Saturday, January 27, 2007

HE'S BEEN LESS THAN A MONTH in the job, but UN's new Secretary General is already kofiannanning:
For just one day last week, it looked like Ban, in the first real test of his self-proclaimed mission to “restore trust” at the U.N., had risen above the bureaucratic evasions of his scandal-plagued predecessor, Kofi Annan. That day was Jan. 19, shortly after FOX News and The Wall Street Journal broke the story of U.S. State Department accusations that the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), violating its own rules, had allowed hard currency to flow to the now-sanctioned rogue regime of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il. The State Department told of UNDP offices in North Korea dominated by officials of the regime, “sham” audits of programs to hide the cash flow, and an extended cover-up of the situation by the UNDP itself.

Ban came out that same day for a public housecleaning, with guns blazing. In a break with the stonewalls of the U.N. when faced with Oil-for-Food and other scandals, he promised to call for what his spokeswoman described as “an urgent, system-wide and external inquiry into all activities done around the globe by the U.N. funds and programmes.”

For this, Ban earned immediate praise, even from some of the U.N.’s most diehard critics. And he seemed intent on sticking to his guns. When a reporter dropped by the office of Ban’s spokeswoman, Michele Montas, late that same Friday evening, she took time to offer assurances that yes, indeed, the audit would be rigorous, complete and independent. Asked, specifically, if outside, private auditors would be employed to ensure integrity, she said, “Yes.”

But by Monday, Ban was backtracking faster than you can say “ACABQ” — which is the acronym for the U.N. General Assembly’s own budget oversight body, the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions — which Ban was suddenly proposing to use as the overseer of his promised housecleaning.