UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The head of a year-long investigation into Iraqi oil-for-food program intends to fault both Secretary-General Kofi Annan and members of the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday for allowing Saddam Hussein to corrupt the operation for personal gain.
Paul Volcker, the former U.S. Federal Reserve chairman, addresses and delivers his 1,000-page report to the 15-nation Security Council after releasing its preface a day earlier.
The report said a major problem was that no one was in charge — neither the Security Council, meant to supervise the program, nor the U.N. secretariat headed by Annan, who is not accused of any personal gain.
"When things went awry — and they surely did — when troublesome conflicts arose between political objectives and administrative effectiveness, decisions were delayed, bungled or simply shunned," said the preface.
Consequently, ex-President Saddam Hussein was able to exploit the program and its "wholesale corruption" among private companies, which will be detailed in an October report.
The report”s timing could not be worse, before Annan presides over the largest world summit ever on September 14-16, a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly.
One proposal before the world leaders would give the secretary-general more power to move around staff and hire outside auditors, which Volcker”s Independent Inquiry Committee also recommended. But some developing nations are loathe to give up power in the General Assembly, which controls the budget and where they have a majority.
The panel was established by Annan a year ago to probe corruption into the now-defunct $64 billion program, which was aimed at easing the impact of sanctions imposed in mid-1990 after Baghdad”s troops invaded Kuwait.
Iraq was allowed to sell oil to pay for humanitarian goods and was able to choose its own contractors. In a campaign to end sanctions, Saddam distributed bribes in the form of oil vouchers to government officials, journalists and political parties around the world.
While the program provided a lifeline for some 90 percent of the population, it was also marked by "illicit, unethical and corrupt behavior" within the United Nations and among private companies which paid kickbacks, the report says.
Annan is not accused of personal corruption or influencing the award of a lucrative contract to the Swiss firm Cotecna, which employed his 32-year old son, Kojo.
But the inquiry, which has issued three previous interim reports, is expected to accuse the younger Annan of using his father”s name for personal gain, including diplomatic cover to purchase a Mercedes without paying taxes.
Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Annan”s predecessor, who presided over the creation of the program in 1996, is also expected to be mentioned again. An earlier Volcker report detailed gains by his relatives in procuring oil contracts with some of the profits going to the U.N. head of the program.
The report concluded that the United Nations urgently required "stronger executive leadership, thoroughgoing administrative reform and more reliable controls and auditing."
"At stake is the U.N. ability to respond promptly and effectively to the responsibilities thrust upon it by the realities of a turbulent and often violent world," the preface said. "It is precisely those qualities that too often were absent in the administration of the oil-for-food program."