(by Betsy Pisik, WashingtonTimes.com) NEW YORK — U.N. officials said yesterday that they will not publicly release a financial disclosure form filed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan last month — 10 months after he ordered all senior U.N. officials to file the forms.
A spokesman said Mr. Annan submitted the questionnaire — under a policy implemented in response to international outrage over U.N. involvement in the Iraq oil-for-food scandal — on Sept. 22.
“The secretary-general has filed the forms,” Stephane Dujarric confirmed yesterday. But, he said, “We will not be making it public.”
John R. Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, did not return a call asking about that decision, but other critics of the world body argued that the disclosure form should be made public.
“Kofi Annan has not gone far enough. He should make the financial disclosure publicly available for outside scrutiny,” said Nile Gardiner, director of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at the Heritage Foundation. “The culture of secrecy remains intact in the upper echelon of the United Nations.”
Mr. Annan implemented the disclosure-form policy as one of several moves to reform the institution in the wake of the oil-for-food scandal. Massive fraud was uncovered in a $64 billion program run by the United Nations that allowed Saddam Hussein’s Iraq to sell a limited amount of oil.
Mr. Annan was cleared of personal involvement in the scandal, but questions were raised about the conduct of son Kojo, who worked for a company that won a major oil-for-food contract.
Among other reforms, Mr. Annan ordered the creation of an ethics office and established a policy to protect whistleblowers who expose corruption within the organization. The General Assembly agreed to the changes during the 2005 World Summit.
Until this year, U.N. undersecretaries-general were required to submit disclosure forms and declare gifts of $10,000 or more. Mr. Annan then declared that assistant secretaries-general and authorities in the U.N. procurement office also should file the forms, and reduced the gift limit to $250.
Mr. Dujarric told reporters in January that Mr. Annan would be among the first to file the disclosure form.
Asked whether he had filed his form at a press conference last month, Mr. Annan carefully answered: “I honor all my obligations to the U.N., and I think that is as I have always done.” But the secretary-general is not technically an employee of the United Nations and, therefore, not legally obliged to do so.
Many Annan advisers were urging him to make good on his promise, but the chief U.N. legal counsel, Nicolas Michel, instructed the secretary-general not to, said a Secretariat official.
“Michel told him he didn’t have to do it, that it would set a precedent that future secretaries-general would have to follow,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of not being identified. “I don’t know why anyone thinks that would be a bad thing.”
During the probe into the oil-for-food program, Mr. Annan met with investigators from the Independent Inquiry Committee, led by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, and provided documents from six banks and three credit-card companies from 1998 to 2004.
“He lives within his means and has accumulated a retirement fund through savings,” said the committee’s report, which noted that his income was based on his U.N. salary and a rental property.
“The secretary-general contributes heavily to charity and to the support of his extended family. … The records produced do not raise concerns about the secretary-general’s financial stability nor do they reveal any payments or transactions that appear suspicious or improper.”
The U.N. secretary-general receives $259,097 a year, after taxes. He also lives rent-free in a four-story mansion on Sutton Place, with a grassy back yard that slopes down to the East River. The house, which does not belong to him or to the United Nations, is on loan from a charitable foundation.
In addition, the secretary-general receives an allowance of about $25,000 a year for business entertaining, and he can keep the frequent flier miles he accrues when traveling on commercial airlines.
Copyright 2006 News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of the Washington Times. This reprint does not constitute or imply any endorsement or sponsorship of any product, service, company or organization. Visit the website at www.washingtontimes.com
1. a) Who is Kofi Annan?
b) How long ago did Mr. Annan order all senior U.N. officials to file financial disclosure forms?
c) When did Mr. Annan file his form?
2. a) What was Mr. Annan’s reason for ordering U.N. officials to file financial disclosure forms?
b) What additional reforms were made after the scandal?
3. a) Kofi Annan’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric said that Mr. Annan would be the first to file the financial disclosure forms. When did he say this to reporters?
b) What answer did Mr. Annan give last month when asked at a press conference if he had filed his forms yet?
4. Though not legally required to do so, why should Mr. Annan have disclosed his finances immediately upon ordering all senior U.N. officials to do the same?
5. What did investigators from the Independent Inquiry committee conclude about Kofi Annan’s finances?
6. a) What is the problem with Kofi Annan not making his financial forms public?
b) Who will oversee the review of Kofi Annan’s financial disclosure forms if they are not made public?
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