x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

New UN arbitrator to tackle corruption

Carman Lapointe-Young approved as undersecretary-general for oversight and is charged with improving the UN's battered reputation following years of corruption cases.

NEW YORK // One of the more uncomfortable periods in Ban Ki-moon's tenure as head of the United Nations drew to a close last week with the nomination of a new internal investigations chief, following stinging criticism from her predecessor. Carman Lapointe-Young was approved as undersecretary-general for oversight on Wednesday - charged with improving the UN's battered reputation following years of corruption cases including the 2004 Iraqi oil-for-food scandal.

The Canadian auditor replaces Inga Britt-Ahlenius of Sweden, who left last month after issuing a final memo blasting Mr Ban's leadership and accusing him of undermining the UN's watchdog, the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS). In an end-of-assignment report, Ms Ahlenius said the UN was "drifting into irrelevance" thanks to weak leadership from Mr Ban, who micro-manages his senior staff and stymies internal corruption probes.

"I regret to say that the Secretariat is now in a process of decay. It is not only falling apart into silos - the Secretariat is drifting," she wrote. Although Mr Ban started in the top UN job in January 2007 on the promise of reforming the world body, Ms Ahlenius said he has repeatedly sought to undercut her work, delaying new hires and setting up a competing investigation unit. This was not the first time the talents of the world's top diplomat have come under the spotlight. Last summer, Norway's deputy ambassador Mona Juul said Mr Ban was absent, passive and "struggled to show leadership" in a leaked internal memo.

Critics of South Korea's former foreign minister say he suffers from a poor command of English and is failing to make gains through his Confucian-style of unobtrusive diplomacy. This latest criticism sparked a glut of negative publicity and speculation about Mr Ban's future, with newspaper headlines such as "Is Ban Ki-moon the worst secretary general in the UN's history?" and "Good Night, Ban Ki-Moon. The UN secretary general must go".

But perhaps more damaging were revelations that the US - the biggest funder of the UN and host to its Manhattan headquarters - was irritated by Mr Ban's weakness at rooting out corruption, waste and inefficiency in the world body. Last week, Susan Rice, America's ambassador to the UN, demanded that "US taxpayers' money is spent wisely and UN programmes are managed effectively" and described the OIOS vacancy rate of almost 20 per cent as "unacceptable".

"We have been frustrated by the recent direction of the investigations division, which must more vigorously pursue fraud and misconduct," said Ms Rice. "We again urge that significant and much-needed changes in the investigations division be instituted swiftly and effectively." Criticism comes at a sensitive time for the world's top diplomat, towards the end of his first five-year term in office, which finishes December 2011, and rumours in the corridors of UN headquarters about whether he will run for a second.

The secretary general's core team is busily leafing through Ms Ahlenius's 50-page memo, with his management chief, Angela Kane, promising: "Where there are lessons to be learned, we will draw them. "The report, however, contains many inaccuracies, misrepresentations and distortions." jreinl@thenational.ae