One of the confidential UN audits discussed in this article was rescinded in administrative proceedings conducted after the article’s publication in 2008. Specifically, a UN appeals tribunal ruled in 2010 that the audit critical of former U.S. diplomat Jacques Paul Klein was “based on an inadequate investigation” and allegations that lacked merit, and should not have been disclosed to the U.S. government or other member states. The tribunal found that investigators failed to inform Klein of the allegations or give him an opportunity to respond before finalizing their report, in violation of UN procedures. In a follow-up ruling in 2011, the tribunal awarded Klein monetary damages and ordered UN officials to remove the audit and any related materials from their files.

Correction to This Article
The article on the Bush administration's disclosure of previously confidential United Nations investigation reports incorrectly said that, according to one such report, a "Local Woman" -- identified in the article as Linda Fawaz -- had "regularly traveled on U.N. aircraft in violation of organizational rules." The report actually found that the woman had traveled on such flights "on occasion."

U.S. Officials Divulge Reports On Confidential U.N. Audits

Mark D. Wallace, the U.S. representative for U.N. management and reform, has posted nearly 500 U.N.audit and investigatory documents on the Web.
Mark D. Wallace, the U.S. representative for U.N. management and reform, has posted nearly 500 U.N.audit and investigatory documents on the Web. (U.n. Photo)

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By Colum Lynch
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 17, 2008

UNITED NATIONS -- The Bush administration has been posting hundreds of highly confidential U.N. audits and investigation reports on a U.S. government Web site, opening the United Nations' inner workings and some of its more colorful scandals to unusual public scrutiny.

Together, the nearly 500 documents and thousands of pages constitute a trove of U.N. secrets stretching back over five years, including allegations of bribes paid for tsunami relief projects in Indonesia, of sexual harassment in Gaza and a revelation that a U.N. anti-drug official ran a presidential campaign while receiving a U.N. paycheck. The pages also document a spree of alleged criminal activities, including a bribery scheme at the airport in Pristina, Kosovo, gold trading by U.N. peacekeepers in Congo, and the theft and resale of food rations by Ukrainian pilots serving the United Nations in Liberia.

Mark D. Wallace, the U.S. representative for U.N. management and reform, has posted 477 documents, following the lead of his former boss, John R. Bolton, who as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations began releasing documents as early as 2006.

"I didn't see any reason why U.N. audit documents shouldn't be made public," recalled Bolton, comparing the situation to the Government Accountability Office's publication of reports on U.S. government activities. "I didn't think my job was to cover up for the United Nations."

Most of the names of those targeted in the reports have been redacted by the United Nations, but the identities are easily deciphered. The documents' disclosure has shed light on some major U.N. mysteries, including the abrupt retirement of Jacques Paul Klein, a former American diplomat who served as the U.N. special representative in Liberia until April 2005. A two-page document labeled "strictly confidential" accuses Klein of an improper relationship with a local woman suspected of passing on secrets to Charles Taylor, the former Liberian president now on trial for war crimes.

Klein was one of the most visible U.S. nationals at the United Nations, where he served as special representative in Eastern Slavonia in 1996, and later as the U.N.'s high representative in Bosnia. In 2003, Klein was chosen to lead the U.N. mission in Liberia (UNMIL), the organization's largest peacekeeping operation at the time, where he oversaw the transition from Charles Taylor's rule to the election of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, a former World Bank economist.

Klein developed a reputation for bullying Bosnian or Liberian power brokers into yielding to U.N. demands, and he presided over missions in Bosnia and Liberia that faced sexual misconduct scandals involving U.N. personnel.

Klein met Linda Fawaz, a 30-year-old Liberian American woman whose uncle headed a major timber company. According to the report, Fawaz (identified as "Local Woman") accompanied Klein (described as "Senior Official") to diplomatic functions and regularly traveled on U.N. aircraft in violation of organizational rules.

"Senior Official has invited Local Woman to functions both with UNMIL staff and persons outside the UN, some of which have been of an official nature," the report said. "A number of staff interviewed by [U.N. investigators] expressed concern that the Local Woman was passing information which she had gathered from Senior Official to Mr. Taylor" and others.

Efforts to reach Fawaz through a former employer were unsuccessful. Klein declined to discuss the investigation, saying, "I think I've put my family . . . through enough misery." But he defended his tenure in Liberia, saying that he had helped to bring a crippled nation "back to its feet" and paved the way for democratic elections. "I'm just trying to put all this behind me and get on with my life," Klein said.

Among the documents posted on the Web are 32 reports, completed in 2004 and 2005, by a U.N. investigative task force into misconduct at the internationally operated airport in Pristina, including bribery, bid rigging and sexual harassment. The reports document allegations that airport staff members received payment to forge documents from Kosovars seeking entry into European capitals, and demanded kickbacks from companies seeking contracts, and sex or payments from locals seeking jobs.

For years, the United Nations has guarded the confidentiality of its audits, saying they are meant as constructive criticism for managers. Their disclosure by the United States has generated a mixed reaction from U.N. officials: One said it was ironic that an administration that has placed such a premium on secrecy would be so transparent about the United Nations.

The decision has rankled some senior peacekeeping officials, who said that the reports often lack context and expose individuals to embarrassment even if they were found innocent. For example, the United States posted a report describing an allegation that Klein had engaged in corruption, although he was cleared of that charge.

But the top U.N. investigator, Inga-Britt Ahlenius, said that she favors more disclosure, arguing that the reports should be publicly available. "It seems to me that the ones who argue for secret reports have something to hide," she said, but added that she lacks the power to release them because rules restrict their publication by U.N. staff.

The reports also provide rare insight into the inner working of dozens of U.N. departments that deal with matters including peacekeeping, the U.N. pension fund, the environment and the Office for Outer Space Affairs. More than 50 audits alone examine the practices of the United Nations' High Commissioner for Refugees.

The audits have also provided valuable leads for investigators probing possible corruption. Former Federal Reserve chairman Paul A. Volcker, who led an investigation into U.N. corruption three years ago, battled successfully with the United Nations to publish U.N. audits on the oil-for-food program. The agreement was followed by a decision by the General Assembly to make all internal audits available when requested by U.N. members. The United States has a standing request for every audit.

Bolton's successor, Zalmay Khalilzad, has embraced the policy, saying he is now trying to persuade other U.N. agencies to make their audits available. U.S. officials say they hope the documents will allow journalists, scholars and activists to exercise greater oversight than even governments, including the United States, have the resources to provide.

"We have thought it was a good idea to make them public," said Khalilzad, though he acknowledged concerns about due process. "We have sort of erred on the side of transparency and availability. . . . I hope people would be sensitive to the fact that allegations do not mean people are guilty."

© 2008 The Washington Post Company

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