Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Oil for Food

A third letter seeking to silence a contractor has come to light. This one is dated April 27th, after the appointment of Paul Volker to head the investigation of the scandal.

The U.N.'s excuse when the first two letters came to light was less than convincing:

"A U.N. spokesman denied that this was part of a cover-up, and said the response was 'standard procedure' that followed the normal U.N. legal practice on the work of contractors.

'This letter didn't say no, it just said consult us, consistent with our contractual requirements,' said spokesman Fred Eckhard.

He said U.N. policy is that documentation held by contractors relating to U.N. business can be released only to the United Nations 'unless otherwise authorized.'

The letter also cites the need to have requests for documentation and information "addressed in an orderly and consultative manner" so as to 'to avoid impeding' the U.N.'s independent investigation into the oil-for-food program, headed by former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker."

If the U.N. is really serious about this investigation, which looks doubtful given the evidence of what looks like a cover-up, Secretary General Kofi Annan should issue a blanket authorization to all contractors to hand over any documents directly to Mr. Volcker. Anything less will only serve as further proof that there's something to hide.