Volcker’s own report demonstrates that the United Nations is rife with problems and struggles with rampant mismanagement. Corruption and misconduct abound in the world body’s operations. Volcker Releases First Report on U.N. Oil for Food Scandal

Last week, the U.N. committee investigating the Oil for Food scandal released its first “interim” report of its findings and recommendations. In releasing the report, Committee Chairman Paul Volcker made it clear that the most important elements of the investigation had not yet been completed. In his words, “It is not the whole story by a long shot.”

That’s unquestionably true. The report focuses on four narrow aspects of the committee’s investigation, and virtually all of the most critical lines of investigation are left for later.

Nevertheless, the limited findings in the report, though they may be narrowly focused, are about as damning as one could imagine. If it’s only going to get worse, as Volcker seems to predict, the U.N. is in for a very long spring and summer.

The report pronounced the committee’s findings in four areas:

Obviously, the two most devastating findings are Sevan’s misconduct and the dismal oversight of the program. But countless other less notable criticisms fill the report’s pages. (For example, as a result of the committee’s findings about contracting, one senior U.N. official has been suspended ― the first step in the U.N.’s internal disciplinary process.)

With this sliver of the committee’s investigation projecting a program full of problems and the promise of more significant revelations yet to come, it’s interesting to see Volcker trying to spin the committee’s findings into something they’re not. In a January interview with The New York Times before the report’s release, Volcker said that it would not contain any “smoking guns.” In other interviews and appearances, Volcker has gone out of his way to downplay the investigation’s findings and their impact on the world body.

No doubt Volcker feels that he is doing his best to protect the United Nations, an organization which, he said recently, he attaches great importance to. “We’re not here to tear down; we’re here to restore,” he explained.

That’s all well and good, but Volcker’s spin isn’t helping. Volcker’s own report demonstrates that the United Nations is rife with problems and struggles with rampant mismanagement. According to other reports, corruption and misconduct abound in a wide range of the world body’s operations.

The best thing Volcker could do is let the findings speak for themselves. They send a very clear message that the U.N. needs a massive overhaul of its leadership, bureaucracy and operations if it’s ever going to be relevant, respectable and credible on the world stage.

February 10, 2005
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