Sunday, January 22, 2006

Review of Volcker report

From the New York Review of Books, Brian Urquhart provides an overview of the Volcker report on the Oil-for-Food scandal in Iraq (all six volumes of it).
(1) The Security Council never gave clear direction on who was responsible for oversight, which rather tied the Secretariat's hands.
(2) Kofi Annan and his son Kojo are completely cleared of the slightest sign of taint in the business.
(3) Saddam made more than five times as much (11 billion) from smuggling oil outside the program, as he did from kickbacks within the program. It was at the urging of the U.S. that the smuggling was ignored, since the main beneficiaries - Jordan and Turkey - were friends of America, and already hurting from the sanctions.
(4) The program involved $103 billion dollars in contracts, counting both oil and humanitarian ones. $1.8 billion in kickbacks went to Saddam.
(5) Annan reported potential kickbacks to the Security Council on at least 70 occasions, and the Council - primarily US and Britain - declined to follow up, being more concerned with possible dual use technology. Of 5,000 contracts held up by the SC, only two were held up on suspicion of under the table payments.
(6) The US had a full time team of 40 employees at the UN reviewing Oil for Food contracts. The cash strapped Secretariat had fewer than half of that.
(7) One UN employee - Benon Savan, director of the Oil for Food program - was found to have received illicit funds, to the tune of $150,000, for arranging an 8.8mb contract for the African Middle East Petroleum Company. Savan continues to deny this conclusion of the Volcker Report.
(8) When the US invaded, the Oil for Food program had a reserve of $9 billion. The UN turned this over to the Coalition Provisional Authority. To this day, auditors have not been able to determine where one dime of that money - 5 times the total Oil for Food kickbacks - has gone. This scandal has received a good deal less than 1% of the press attention lavished on the Oil For Food affair.
Seemed like good summary of a topic that I really know little about, except for what the news reports, which are best taken with a grain of salt.

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