Friday, January 14, 2005

Let's Keep It Clean
As I was going through some of my postings from last year, I ran across one from the early days of the UN Oil-for-Food scandal publicity. (See posting of 4/19/04.) My concern then was for a potential handover of Iraq to UN administration, but the parallels to the current tsunami relief effort are obvious. In particular, excerpting some of what I said then:

I believe there are compelling reasons for exposing the full extent of malfeasance in administering the Oil for Food fund, and the most important of these concerns the future, rather than the past. As the UN takes the lead role...we must aggressively manage the risks this will entail, and one of the largest is for corruption on a vast scale.

Although the current effort may be a better fit with routine UN activities than Oil for Food was, anyone who has done business in South Asia understands the temptations that those administering aid on this scale will face. Resolving the Oil-for-Food scandal promptly and publicly punishing those at fault--along with establishing strict new standards for contracting--will go a long way toward keeping the aid administrators out of trouble.

While I am not suggesting replacing the Secretary-General unless he is directly implicated, there are plenty of others who should clearly go, or at least be removed from any position involving contracting or funding. It would be a great shame if two or three years from now we learned about a "tsunami relief scandal", further compounding a tragedy of already staggering proportions.

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