HL Millions Unaccounted For in U.N. Afghan Aid Program
Credit: Associated Press
SO THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE (SFC)
Edition: THREE STAR
Origin: United Nations
LP . A confidential U.N. audit says gross mismanagement of the U.N. relief effort in Afghanistan has left millions of dollars unaccounted for.
TX Copies of the audit of Operation Salaam, obtained by the Associated Press, note that "there was no U.N. staff in the field who was well versed in the U.N. financial and administrative policies." The report names no individuals as being culpable. U.N. spokeswoman Nadia Younes said, "We"re not going to make any comments." She said the report was part of an auditing process still to be completed. Operation Salaam failed to reconcile its records with the U.N. office in Geneva in charge of overall operations, the report said. This led to a French donation of almost $2.5 million being listed as not received, although records showed that it was paid to Operation Salaam. * Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, now the chief U.N. official in charge of Persian Gulf relief efforts, was in charge of Operation Salaam at the time of the reported mismanagement from 1988 to 1990. He is a candidate for the secretary-generalship but drew little support in the last nonbinding straw ballot held by the U.N. Security Council on November 12. In the confidential report on Operation Salaam, auditors noted: -- "Some projects were artificially created to absorb personnel expenditures. . . ." -- "There was lack of control over the operations and activities of the field offices in Islamabad, Pakistan, and Kabul, Afghanistan," so "questionable expenditures" went undetected. -- "There was a lack of control over funds derived from . . . the cash sale of food commodities and domestic items from in-kind contributions." For example, the report notes, $2.1 million in such sales was unaccounted for. -- Some procurement contracts were entered into without competitive bidding. -- In another instance, "due to a lack of a clear-cut monitoring system" by the U.N. Development Program and the World Food Program, "funds realized from the sale of contributions in-kind amounting to approximately $2 million were not accounted for" by Operation Salaam. -- In 1990, a sister agency, the U.N. Development Program-Kabul office converted U.S. dollars paid by Operation Salaam through black market sources "that ranged from 500 to 750 afghanis to one U.S. dollar," but then payments made by the office locally were charged back to Operation Salaam "by using the U.N. operational exchange rate of 55 afghanis to one U.S. dollar."
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