Hill Investigators Wary of U.N. Scam Report

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 3, 2005 | Go to article overview

Hill Investigators Wary of U.N. Scam Report


Byline: Betsy Pisik, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Congressional staffers investigating the U.N. oil-for-food scandal say they are worried that the interim Volcker report expected today will leave unanswered key questions, such as the role of the U.N. official who ran the program.

Parallel to the work of the panel headed by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, Congress last month created a subcommittee on investigations, in large part to keep an eye on the United Nations.

However, the Associated Press reported last night that a source close to the probe said Mr. Volcker will be sharply critical of U.N. management in key areas and will target Benon Sevan, the U.N. official who ran the program.

The source said the Volcker report will focus on the administration, financial transactions and internal auditing of the multibillion-dollar program, all of which were "tainted badly."

In an advance copy of an op-ed article in today's Wall Street Journal, Mr. Volcker said, "The findings do not make for pleasant reading," according to AP.

Staffers said earlier this week that they have a growing list of questions regarding the seven-year, $64 billion humanitarian program for Iraq, and they hope that today's interim report will answer some of them.

But some said they were not optimistic that the report would illuminate the role of Mr. Sevan, who is accused of accepting oil vouchers from the former regime, or the role of contractors responsible for inspecting imports and exports and providing letters of credit.

Expectations also are lowered, according to a Democratic staffer, by the fact that the Volcker panel has no subpoena power and no way to compel corporations or governments to cooperate.

"I hope it's not going to be a situation where he tells us what we already know," said one staffer. "The more troubling thing would be if he just doesn't address certain issues that he doesn't have answers for, because he couldn't get U.N. people to answer his questions."

There is concern that Mr. Volcker will put much of the blame for oil surcharges and contract kickbacks on the U.N. Security Council, where the United States actively vetted every transaction.

Side deals appear to have generated at least $6. …

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