Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Ban Ki-moon Spox Won't Say Why Ban Dropped from Public List Officials Who Refuse to Disclose

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive Series

UNITED NATIONS, August 22 -- UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's “Special Envoy For Disaster Risk Reduction and Water” Han Seung-Soo is listed on the board of directors of South Korean firm Doosan and of Standard Chartered Bank- both of which do business with the UN, including banking business.  Was this approved by Ban Ki-moon? Now it seems Yes. But should it have been?

Especially when, as now, it is exposed that Doosan has billion dollar business with Saudi Arabia, to whose money Ban deferred in dropping the Saudi-led Coalition from the UN's Children and Armed Conflict Yemen annex? This is Ban's UN: see Inner City Press first-draft 47-minute film here, "Banning the Press: Corruption in the UN of Ban Ki-moon, John Ashe and Ng Lap Seng, Yemen."  And now, Part II: "BANning Transparency," here. 

While the UN claims Ban Ki-moon urges his officials to make public financial disclosure, now Ban has allowed the names of the officials who refuse to make any disclosure to no longer even be mentioned on the list of officials.

On August 22, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's lead spokesman Stephane Dujarric to explain who decided to make the public financial disclosure lists less useful, and as an example about OIOS' Carman Lapointe. Beyond the Vine here, UN transcript here: 

Inner City Press: if you can explain, on the public financial disclosure list of the Secretary-General, which, until, you know, 2015, the most recent year, always included the list of all… of all officials, and then you'd click it, and it would say, in some cases, "I maintain confidentiality".  Now that's gone, so there's no… I mean, are those forms collected…?

Spokesman:  I have… I've heard your line of questioning to Farhan.

ICP Correspondent:  It's on the Secretary-General's website.

Spokesman:  I don't have any updates on that.  If I do and when I do, I will share that with you.

ICP Correspondent:  He said to me… his answer was, “we don't have…

Spokesman:  I know what his… actually, even on vacation, I sadly, at noon, wherever I was… would tune in to watch the show.

ICP Question:  So, then you heard him say, you know who UN officials are, so you're supposed to…?

Spokesman:  As I said, if I… I'm not going…

ICP Question:  Ms. Carman Lapointe, she's not listed in 2015.  Does that mean that she didn't report or was she already off the list?

Spokesman:  If I have more, I will share with you.  Thank you.

And then Dujarric walked off. 

 For further example, while in 2013 Herve Ladsous the head of peacekeeping was listed, and said he was maintaining confidentialityin 2015 he is not listed at all.

On August 18, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Farhan Haq about the continued decline of transparency under Ban, Vine here, UN transcript here: 

Inner City Press: you've referred a couple times in recent days to the idea of… of public financial disclosure by… by officials.  And I've seen on the website that Ban Ki-moon says that he urges his officials to do it, but, of course, it's not required.  That I understand.  But, what I've noticed is that until recently, in previous years, there's been a list of all officials.  And if you click some names, it says, "I choose not to disclose."  For 2015, the most recent year, the officials who don't disclose aren't even listed.  So, it seems like it's a step back.  And I wanted to know, for example, Mr. Hervé Ladsous was listed in 2013 as declining to disclose.  He's the head of peacekeeping, as you know.  I don't know how the urging of Ban Ki-moon resulted in that.  But, in 2015 he's not even on the list.  So, maybe you know or you can ask them, how is it decided to drop the names from the list of officials who choose not to disclose?  Because it makes it even more opaque, obviously, because you can't even tell that they didn't disclose.  They're not listed, unless you do cross-reference back…

Deputy Spokesman:  No, well, you know who the officials of the UN are.  They either choose to make their disclosure on a voluntary basis or not.  That is their decision.  However, regardless of whether they make it public or not, they do make disclosures to the UN, and those are reviewed.

ICP Question:  Right.  Was it specific… was it a change in policy, from all the years, 2000… for example, Mr. [Mathew] Nimetz appears in 2007, but he doesn't appear in 2015.  Mr. Han [Seung-soo] doesn't appear.  So, who decided… I guess it's the ethics… on whose authority was it decided to make it less opaque which officials are not following Ban Ki-moon's ostensible urging to disclose?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, like I said, there's still financial… the public financial disclosures are still available, and that's the basic point.  If they choose to make them public, they're available on the website.

The conflicts of interest allowed by Ban Ki-moon in his UN are extensive. Today's example is  Matthew Nimetz, Ban's Personal Envoy for the talks between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

    Nimetz is Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer of General Atlantic LLC which, among other things, has invested in Studio Moderna Holdings B.V., a for-profit company that operates in FYROM. This is Ban's UN. It doesn't even answer. On August 17, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Farhan Haq, Vine here, UN transcript here:

 Inner City Press: I want to ask you about a financial seeming conflict of interest that goes… that, hopefully, they'll actually say whether they've approved it or not.  And it has to do with the Special Envoy… the Secretary-General's personal envoy on the talks between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Mr. [Mathew] Nimetz.  It is part of his public disclosure that he's a principal in General Atlantic, but what's not said there is that this company invests in Studio Moderna, which is a for-profit company which lists itself as doing business in [former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia].  So… or Macedonia, as it calls it.  So, I wonder, how can a UN… how can a negotiator be a principal, not just on the board of directors, but actively work in a fund that has an investment somewhere between $50 and $500 million in a company doing business in the country in which he's mediating?  Is that… so, I want… I guess what I'm asking you for is a substantive answer rather than the same answer that they… they check these things and restrictions are… is there any restriction on this in some way?

Deputy Spokesman:  The basic point is that the nature of their disclosures is that all participants have the voluntary right to make public disclosures.  Beyond that, they are disclosures that are shared with the Ethics Office and those are of a confidential nature.  Therefore, I cannot go into the details.

ICP Question:  Right, but from the outside, can you see why some people would say this has the appearance of a conflict of interest to have a financial stake in a country you're mediating around?

Deputy Spokesman:  What I can say is the Ethics Office works specifically with officials to make sure that there is none.

ICP Question:  What about appearance?  This is what… the World Bank says…

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes, Linda?

With Ban Ki-moon's spokespeople refusing to answer basic questions -- and instead accusing the Press of “bullying” for asking -- Inner City Press on August 15 reported that and asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesman about that Ban's Special Envoy for Road Safety Jean Todt is simultaneously listed on the board of directors of Groupe Lucien Barrière SAS, whose businesses include casinos, luxury hotels, restaurants, and bars in France and Switzerland, and online poker in France.

   Ban's Special Envoy Todt is also listed on the board of directors ofGaumont SA which “produces and distributes films and television programming, operates movie screens and publishes 'Le Point' news magazine and has as subsidiaries Gaumont Production, Cinemas de l'Est, and Societe d'Exploitation des Cinemas Angevins.

   There was previous push back on Formula 1, including as relates toBahrain and Todt's comments about the Paris terrorist attack - but Ban's “Road Safety” representative on the board of directors of a for-profit company owning bars? 

On August 15, Inner City Press asked Ban's deputy spokesman Farhan Haq, Beyond the Vine video here, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: I'd asked you how many other boards Mr. Han Seung-soo is on that do business with the UN, and you seemed to not answer that.  I wanted to ask you about… there's another special… given that you won't answer that, there's another special… the Special Envoy on road safety, Mr. Jean Todt.  According to public records, he's on the board of a group, Lucien Barrière, which… whose businesses include bars and online poker.  And what I wanted to know is, first, I guess, just factually, whether the Ethics Office has signed off on these two outside board… there's another board that he's on that's  movie theaters.  But, the contradiction between road safety and being on a for-profit board of a company that runs bars seems extraordinary.  So, I wanted to know, has the Ethics Office signed off on this?  And will the UN live up to what the World Bank says, which is that outside board memberships by… by its officials are made public as a matter of course to avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest?

Deputy Spokesman:  I've explained to you how the Ethics Office goes about this in general, and I'll look into what specifically they're doing about Jean Todt.

Twenty four hours later, from the podium, Haq read this: "I was asked yesterday about any disclosures made by Jean Todt, who serves as a Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Road Safety and holds a dollar-a-year contract.  I can say that he is in compliance with the UN’s disclosure of interest requirements, including the disclosure of his non-UN activities.

In receiving the Secretary-General’s approval for non-UN activities with conditions, Mr. Todt has been informed of related restrictions for his non-UN activities in order to prevent and manage conflicts of interest.  Under applicable Staff Regulations and UN policies, disclosure statements are confidential and will be accessible to and used by the Secretary-General, the Ethics Office or by offices or persons specifically authorized in writing by the Secretary-General. Public disclosure is voluntary.  And that is it from me."

Inner City Press asked, Vine here, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press:   I wanted to ask you about this Jean Todt thing, because yesterday, what I was asking about was not just a possible financial conflict of interest, but the idea of sort of a thematic conflict of interest, in the sense that the company he's on the board of, publicly listed, owns bars, and he's the Special Envoy for Road Safety.  So, I wanted to know, is it within the Ethics Office mandate to look at this type of thematic contradiction, or are they simply looking for possible either… either conflict of interest in contracting with the UN?  Do they look at speeches given by envoys, where companies that they're with can make money?  How… I just… I want to know what kind of restrictions they're imposing.

Deputy Spokesman:  I brought what you'd said to their attention, and this is their reply. ...

Inner City Press: I want to ask you… and I want to try to, I guess, do it in a generic way, about the staffing of the PGA's [President of the General Assembly] office.  When a PGA comes in and brings in his own… his or her own people to… and makes them UN staff for the year, does this make them UN staff, i.e., they're in the system and then get promoted from there?  And I'm asking because at least in… in… about a particular case of a John Ashe personal assistant who came in and then became the assistant to Ms. Catherine Pollard, who is now working in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General.  And the question is, is this a sort of a backdoor way in?  What is the status… does… does… and I ask it because also Mr. [Mogens] Lykketoft has brought in a speechwriter.  This is a question that arose in this room.  Is the expectation when somebody becomes a UN staff member for the year of a PGA service that at the end of the year they're back just like any other person trying to enter the UN system, or have they effectively entered the UN system simply by being tapped by the PGA?

Deputy Spokesman:  No.  I mean, they can apply for UN jobs after they've finished their time.  And some of them, as you noticed, have applied for UN jobs.  But, they can go back to national service or UN jobs.  It goes either way.

ICP Question:  But, they're not… they don't have a leg up on people that are not already in the UN system or do they?

Deputy Spokesman:  I wouldn't call it a leg up.  They have experience in the system.  That is something in itself.  But, beyond that, they're not part of the system inherently.

ICP Question:  Given the John Ashe case, can you say, maybe not now, but at some point later today or, I guess, tomorrow from the podium, how many staff members brought in by John Ashe, given that, may he rest in peace, he was charged with bribery at the UN, now currently work in the UN system?

Deputy Spokesman:  I wouldn't be aware of that, depending upon where they had gone.  I mean, obviously, some of them may be in the system.  Some have gone back to national service.  Vine here.

Han Seung-soo is a UN public official, and it is now demonstrated that he sits on at least two "boards of companies with profit-making arms" with which the UN has awarded contracts during Han's UN public service.  Some of these contracts, such as the global banking contract cited in a UN document in April 2016, are substantial.

On August 12, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: I'll speak and then I'll be sure to be quiet.  Have you verified to your own satisfaction that Han Seung-soo is listed on the website of Standard Chartered Bank as an independent outside… on the board of directors and that Standard Chartered Bank has not only the brokerage contract but also a master servicing contract, and how is it consistent with any pla… any legitimate conflict-of-interest rules that a person can be in both of these capacities at once?

Deputy Spokesman Haq:  I've been in touch with the Ethics Office.  They are satisfied with the cooperation that they're receiving, and I've provided the details that we have about the cooperation that they've been receiving from Han Seung-soo.

This Ban Ki-moon / UN spokesman is trying to say that Han has been given waivers to sit on outside boards.  But this is contrary to best practices as documented by other public organizations.

Can the UN say with a straight face that the waivers given to Han by his former protege, Ban Ki-moon, are appropriate and are in the spirit of the  standards promoted by for example the World Bank and the OECD?

The World Bank, with which Ban cavorts, says "the declaration of interests program for the Bank Group’s Senior Management Team and Vice Presidents includes public disclosure of summaries of their annual declarations of interests. Public disclosure of this information helps demonstrate to stakeholders that, in the discharge of their official duties and responsibilities, the Bank Group’s senior managers are not, and do not appear to be, influenced by any consideration associated with their own private interests."

Ban has refused to disclose which boards Han is on; the two Inner City Press has identified each certainly show the appearance of conflict of interest, and the thing itself. 

The OECD notes for example that "Germany’s policy also requires federal Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries of State to restrict their non-ministerial activities. The following activities are forbidden by the law for federal Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries of State while they are in office:

-Occupying another salaried office. 
-Practising another profession or commercial occupation.
-Acting as a paid arbitrator or undertaking a consultant activity outside the courts.
-Holding an honorary public position, without government permission.

In general the law also prohibits sitting on boards or supervisory boards of companies with profit-making aims."

 Has is on two such boards, Inner City Press has identified; Jane Holl Lute on another, for $250,000 a year.

As Inner City Press first reported and asked about on August 11, Han Seung-soo is on the board of directors of Standard Chartered bank, awarded the UN's master banking services contract (see this UN document, at Paragraph 50), and a brokerage contract (UN Procurement website, here).

When Inner City Press asked about this and how many OTHER board Han is on that do business with the UN, Ban's spokesman Farhan Haq cut off the questions and claimed Inner City Press was “bullying” him.Video hereUN Transcript here:

Inner City Press: Mr. Han Seung-soo is also on the board of Standard Chartered Bank, which was awarded, according to the… the most recent report of the… on the Chief Executive Board's proceedings, Standard Chartered Bank was awarded the UN's master servicing banking contract.  So I wanted to know… I mean, this is why I think I was asking for kind of a more comprehensive response from the Ethics Office in terms of what restrictions they've placed on Mr. Han Seung-soo, because if, as is reflected by the bank's website, he's on the board of a bank that, in fact, has this major contract with the UN, can you please describe to me what possible restrictions deal with this?

Deputy Spokesman:  I've described to you how the Ethics Office's guidelines work and that those guidelines apply to Mr. Han Seung-soo.  He has engaged and informed them of a number of his business dealings, and they have taken those into account.

ICP Question:  How can you be on the board of a… of a… of a bank that has a con… you just made a point of pointing out that Doosan, although it's listed in procurement contract… procurement database, didn't have contracts during this particular period of time.  But if… I'm… I'm informing you that the Chief Executive Board's report said that Standard Chartered Bank has this contract with the UN, and he's on their board.  So is he still on their board, or is he somehow half on their board?

Deputy Spokesman:  I've described to you what the series of procedures are, and those are what applies to him as well as to other special advisers.

ICP Question:  So how is…

Deputy Spokesman:  We're not going to interfere with their own outside-of-UN lives by going into all of their details at great length, but the Ethics Office has been dealing with this, and they have a series of guidelines, and he's aware of them and is in compliance…

ICP Question:  How can you be on a board of a corporation…?

Deputy Spokesman:  You keep interrupting me.

ICP Question:  All right.  I'm asking because I see you already looking away, and I want… this is a very simple question.

Deputy Spokesman:  I'm looking at someone else who is raising a hand.  But, please, behave yourself.  You need to understand that when someone is asking a question, you allow them to answer.  I've actually lost my train of thought.  So I'll have to gain it…

ICP Question:  I'm asking… I'm willing to because I have a follow-up question…

Deputy Spokesman:  Because the continued interruptions… you're doing it again… actually break people's train of thought.  He has been in touch with the Ethics Office.  And, like I said, they have a series of remedies for the steps which I've detailed.  Beyond that, this is what we have.

ICP Question:  What other boards is he on?  That's my follow-up question.

Deputy Spokesman:  Matthew, Matthew…

ICP Question:  It's simple.  It's simple, because he's on the board of a bank that does business with the UN… I'm finishing my question.  You're cutting me off.

Deputy Spokesman:  No…

ICP Question:  My question is, how many corporate boards that do business with the UN…

Deputy Spokesman:  Matthew, when I start to say something in reply to your question and then you cut me off, then don't accuse me of cutting you off.

ICP Question:  Right, you tried to call on someone else, and I was asking another question.  How many boards is Han Seung-soo on that do business with the UN?

Deputy Spokesman:  At this stage, you're actually just trying to bully me.  To be honest, I've given you a wealth of information about this, including details about how the Ethics Office goes about it.  That's what we've got.  Yes.  Carole?

  As noted, Han Seung-soo is also on the board of Standard Chartered Bank - which was recently awarded the UN's master banking services contract:

“Early in 2016, the master banking services agreement between the Secretariat and Standard Chartered Bank will be the first such global contract to be signed, enabling United Nations system entities to access banking and treasury services in 28 countries from Standard Chartered Bank and its subsidiaries.” (

   So Ban Ki-moon and his Ethics Office let Ban's mentor and adviser Han Seung-soo serve as UN Special Adviser for Water and Disaster Risk Reduction and give speeches in that capacity while Doosan, on whose board Han sits, sells water desalinization equipment to the same countries he speaks to for the UN.

   Han is on the board of Standard Charter bank, awarded the UN's master banking services contract. This is Ban's UN.

On August 9 Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Farhan Haq directly about Han Seung-soo giving speeches at UN special adviser on water while Doosan, which he directs, makes sales including but not limited to water desalinization equipment in the same places. This is a blatant (mis) use of the UN, by Ban Ki-moon's mentor.

   The UN left Ban Ki-moon's webpage down for August 9, and as of 9 am on August 10 has still not put the August 9 transcript online. Haq read out some generic advocacy points from Ban's Ethics Office, that restrictions are custom-designed for particular conflicts of interest, but would not disclose a single restriction on Han Seung-soo. Anyway, the public record speaks for itself. Watch this site.