Saturday, March 26, 2005

They are getting closer

Expect warblings of solidarity from European leaders for the hapless SecGen of the United Nations, Kofi Annan. For he will be named and somewhat shamed in Paul Volcker’s report on the food-for-oil scandal that is due to be published on Tuesday.

Kofi Annan will be criticized for his management practices (given recent scandals to do with the UN bureaucracy and its employees’ behaviour on the ground, that must rank as one of the understatements of the century) and for failing to see that there might have been a conflict of interests in his son being employed by Cotecna, a Swiss firm that had also been tasked with monitoring the supposedly humanitarian relief programme.

Should a man who cannot perceive that there is a certain clash of interests here be allowed out on his own, let alone be given a position of any responsibility whatsoever? But this is the world of the tranzis we are talking about. In it, as long as you make the right noises, your actual behaviour does not matter.

Cotecna, it seems, paid $400,000 to Kojo Annan between 1996 and 2004. Or so it seems for the moment but as the figure has already been adjusted upwards several times, we cannot be sure what it will be in the final reckoning.

Kofi Annan’s office maintains that he did not know the precise truth of his son Kojo’s employment but there have been serious complaints about lack of openness on the part of Cotecna about the terms of their agreement with the younger Annan.

The report by the supposedly independent but really rather UN-friendly Volcker commission will be only one of several. There are others, full of senators and representatives, who feel less friendly towards the SecGen and less anxious to save him from any further embarrassment.

But even this document is likely to shift attention away from Annan’s recent somewhat incoherent reform proposals and an even more recent report that has proposed a thorough overhaul of the peacekeeping operations in the wake of the various sex, mass rape and procurement scandals in Africa and the Balkans.

The one thing all these different stories have in common is the certainty we all have that nobody will be disciplined or punished for any of the misdemeanours. One could argue, of course, that another display of European loyalty towards the SecGen will be punishment enough for the man.

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