By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, March 7 -- Why is the UN so resistant to answering simple questions about who it hires and pays? Since February 24, Inner City Press has been asking the two top spokesman of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon about the financing of the mission of envoy to Syria Kofi Annan.
On March 7 Inner City Press asked again, in writing and then at the day's noon briefing about "how Kofi Annan's work as joint envoy is funded, will Lamine Cisse and any other staff, including the deputy envoy, be paid with UN funds, and how and how much."
Even with the question asked five hours in advance, in writing, Deputy Spokesman Eduardo del Buey told Inner City Press at noon that these "administrative details" are "still being worked on."
But Annan is already traveling to Cairo, and then Syria. Is his Foundation's senior staffer Alan Doss, who left the UN amid a nepotism scandal exclusively reported by Inner City Press, now be getting paid by the UN? [Click here for the Doss story.]
Also hours before Wednesday's UN noon briefing, Inner City Press asked del Buey and lead spokesman Martin Nesirky this question:
"Please confirm or deny that Maurice Strong has been given a role for the UN on Rio + 20, that his travel costs in this regard are paid by the UN, if so how much has been spent and, separately, if any age rules apply in this case."
Neither even acknowledged receipt of the question. At the noon briefing, attempting to be diplomatic, Inner City Press asked del Buey if he had an answer on "the individual" asked about in connection with Rio + 20. Del Buey said it was being "looked into." It shouldn't be that difficult.
Maurice Strong's website describes him as "Senior Advisor to the 2012 Rio+20 Summit." He gave a speech in India, and another in New York in October 2011, on the web site of the UN Environment Program where he is described as "a Canadian entrepreneur and a former under-secretary general of the United Nations. Strong had his start as an entrepreneur in the Alberta oil patch and was president of Power Corporation of Canada."
In fact, Strong left the UN -- until this seeming return -- amid scandal: a large check for $988,885 written to himself, the Oil for Food investigation, and the undisclosed hiring of his step-daughter Kristina Mayo, not unlike Alan Doss. A senior UN official whom Inner City Press asked about Strong on Wednesday morning said, increduously, "he's back? He's a crook!"
Be that as it may, the UN should at least be able to answer what Strong's "Senior Advisor to the 2012 Rio+20 Summit" status means, how much the UN pays, and how any of this is appropriate. Watch this site.