Statement by United Nations Foundation President Timothy E. Wirth on the Release of the Oil-For-Food Program Internal Audits, and UN Management Reform

Washington, D.C.

January 10, 2005


Megan Rabbitt

“The release by the Independent Inquiry Committee headed by Paul Volcker of internal audits of the Oil-for-Food Program (OFFP) is a clear demonstration of the UN’s commitment to the thorough and transparent inquiry it promised.

“The 55 internal audits show OFFP was heavily monitored and that the UN used the audits to improve management, implementing 157 of 179 (88%) critical recommendations made by the auditors over the life of the program. While the audits do reveal deficiencies in the oversight of the program, it is noteworthy that Mr. Volker has said that they contain ‘no flaming red flags.’

“The OFFP was unique in its complexity and the management challenges it presented. It is difficult to manage a program feeding 24 million people being ruled by a corrupt dictator in a nation under international sanctions. With a program of this breadth, it can be expected that there were problems, but it is significant to note that there have been no allegations of irregular activities involving Office of Iraq program personnel found by the auditors.

“The UN already has begun to reform its management even before Mr. Volcker completes his report. Notably, Secretary-General Annan has appointed a new and well respected Chief-of-Staff, Mark Malloch Brown, the current head of UNDP. And, the UN has announced a partnership with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to ensure that the tsunami relief effort is managed with a maximum of accountability and transparency.

“Finally, the release of the audits should not make us lose perspective on some of the broader facts we have learned about the OFFP. Among them, most of the illicit revenue that the Saddam Hussein regime gained under the Iraq sanctions came from oil smuggling not OFFP; that OFFP met its humanitarian objectives which include feeding more than 24 million Iraqi citizens; and that OFFP achieved its two major political objectives- maintaining political support for sanctions on Iraq and preventing the Hussein regime from developing weapons of mass destruction.”

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