UN eager to probe OilforFood scandal Annans top aide tells US lawmakers

Eager to get to the bottom of the Oil-for- Food scandal, the UN is willing to work with Congress wherever possible, Mark Malloch Brown stressed during meetings with a number of leading members of Congress – both Republican and Democrat – from the US Senate and House of Representatives, according to a read-out provided by a UN spokesman in New York.Mr. Malloch Brown also discussed the UN’s ongoing management and administrative reforms, including in the areas of transparency, strengthening of audit practices, procurement and whistleblower protection.From all sides, he heard “strong base-line support for the United Nations,” the read-out said. Members of Congress expressed willingness to work with the Secretary-General as he leads the reform process.On Oil-for-Food, congressional members also expressed concern about lack of access to UN documents and UN staff for their own investigations. Mr. Malloch Brown, the Secretary-General’s Chef de Cabinet, pointed out that the UN is currently cooperating fully, both in terms of personnel and documents, with the Independent Inquiry Committee (IIC) led by former US Federal Reserve Board Chairman Paul Volcker.Once the IIC has completed its work, the United Nations will be available to answer any questions that remain, he said.The Oil-for-Food Programme was a temporary relief scheme set up by the Security Council in 1995 to ease the plight of the Iraqi people, who were suffering under the twin pressures of Saddam Hussein’s brutal dictatorship and international sanctions. It allowed Iraq to sell its petroleum and use a portion of the revenues to purchase food and civilian supplies.The humanitarian relief effort succeeded in preventing a deterioration of living standards, for example cutting malnutrition among children by half and eliminating polio. When allegations first emerged that Saddam Hussein illegally exploited the Programme, the Secretary-General recruited Mr. Volcker to lead an independent inquiry.In a report released last week, the IIC issued findings against two UN staffers – including the former head of the Oil-for-Food Programme, Benon Sevan – who were immediately suspended by Mr. Annan.Disciplinary proceedings are continuing. The Secretary-General has pledged to waive diplomatic immunity should any criminal charges be pressed. read more