Four days ago, a “Strictly Confidential” UN investigative report showing the selling of UN Peacekeeping jobs in Haiti and the Democratic Republic of the Congo by an Ivorian diplomat at the UN was exclusively published here. This reporter asked the UN about it on February 9, and sent a copy to the Panel reviewing UN Peace Operations. On February 10, UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq read out a partial answer to the previous day’s questions, attempting to put the scandal back in the box. But there is a gaping loophole for corruption in UN Peacekeeping, whose chief Herve Ladsous refuses all critical Press questions. Will this ongoing cover-up work?

UNITED NATIONS, February 11 — In UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous, positions in missions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Haiti were corruptly put up for sale, a 49-page “Strictly Confidential” UN investigative report obtained and exclusively published here on February 7 show.

UN Deputy Spokesperson: I was asked yesterday about a report from the Office for Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) and the follow-up undertaken by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO). What I can say about that it that the matter was investigated and the Permanent Mission of the concerned Member State was notified. Upon receipt of the OIOS investigation report, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations took decisive measures, including ordering the repatriation of the UN Police Officers involved. DPKO and OIOS ensured that the issue was thoroughly investigated and actions taken. Follow-up by the Member State is ongoing.

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you about the response that you just read to the question I asked yesterday about the OIOS report, the leaked OIOS report. I wanted to know, first, it names specifically 10 police officers as having paid particular amounts of money to the Deputy Permanent Representative of Côte d’Ivoire. So, I wanted to… maybe I’m missing the first part. First, are those 10, have they been repatriated? Two, what action has been taken with regard to the Deputy Permanent Representative of Côte d’Ivoire given that the OIOS report shows his bank account receiving the money? Is that considered a crime? Is he still representing his country before the UN? And since you said it’s ongoing, I’ve seen a copy of a 5 January letter from Ambassador [Youssoufou] Bamba, the Permanent Representative. Has there been any communication received since then, in terms of getting to the bottom of this? And have assurances been sought from any other troop- or police-contributing countries, regarding their practices of recruitment and selection of candidates for missions?

Deputy Spokesman Haq: I’ve already told you how we’re dealing with any recruitment from Côte d’Ivoire and that’s quite clear. Regarding your question about the named police officers, all of those officers involved are either gone already or in the process of leaving. And like I said, we’ve ordered the repatriation of the involved UN police officers. Regarding your question about the Deputy Permanent Representative, our Department of Peacekeeping Operations met with the high-level representatives from the Member States both at the level of the Permanent Representative and the Deputy Permanent Representative and informed them that one of its currently serving police officers, an important source of information on this matter, was allegedly receiving threats from individuals in Côte d’Ivoire. We’re following up on that particular matter with that. Regarding how the country is to be represented, of course, that is a question to ask the Government of Côte d’Ivoire.

Inner City Presss: Right. But, isn’t soliciting a bribe to receive a benefit from the UN a crime in some way?

Deputy Spokesman Haq: In terms of whether criminal charges would be leveled on the Côte d’Ivoire… the Ivorian official involved, that, again, is a question to ask the Government of Côte d’Ivoire. He’s their official, and they will have to follow up.

Inner City Press: Do you think that this… the panel on peacekeeping operations under [José] Ramos-Horta, is this the type of obviously kind of hole in the system that was exploited for personal gain that should be reviewed?

Now the OIOS report has been distributed to all of the Review Panel’s members. But there are many unresolved questions; watch this site.

  As an aside, Haq’s office is understood to have provided an / this answer to another, prior to reading it out to this reporter and the world at large at noon on February 10. This is a strategy. The silence on this documented and now ostensibly partially fixed UN corruption is telling.

Two days after that exclusive, on February 9 this reporter asked UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq for the response of UN Peacekeeping, whose chief Herve Ladsous since Inner City Press raised corruption has refused all Press questions, specifically what Ladsous has done in the ten months he has been on notice of this corruption, as shown by the leaked documents.

Inner City Press asked if all ten police described as paying bribes have been repatriated, for the status of the Deputy Permanent Representative Ouattara shown taking bribes, and if inquiries have been made with other countries which send soldiers or police to the UN. Haq said that the ten have left or are in the process of leaving. Six months after the final report? “In the process of leaving”?

Worse, Haq said it is up to Cote d’Ivoire if the Deputy Permanent Representative remains in his post at and in the UN. Isn’t collective bribes for UN posts a crime? And not only in Cote d’Ivoire?

Inner City Press asked Haq if this obvious loophole allowing corruption will be reviewed by Ban Ki-moon’s panel of Peace Operations, to which Inner City Press had already forwarded the OIOS report. 

Another question that has been raised  by diplomats after reading the exclusive is whether Ladsous had a duty, at least before the UN Security Council’s trip to Haiti last month led by Chile and the US to tell Council members that bribes had been collected for positions in the MINUSTAH mission there.

This reporter has raised the question to MINUSTAH’s chief and spokesperson, as to DR Congo mission MONUSCO’s chief Martin Kobler, separate story here (as Kobler runs to be Ladsous’ peer atop UN aid agency OCHA.)

Haq replied that “this was corruption found by our own internal oversight.” But the report says the UN’s OIOS “received” information about these possibly corrupt practices on July 24, 2013. We’ll have more on this.

Photo: Ladsous in Cote d’Ivoire - “which of these posts was bought?” (to be clear: ICP’s caption) - Photo credit: UN Photo/Abdul Fatai