UN awaiting reply from Iraq on alleged corruption in oil-for-food program

March 23, 2004
The United Nations is awaiting reply from the Iraqi Governing Council on allegations of corruption in the UN-run oil-for-food humanitarian operation, a UN spokesman said on Tuesday.

The UN’s in-house watchdog – the Office for Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) – has written to the Governing Council twice, asking for cooperation, spokesman Fred Eckhard told reporters. The United Nations did not know why it had not yet received a response.

Eckhard noted that the OIOS had received a letter from the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad, promising support to the office.

Eckhard said UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is also awaiting aresponse from the Security Council granting support to his proposal for an independent investigation into the project.

“The whole point of this consultation with council members over the last two weeks was to convince them of the need for such an independent investigation in the hopes that he would get their support,” Eckhard said. “Without government support this investigation is not going to go very far, so he is hoping for some kind of signal from the council that they support this effort.”

“The Secretary-General has been working for several weeks to get this broader investigation going. I think he would welcome any additional light that others could shed on the situation, either out of Baghdad or out of a national capital,” he noted. “But I think he feels it’s his responsibility to launch a UN-based investigation of this UN program.”

Eckhard said on Monday that Annan was expected to name a team to look into the allegations that UN staff might have pocketed millions of dollars from the oil-for-food program, which ended last October.

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