Scandal Watch: Tsunami Funds
When the United Nations took control of the relief funds for the Asian tsunami crisis, its under secretary general for humanitarian affairs assured the world that “only the UN has the universal legitimacy, capacity and credibility to lead in a truly global humanitarian emergency” (Financial Times, March 30, 2005).
That statement might have been more convincing five years ago. In the last year alone, the reputation of the UN has been shredded by allegations of kickbacks, billions of dollars in graft in the oil-for-food scandal, the rape of minors in the Congo, and a procurement scandal. Should we really be surprised now to learn that the tsunami fund has been mishandled?
A two-month inquiry by the Financial Times shows that an exorbitant amount of money is going toward administrative costs, and that it is difficult to track how the money is being spent in many cases despite UN promises of transparency (Dec. 23, 2005).
Out of $49 million spent by the World Health Organization, 32 percent went toward “personnel costs, administrative overheads, or associated ‘miscellaneous’ costs” (ibid.). Many of the UN’s other agencies simply declined to provide information at all.
The Times concluded: “A year after the tsunami, pledges of transparency and accountability for the UN’s appeal appear a long way from being realized. This is primarily blamed on dueling UN bureaucracies and accounting methods plus what in many cases appears to be institutional paranoia [about disclosure].”
After this latest embarrassment, perhaps Secretary General Kofi Annan will want to “reform” the UN again; everyone else does.
For more information, read the article “The Corruption of the United Nations” in our December 2005 issue. This story remains, as always, to be continued.