Two senior investigators with the committee probing corruption in the U.N. oil-for-food program have resigned in protest, saying they believe a report that cleared Kofi Annan of meddling in the $64 billion operation was too soft on the secretary-general, a panel member confirmed Wednesday.
The investigators felt the Independent Inquiry Committee, led by former U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker, played down findings critical of Annan when it released an interim report in late March related to his son, said Mark Pieth, one of three leaders of the committee.
“You follow a trail and you want to see people pick it up,” Pieth told The Associated Press, referring to the two top investigators who left. The committee “told the story” that the investigators presented, “but we made different conclusions than they would have.”
The investigators were identified as Robert Parton and Miranda Duncan.
The IIC‘s second interim report criticized Annan for failing to fully investigate possible conflicts of interest involving a contract that was awarded to his son Kojo’s employer. The AP article states that: “Annan said the report exonerated him — something Pieth denied at the time — and the secretary-general said he had no plans to resign.” (Click here for a 62 MB BitTorrent file containing the IIC’s First and Second Interim Reports, 58 internal audit reports on the Oil-for-Food Programme, and the Committee’s briefing papers and status reports.)
The announcement that two oil-for-food investigators were resigning comes as President Bush’s nominee for UN Ambassador, John Bolton, is under increasing fire over claims that he “bullied intelligence analysts who didn’t agree with his views” while working at the State Department. These allegations could be the key factor in whether Bolton is nominated, as three Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – Hagel, Voinovich, and Chafee – have expressed concern over them. Bolton is an outspoken critic of the United Nations, and it will be interesting to see what effect, if any, this new wrinkle in the oil-for-food scandal has on the debate over the UN Ambassador position, and/or the larger debate over the role of the UN in American foreign policy.
In my opinion, the recent attempts to paint the oil-for-food scandal as evidence that the UN is fatally flawed are not convincing. But it is definitely evidence that the UN needs reform.