By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, April 7 -- As the UN bribery scandal gathered force Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for an audit by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services.
While Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric has said it will not be made public until April 22, today as a full text exclusive Inner City Press haspublished the audit while noting affiliates the UN audit omitted, and portions of the audit that some involved seem to be trying to cover up.
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