to “assist” in the U.N.-authorized Oil-for-Food inquiry — which Lewis, Sevan’s lawyer, is now denouncing on Sevan’s behalf as a cover-up in search of “cartoon villains, not the truth.”

It would be more helpful still, were Sevan’s boss, Kofi Annan, to conceive even at this late date a similar urge for open and honest U.N. dealings and public access to U.N. records. Such priorities have so far eluded the secretary-general, perhaps because — as Sevan’s lawyer correctly points out — the Volcker inquiry has applied a double standard. Sevan aside, the committee’s findings have imposed spit-shine discipline on a few obscure U.N. officials, while dismissing as merely “inadequate” Annan’s failure to inquire competently into conflicts of interest involving six-figure payments to his own son — and excusing Annan’s growing list of memory lapses along the way.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Austin Bay has more thoughts on the unfolding UNSCAM scandal.

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