United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan today announced the formation of the independent panel that will conduct an inquiry into allegations of impropriety in the administration and management of the Iraq Oil-for-Food Programme.
The panel will be chaired by Paul A. Volcker, former Chairman of the Board of Governors of the United States Federal Reserve System. Its other two members are Justice Richard Goldstone of South Africa, who previously served as the Chief Prosecutor of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, and Mark Pieth of Switzerland, a Professor of Criminal Law and Criminology at the University of Basel with expertise in money-laundering.
According to the terms of reference that will govern the independent inquiry, the panel will have the authority to:
* Investigate whether the procedures established by the UN for the administration and management of the Programme were violated;
* Determine whether any United Nations officials, personnel, agents or contractors engaged in any illicit or corrupt activities in the carrying out of their respective roles in relation to the Programme, and;
* Determine whether the accounts of the Programme were in order and were maintained in accordance with UN regulations and rules.
To ensure a thorough and meticulous inquiry, the members of the independent panel will have the authority to access all relevant United Nations records and information, written or unwritten, and to interview all relevant United Nations officials and personnel. The panel is authorized to obtain records and interviews from persons unaffiliated with the UN who may have knowledge relevant to the inquiry, including allegations of impropriety. It is also authorized to seek cooperation from UN Member States to conduct its inquiry. The Security Council today adopted unanimously a resolution welcoming the appointment of the panel and calling upon the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), Iraq and all other Member States – including their national regulatory authorities – to fully cooperate with the inquiry.
In addition, within three months of the initiation of its work, the panel should provide the Secretary-General with a status report of its work. The Secretary General has stated that he will employ his authority so that the Organization's privileges and immunities do not impede efforts to hold accountable those who have engaged in unacceptable conduct.
“Obviously, these are serious allegations which we take seriously, and this is why we’ve put together a very serious group to investigate it,” the Secretary-General said today. “The organization will take whatever steps may be appropriate to address the issues raised by the inquiry. We have assembled a group of respected individuals that I hope will complete its work as soon as practicable.”
“As to the impact on our activities in Iraq, I hope the Iraqis realize that even if there have been wrongdoings by certain members on the UN staff, the UN, as a whole, did make a genuine effort to fill in their humanitarian needs,” he added. “There were hundreds of UN staff who worked very hard and diligently to establish the food distribution system and ensure that supplies did go in and, I think, that positive aspect of it should not be overlooked either.”
As provided in the terms of reference, the panel’s report will be made public.