Thursday, August 13, 2009

What does Clark need to do?

A few days ago I posted about the abject vacuity in the NZ mainstream media reporting about Helen Clark taking on the lead role at the UNDP. So is the UNDP just a grand generous aid organisation out to help the world develop, or is there more to it than that? Why indeed have none of the scandals that have emerged from the UNDP in recent years been raised in the NZ mainstream media? Why has nobody seriously questioned Clark about what she thinks of the scandals and whether she is concerned about the UNDP’s reputation?

UNDP Watch is a blog dedicated to reporting on issues arising from the UNDP. Of course any good journalist knows not to rely on a single source. However, let’s just do a summary of the recent list of publicised scandals arising from this organisation. Bear in mind the UNDP does not publish detailed accounts of revenue and expenditure. In other words it has less financial accountability than any New Zealand central or local government organisation or publicly listed company. That in itself is a reason for concern. Will Helen Clark ensure that accounts are published in full after this current financial year? If not, why not?

There are charges of nepotism in employment whereby a UNDP employee used his influence to ensure his daughter got a job at UNDP, despite this being against policy. This is under investigation.

There are charges of the UNDP grossly overcharging the Panamanian government for advice. In other words, acting as management consultants. Clark might want to get a robust vetting process for all contracts, and to be ruthless in firing those who don't follow procedure.

An independent audit commissioned by UNDP demonstrated how the organization “routinely, and systematically, the agency disregarded U.N. regulations on how it conducted itself in Kim Jong-Il's brutal dictatorship, passing on millions of dollars to the regime in the process”. In other words it funneled taxpayers’ money to a regime that run slave gulags containing children. UNDP should cease all activities in North Korea, much like Medicin Sans Frontieres did because it could not guarantee that the aid it supplied was not being siphoned off to the military and party officials. Clark would do good to shut down activities in North Korea.

Most of all, she could commission an independent report into the success of UNDP programmes over the past decade, checking what was expected compared to what was delivered, and whether it was worth it.

However, given she spent part of the 1980s rejecting the very transparency and accountability that the reforms of the time were promoting, I wont be holding my breath. The UNDP is rotten, with staff paid salaries that make NZ MP's incomes look very pitiful, and with performance and results that is questionable at best.

Who will be the first NZ mainstream media journalist to do a full scale investigation and then to question Clark about it? Given Barry Coleman has such a jaundiced view of bloggers, maybe it could be the NBR?

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