Another corrupt scandal hit the United Nations recently. The claim was made that a former General Assembly president, John Ashe, and perhaps others had engaged in receiving bribes and other corruption from a Chinese businessman, Ng Lap Seng, and others.
The allegations were that Ng made a $1.5 million “donation” for the development of a United Nations center in the Chinese-held island of Macau. It may be that the money was never used for development, but rather went into the pockets of Ashe and other United Nations officials. Ashe was arrested by U.S. authorities for both tax fraud and receiving bribes from Ng.
Other than yet another embarrassment for the United Nations, the allegations are nothing unusual so far. What was was the response by the United Nations. A Wall Street Journal article quoted Stéphane Dujarric, a spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general who said the organization “was studying the complaints and would cooperate with U.S. authorities, but that the organization didn’t have the mandate or power to investigate individuals or entities that weren’t considered part of the official U.N. umbrella.” Rather an amazing statement from the world’s governing body.
This statement was contested by Robert Appleton, who once headed up the U.N Procurement Fraud Task force, which was dedicated to investigating corruption in the organization. (The task force has since been disbanded.) He was quoted in the article that, “The use of U.N. funds is something the U.N. can and should be policing. When they express surprise, like they did yesterday, that itself is surprising, because they’ve struggled with corruption issues for years.”
Obviously this is huge black eye for the United Nations as it continues to be viewed as an organization prone to corruption scandals. One only need think back to the Oil-for-Food scandals, which almost brought down then-Secretary-General Kofi Annan and concluded with U.S. prosecutions of U.N. procurement officials, businessmen, and several prominent U.S. companies. For the United Nations now to say it cannot investigate allegations of bribery and corruption of its officials or its funds does not seem like a manner for the United Nations to try and bring a level of comfort about the organization.