Friday, September 09, 2005

Frechette's Folly

As United Nations deputy secretary general, Louise Frechette was responsible for overseeing the Iraq oil-for-food program.

Hungry Iraqis got little food for the oil. Hussein made sure of that while the UN looked the other way as its own people lined their pockets. And Louise Frechette looked the other way:

But the IIC's most recent report slammed Frechette for failing to take action against her subordinate, Benon Sevan, the former head of the Oil-for-Food program who is accused of taking at least $160,000 in bribes associated with the program.

The report found that while Sevan was in charge of the program, there were "various management failures and challenges" occurring within the Office of the Iraq Programme (OIP). Frechette also had overall responsibility for the secretariat's role in the program.

Sevan said in a statement that the accusations against him in the report are "misguided, unsubstantiated and false."

The report also says that the inconsistent explanations by Annan, Frechette and then-chief of staff Iqbal Riza — who was privy to many discussions and dealings with Oil-for-Food — "demonstrate a basic confusion within the highest offices of the secretariat."

It was Frechette's job to keep Annan in the loop about what Sevan was doing and to approve regular reports required as part of the program's management. But the report found that she saw no reason to get involved if it was thought the program was being "well run."

Frechette tried to deny any responsibility for oversight or that there were problems, the report said, but Volcker didn't accept those explanations in issuing a report that said the world body was overwhelmed by the Oil-for-Food program.

"The deputy secretary-general knew about — but did not act upon — many reports of major program violations," the Volcker report states. "In the final analysis, Mr. Sevan ran a $100 billion program with very little oversight from the supervisory authority that created his position."

Doesn't this sound like the sponsorship scandal, only on a much larger scale with more tragic consequences? A program boss who ignored all the rules to line his pockets and those of even more shady characters through kickbacks and inflated contracts while his superiors saw no evil as long as the program appeared to be making the organization look good.

Did Frechette's negligence arise from her the UN's own institutional laxity, or from her own attitudes, shaped from years in the Canadian foreign service and a lifetime spent working with and serving Quebec Liberal politicians?

The key part of the Volcker Report can be read here.

Source: Fox News

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