United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan addresses the General Assembly at U.N. headquarters March 21, 2005. Annan unveiled his new report and list of reforms, titled, "In Larger Freedom: Towards Security, Development and Human Rights for All." (AP/Gregory Bull)
The Volcker Commission, investigating the scandal in the U.N.'s oil-for-food program in Iraq, reported this week that it could find no conclusive proof that Secretary General Kofi Annan had used his influence to make sure a lucrative contract was given to the company that employed his son. But the report also criticized the Secretary General for management failures, including his failure to order a serious investigation when the issue was first raised six years ago.
It accused his son, Kojo, of conspiring to hide facts about his job, which paid him hundreds of thousands of dollars starting when he was fresh out of college. It also criticized two of Kofi Annan's top aides for shredding documents about the oil-for-food program and for giving a high-level job in the program to a person who did almost no work. Still, Mr. Annan claimed that the report had exonerated him and responded "Hell no," when asked if he planned to resign.
In a press conference he commented on this and the charges made against his son:
"After so many distressing and untrue allegations have been made against me, this exoneration by the independent inquiry obviously comes as a great relief. I love my son, and have always expected the highest standards of integrity from him. I am deeply saddened by the evidence to the contrary that has emerged, and particularly by the fact that my son had failed to cooperate fully with the inquiry. I had urged him to cooperate, and I urge him to reconsider his position and cooperate."
Another report released this week, done by a Swiss consulting firm at the request of the U.N., found bad management, misuse of funds, and tolerance of sexual harassment at the U.N. agency that promotes and monitors elections. The White House and the State Department said they supported Mr. Annan and his promises to reform the U.N. Republican Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota renewed his call for Mr. Annan to quit.
Joining the panel are Claudia Rosett, a columnist for THE WALL STREET JOURNAL in Europe and for OpinionJournal.com who has been following the Kofi Annan story very closely.
"There's more here than just mismanagement or somehow a lack of due diligence, is that right?"
"One of the problems with the United Nations from the start with this is the secrecy, which has not yet been lifted. We have seen some things disclosed. But the kind of thing that is now being described by Kofi Annan as exonerating would not wash for a second in private business."
"There is no evident prosecuting authority that exists in this case. There is nobody who has subpoena power, which is what you need to get to the bottom of all of these accusations. The UN, in effect, has a kind of global immunity. There is no authority, legal authority, within the US or anywhere else that can bring any of these people to account, much less trial."
"The Secretary General basically stood up and said that the committee has found no wrong-doing. What the committee in fact did is, it found insufficient evidence to come to a conclusion that the Secretary General himself was guilty of influence peddling, or of accepting money from Cotecna."