The latest report on the oil-for-food programme at the UN and a guilty plea by a procurement officer provide the most troubling evidence yet of criminality at the UN. The commission investigating the programme charges that Benon Sevan, who ran it, received kickbacks. The panel concludes that Sevan deposited at least $147,000 in cash generated by Iraqi oil transactions and did not receive the money from an aunt, as he has claimed. Sevan denies any wrongdoing. If he did take kickbacks, it is still unclear whether the Iraqis thought they were bribing him, rewarding him or yielding to his persistence.
The guilty plea from the procurement officer, Aleksandr Yakovlev, had little to do with the $65 billion programme, but underscores how corruption may have infected many procurement programmes at the organisation. Much of the evidence against Yakovlev seems to have been uncovered by the UNâ€™s own internal investigators. The UN 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 programme to gain perhaps $2 billion in illicit revenue. For that, we must await next monthâ€™s report. â€” The New York Times