By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, April 20 -- As the UN bribery scandal gathered force Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for an audit by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services of the Global Sustainability Foundation (GSF), David Ng Lap Seng's Sun Kian Ip Group and its affiliates including the "World Harmony Foundation" and South South News, among others.
The audit, completed early this year but first put online by Inner City Press, directly criticizes Cristina Gallach, the Under Secretary General for Communications and Public Information.
But Ban's audit, notably, does not mention that Ban accepted Ng's South South Award and was in the program of Ng's August 2015 event in Macau.
Nor does Ban's audit mention that his Sri Lanka adviser Vijay Nambiar and his spouse, Ban Soon-taek, were both present at the founding of the Global Sustainability Foundation; the latter took photos with South South News' indicted Vivian Wang at the UN Correspondents Association ball where UNCA gave Ng, from whose South South News it took money, a photo op with Ban himself.
On April 16, at Ban's and his USG Cristina Gallach's direction, Inner City Press' long time UN office was evicted and five boxes of files were dumped onto First Avenue. Video here and here.
Now since the evition of Inner City Press, South South News has sent out a press release saying that despite the guilty plea by its President Francis Lorenzo and indictment of its Vice President Vivan Wang, it is clean - and blames its problems on a "few independent journalists." Wonder who's referred to - as the other one(s).
Not Reuters, which passes through without analysis South South News' press releases - and without disclosing that Reuters' Lou Charbonneau and now Michelle Nichols have occupied Reuters' permanent seat on the Executive Committee of the UN Correspondents Association, which took South South News' money then arranged a photo op for Ng Lap Seng with Ban Ki-moon.
South South News' founding is described in the John Ashe and Ng Lap Seng indictment; it is portrayed through gauze in the OIOS audit. The name South South News has appeared in the Panama Papers.
For now, another UN example. To deliver "personal" invitations to the South South Awards, which USG Gallach attended in September 2015, South South News needed access to the UN during the Septameber High Level week. So, Inner City Press is informed, South South News personnel got D or Diplomat passes through Lorenzo's Dominican Republic mission to the UN. Back, indeed.
Here are an initial two of many photographs of that event, these by Luiz Rampelotto of Europa Newswire via Facebook, including one of now indicted Vivian Wang of South South News with Mrs. Ban
Here's from South South News' press release:
"It is disgraceful that a few independent journalists are exhibiting a lack of professionalism and irresponsibility by attacking everything and anyone they believe is linked to this case. This is often done by insinuation, guilt by association and baseless assumptions that disparage many innocent people and organizations. Irresponsible assumptions, fact-twisting and misinformation serve to distort the perception of the situation, while affecting our hard work and the work of many innocent people who have absolutely nothing to do with this case.
These types of attacks are counterproductive and unprofessional. We believe these attacks reflect poorly on the integrity of the profession of journalism as a whole. Not to justify any illegal activities, but all sorts of organizations worldwide have been victims of unscrupulous people, as have other organizations facing similar circumstances.
We as employees will defend our hard and honest work and we will defend the commitment to our goals and objectives of producing quality journalism to inform about these important issues. This hard-earned reputation has been tainted by some unscrupulous acts. Many media and administrative professionals have proudly worked for South-South News and can attest to the integrity of our media operation.
This is a complex case in which many players from different organizations and events have been implicated, as detailed in the Government’s complaint. It is working its way through the United States judiciary system, as it well should. If you have questions regarding the people mentioned in the US Government complaint, you should contact their legal representatives directly.
Again, South-South News is continuing its professional day-to-day functions by providing some of the most comprehensive, high-quality coverage of the UN and disseminating information on global development issues."
The same indicted Vivian Wang of South South News with David Ng Lap Seng at the same UNCA event
On this, Inner City Press on January 29 sought to cover an UNCA event held in the UN Press Briefing Room, which was nowhere listed as closed. On February 19 Gallach, without recusing herself, unilaterally deactivated Inner City Press UN residential correspondents pass, and had Inner City Press' reporter physically thrown out on First Avenue without coat or passport. Audio here.
This is called retaliation. On the afternoon of April 12, Inner City Press while with another colleague asked Ban about Gallach's orders.
"That is not my decision," Ban said quickly. He is aware; the ouster and censorship serve him, but he says it is not his decision, just as for example Sri Lanka's Mahinda Rajapaksa or higher profile censors might.
On the evening of April 12 Gallach ordered the final eviction of all of Inner City Press' investigative files on Saturday, April 16 at 10 am. This is the face of today's UN corruption.
This is what the UN eviction order sent to Inner City Press says:
To:matthew.lee [at] innercitypress.com
From: Tal Mekel [at] un.org
Date: Tue, Apr 12, 2016 at 6:47 PM
Dear Mr. Lee,
Further to the letter to you from Cristina Gallach, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, on 30 March 2016, we note that you did not remove your belongings from the office by the 6 April deadline as required.
As you have still not removed your belongings, we wish to inform you that your belongings will be packaged on Saturday 16 April 2016 at 10:00 a.m.
After carefully packaging them up, your belongings will be forwarded to Bronx NY headquarters address for Inner City Press that you had listed in your media accreditation application. If you wish us to forward your packaged belongings to another address instead, please let us know as soon as possible.
We request your presence during the packing. Please contact the Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit (MALU) to make the necessary arrangements. If you are not present, the packing and forwarding will still take place at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday 16 April 2016.
Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit
United Nations - S-250
New York, NY 10017
And here is some of what the OIOS audit says, about USG Gallach:
"37. On 30 June 2015, Global Sustainability Foundation sponsored an exhibition titled “The Transformative Power of Art” in the visitors’ lobby at United Nations Headquarters. This exhibition was curated by an Italian artist, whose works were displayed along with the works of other artists participating in one of his workshops.
38. Exhibitions in publicly accessible areas at Headquarters are governed by the Secretary General’s Bulletin ST/SGB/2008/6, which stipulates, inter alia, as follows:
(a) The United Nations Exhibits Committee, which is an interdepartmental body of the Secretariat chaired by the Under Secretary General for Communications and Public Information [Cristina Gallach] is the standing body that reviews and authorizes such exhibitions;
(b) Any proposal originating from an NGO or foundation must be accompanied by a written communication of support from a Secretariat department or office, a separately administered organ or programme of the United Nations, an organization of the United Nations system or a permanent or observer mission to the United Nations;
(c) Exhibit proposals focusing on a specific individual, or originating from a single artist, shall not be permitted;
(d) The Exhibits Committee may, at its discretion, reject a proposal for an exhibit in part or in its entirety, or require the elimination or alteration of any part thereof; and
(e) The secretariat of the Exhibits Committee shall inform the Assistant Secretary General, Office of Central Support Services, of the authorization granted for a proposed exhibit.39. OIOS noted that the exhibition held of 30 June 2015 was not in compliance with these provisions. The Exhibits Committee did not authorize the exhibition because it did not receive a proposal in accordance with (b) above. The Chef de Cabinet of the Office of the President of the sixty-ninth session of the General Assembly informed the Exhibits Committee of the President’s decision to host a series of major cultural events, which included an exhibition, reception, and concert. The Committee informed the Office of the President that the exhibition was not in accordance with the regulations for exhibits in publicly accessible areas at Headquarters, but the Office of the President decided to proceed with the exhibition anyway. Therefore, the Exhibits Committee did not accept, reject or alter the “proposal”.
40. OIOS notes that the Exhibits Committee only had an advisory role in the matter, and in the circumstances described, it could not have possibly prevented the staging of the event. However, considering that the exhibition was attended by the Secretary-General and other senior Secretariat staff despite its non-compliance with the Secretary-General’s bulletin on exhibits, the perception that the NGO was given preferential treatment or favour (that too without performing any due diligence checks) could have an adverse impact on the Organization’s reputation. This risk is aggravated by the allegations in the criminal complaint against Sun Kian Ip group, with whom this NGO is affiliated."
While Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric has said this audit will not be made public until April 22, on April 6 as a full text exclusive Inner City Press published the audit while noting affiliates the UN audit omitted, and portions of the audit that some involved seem to be trying to cover up, including not only as to the Department of Public Information, but also the Global Compact and other back-doors into the UN, including but not limited to "Friends of the UN."
Beyond the Under Secretary General of the Department of Public Information's responsibility for exhibits in the Visitor's Lobby such as the one indicted Sheri Yan's Global Sustainability Foundation held on June 30, 2015, she was also in charge when GSF was allowed, without any due diligence, to on March 25, 2015 sponsor an event entitled "Unveiling of the 'Ark of Return' Permanent Memorial." Audit at Paragraph 20 (b).
Inner City Press asked the UN about DPI's engagement with the Global Sustainability Foundation around the Ark of Return in October 2015. To be diplomatic, this should have led to / required a recusal.
DPI, the audit says, was "associated" with Ng Lap Seng's and Frank Liu's World Harmony Foundation through something called the "Friends of the UN" based in Los Angeles / Santa Monica. We'll have more on this.
As Inner City Press demonstrated even before publishing the audit, the Global Compact as of April 2016 lists Ng's World Harmony Foundation as a member, despite the October 2015 indictments.
Now we note that the Global Compact, represented at Ng's Macau event in August 2015, has a representative who because not a UN staff member kept the iPad Ng's Sun Kian Ip foundation gifted. What kind of "anti corruption" UN Global Compact is this?
On April 11, after publishing the above, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric about it, and when Ban will answer questions. Video here, UN transcript here:
Inner City Press: onthis OIOS inquiry, I want to ask you something. One of the entities controlled by Mr. Ng Lap Seng is World Harmony Foundation. I don’t know if it was you or Farhan [Haq] last week that said it’s still a member of the Global Compact, but it also seems to partner with DPI (Department of Public Information) is associated through something called Friends of the United Nations, which seems to be based in Santa Monica, California. It’s a little unclear. Can you say, is this one of the ground balls that you guys are going to be running down, in terms of what other groups enter through that way? Also, what explains World Harmony Foundation six months after the indictment still being part of the Global Compact? And one other Global Compact question. The audit specifically says that, of the iPads given out at the Macau event in August, the representative of the Global Compact has not returned it, said that he’s not going to return it. He’s not a staff member and he’s keeping it. It’s right in the audit. And so I wanted to know, since the Global Compact said it’s about transparency, anticorruption, is this okay? And why isn’t he a staff member if he’s representing the Global Compact?
Spokesman Dujarric: I don’t know. That’s a question you should… in terms of World Harmony, whether or not they’re still a member, is a question you can ask of the Global Compact. Obviously, as we said, the audit is an initial step, and other issues are being pursued.
Inner City Press: But are they going… I mean, I guess Global Compact, UNDP (United Nations Development Programme), are they going to hold a press conference?
Spokesman Dujarric: You should ask them. They have press people, like the Secretariat, and they’re there to answer questions.
Inner City Press: And the Secretary-General, you said he’ll be in the room tomorrow, but he won’t speak. Looking at the list of press conferences, it seems like the last one was December of last year…
Spokesman: He will have… there will be some sort of a press conference… there will be a press conference, probably on Friday, tied to the climate event.
Climate of corruption, some say.
To be diplomatic, on April 8 this is what Inner City Press asked Dujarric, video here, UN transcript here:
Inner City Press: this OIOS [Office of Internal Oversight Services] audit, I obtained it, published it and I want to ask just for today, two specific questions about it. One is, it talks about funds going to this thing called UNPAN, which I've heard of, but it seems to be pretty obscure. And in looking at its website, it claims to be publishing articles they say were published in December 2016, which hasn't actually occurred yet. So, there's something a little… What's been done on the recommendations as to… to UNPAN and the use of its name by the entities that were audited....
Spokesman: The recommend… the audit, I think, as all of you have seen now, includes recommendations and includes the status of those recommendations, and we're following through with them.
Inner City Press: I'd asked Farhan [Haq] yesterday about the 30 June 2015 event in the Visitor's Lobby, which has a section of the whole audit about DPI [Department of Public Information] being in charge of it, not doing it. I want to ask you about another event, which was 25 March, this unveiling of the Ark of Return permit memorial, which they said was no due diligence done of the Global Sustainability Foundation. It seems like, in this audit, they make these two findings about DPI, these two events, but it's only looking at it, I guess, institutionally. As I've asked you, when Global Sustainability Foundation was founded in this building, a senior adviser of the Secretary-General and his spouse were present…
Spokesman: I mean, I think…
Inner City Press: Does this audit look at individuals or only entities…?
Spokesman: The audit looks at… looked at the systems. When there are issues related to individuals, further investigations are being done.
Inner City Press: Right. But, it seems like they only mention the individuals that were in the criminal complaint. There was nothing…
Spokesman: You know, the audit… I think the audit speaks for itself and outlines how we're following up with it.
There is a need for follow up.
The audit cites Ng's Interntional Organization for South South Cooperation's engagements with, or capture of, the UN agency UNPAN, the UN Public Administration Network. A visit on April 8, 2016 toUNPAN's website finds them featuring articles they say were publishd in December 2016 - that is, in the future. Ironically, the article(s) address the topic of corruption. That is today's UN.
The audit for example does purport to cover South South News, but not the big money South South Awards held in September 2015 at the Waldorf Astoria including the Under Secretary General of the Department of Public Information (DPI) Cristina Gallach.
(Inner City Press in October 2015 questioned Ms. Gallach about her participation in the South South Awards, video here. On February 19, 2016 Gallach ordered Inner City Press to leave its long time office and stripped its Resident Correspondent accreditation, without once speaking to it. This is the subject of an April 5 letter to Ban Ki-moon from the Government Accountability Project, demanding that this “crude and heavy handed” retaliation be reversed, watch this site.)
On April 7, Inner City Press asked UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq a first round of questions about some of the limitations of the audio,video here,
UN transcript here:
Inner City Press: I've now obtained and published this OIOS audit of selected NGOs and related entity that you said will come out on 22 April. And there's different things I want to ask you about it, but main thing I want to ask about is, there's an entire section that runs from paragraph 37 through paragraph 40 that it's about an exhibit they say was improperly held in the Visitor's Lobby on 30 June 2015. And it goes through a lot of detail, and it says that the Under-Secretary-General of the Department of Public Information is in charge of the exhibits committee and, I guess, in charge of the space. And somehow, this exhibit was held in violation of a number of the rules that apply to it. What I'm wondering is, what is the response? Obviously, it seems like you guys have had access to this audit even before it was sent to Member States. What is the thinking… the way they walk through it is they say… it seems strange. If she's in charge of the space and the exhibit took place without complying with the rules, what is the response to her responsibility for that? And what steps have been taken? The audit doesn't say that any steps have yet been taken to address that.
Deputy Spokesman Haq: Well, with regard to the specific cases referred to in the audit, actions being taken to determine responsibility and any follow-up and any measures that may be deemed appropriate. And so, we'll continue to study that.
Inner City Press: And who decides? In getting the audit, there obviously is a long section about South-South News, but I noticed that a related entity of which there's been a lot of coverage is South-South Awards. And it's unclear, it's not mentioned once in here. And this is something that… I mean, the Secretary-General received the South-South Award. This is an entity that's absolutely connected to Ng Lap Seng and Frank Lorenzo et al. So, the question is, who… maybe that's OIOS, but who decided on the scope of this audit, the date that it would start, 1 January 2012, and the exclusion of… of… one of the things that people covering this scandal have focused on are these glitzy events in the Waldorf. The Under-Secretary-General of DPI did attend in September, but prior to that, Ms. [Susana] Malcorra took an award for Ban [Ki-moon]. Why is this not in the audit? And will there be an audit of South-South Awards going forward?
Deputy Spokesman Haq: I think the audit is what it is. It's prepared by the professional people in the Office of Internal Oversight who deal with audits. And you can evaluate the results for yourself.
Inner City Press: And just one other thing I wanted to ask about, because I know I'd asked Stéphane [Dujarric] and you, going back to October, about the inclusion of South-South News content in UN Television archives. And, eventually, you came back with this answer that it was due to Habitat. And I just… I've pointed out to you that there's a number of things that have nothing to do with Habitat, a number of inclusions that you just search UNTV for "South-South News". But, I do notice in this audit that there is a reference to South-South News and Habitat. So, I wanted to know, was this finding that you said of people looking into how it got in there, was it basically just taken from reading the audit, or was there a… a… a… an analysis, either by your office or DPI, of how the many other inclusions of South-South News and UNTV archives took place?
Deputy Spokesman: No, our office had checked with DPI. That was prior to us knowing about the results of the audit.
Similarly, using timing as a basis of omission, by stopping the audit at January 1, 2012, OIOS did not address the issue of Ng's South South News getting a photo op directly with Ban Ki-moon in December 2011 at the UN Correspondents Association ball at Cipriani's 42nd Street after giving money to UNCA including for a two page ad spread in UNCA's “ball book.”
While Dujarric's deputy Farhan Haq allowed four UNCA board members from Reuters, France 24 and Agence France Presse to seek to rebut this including by directly addressing Inner City Press in the noon briefing on April 6, the cut-off at January 1, 2012 is problematic, especially as related to Ban Ki-moon himself.
The audit goes out of its way to say that Ban's Executive Office of the Secretary General did not know when a letter to it was modified to add the name of Ng's firm and of South South News. How is that possible? And again, why was Ban's direct dealing with Ng cut out from the audit by a matter of days?
Many of the irregularities in the audit are things first reported by Inner City Press, such as Yan's Global Sustainability Foundation funding the UN's slavery memorial, including an engagement with Gallach's DPI which even the audit criticizes while DPI tries to deny.
Undeniable is that Gallach chaired the UN Exhibits Committee which allowed the bogus “Transformative Power of Art” exhibit on June 30, 2015.
How does Gallach's no due process ouster of Inner City Press on February 19, 2016, when Inner City Press was thrown into the street and its laptop on the sidewalk by eight UN guards, look now that the audit is out? Even with the audit inexplicably omitting the South South Awards -- Ban Ki-moon got one of the awards -- the audit chides DPI for lack of due diligence for its slavery event, and Gallach as chair of the Exhibit Committee which allowed the Jun 30, 2015 “Transformative Power of Art” exhibit.
Gallach, who was questioned by Inner City Press about her role at the South South Awards with Frank Lorenzo, had a conflict of interest and should never have been near the decision to thrown Inner City Press out of the UN.
That decision must be reversed, as the Government Accountability Project has asked Ban, even before Inner City Press published the specifics of the audit.
Courthouse News Service of April 6 reports on GAP's first letter:
"The Government Accountability Project complained about Lee's fallout in a Feb. 26 letter to the U.S. Permanent Mission of the United Nations.
'The action targeted Matthew Lee alone, and appears to be retaliatory in response to independent, critical journalism,' wrote Beatrice Edwards, the project's international program director.
UNCA, the group whose meeting Lee got in trouble for recording, has denied the appearance of unfairness. 'UNCA stands for press freedom and vehemently defends rights of journalists at the UN and around the world,' the statement says."
Really? Where? It was the Free UN Coalition for Access asking this month about the UN requiring minders, not only in UN Headquarters but also in South Sudan. The Courthouse News continues:
"Lee blasted what he described as 'post-hoc' justifications for his ouster, which he compared to a Franz Kafka novel. 'Initially, they tried to say that I secretly filmed a closed meeting,' he said.
'That's fallen apart because the meeting wasn't recorded as closed.' Lee laughed off allegations that he entered a restricted area to secretly film the meeting, which he broadcast via a popular web-casting platform. 'It's hard to say that a Periscope live-streaming with my arms up is secret,' he said.
By downgrading his residential correspondent credentials to a second-tier status, the U.N. has restricted Lee's freedom of movement, forced him to be chaperoned by a minder."
That's right, a UN minder courtesy of UN Communications chief Cristina Gallach and ultimately, Ban Ki-moon. In terms of violations, and cover up, see Paragraphs 37 through 40 of the OIOS audit.
OIOS Audit of Ng & South South News, OIOS Cut Out Ban Photo Op with Ng at UNCA Ball by Matthew Russell Lee
Inner City Press on April 5 asked if Ng's World Harmony Foundation is still part of the UN Global Compact; deputy spokesperson Haq said he would check but never came back with an answer. On April 6 Inner City Press asked again and Haq said yes - now we see it is confirmed and criticized in the audit.
Worse while Inner City Press from October 2015 on asked Dujarric and Haq how South South News got its content in the UNTV archives run by Gallach's DPI, Haq belatedly mentioned only one use, connected to HABITAT. Now we see the HABITAT - South South News interaction is listed in the audit, which it seems Haq consulted before answering (and whatever else he did with the audit).
But why didn't OIOS look into South South News' OTHER inclusions in DPI's archives of UNTV? Watch this site.
Another question, now more poignant with the full audit online, is why the wire services reporters from Reuters and Agence France Presse, on the Executive Committee of the UN Correspondents Association which took Ng's South South News' money and then gave Ng a photo op with Ban Ki-moon, didn't even MENTION that DPI, their partner in censorship, was listed and criticized in the audit.
Not only the South South Awards, but the the Gallach-approved bogus exhibition criticized in detail in the audit is nowhere in their reports. Hence the April 6 threat and April 6 noon briefing, video here. We'll have more on this