Underreported: UN Cutting Back on Fraud Investigations

Thursday, January 14, 2010

In 2006, the United Nations established an anticorruption task force. During its brief existence the unit uncovered at least 20 major schemes affecting more than $1 billion in foreign aid and UN contracts. The UN shuttered the unit in 2009 and transferred its responsibilities to another part of the organization. Now the number of new fraud cases has plummeted and existing investigations have languished. On today’s second Underreported segment, we’ll talk with Associated Press writer John Heilprin about the UN’s ability to police itself.


John Heilprin

Comments [5]

Brit listener

"What a wanker!" as we say in the UK.

Thanks for trying Leonard.

Jan. 16 2010 02:00 PM
diana from Manhattan

I was for years Chief of a UN legal unit prosecuting cases of fraud and corruption discovered by Audit. I am now retired, but still take on cases pro bono. This morning I finished a defense brief and then turned on the radio. Leonard Lopate was questioning a reporter, I think his name was Heilprin, about an article he had written about the UN's failure to prosecute staff, while covering up massive fraud and corruption by the UN in Iraq. I had had occasion to read much of Heilprin's report. Apart from 2 staff members who I believe are now in a U.S. jail, I considered that very few, if any, of the staff members accused would have been convicted based on his narrative. There was indeed corruption and fraud on the part of vendors or outside contractors, but that was not within the UN's remit. Some are being prosecuted by the U.S. at the moment. Your reading of a response by some UN official was dead on point. Thanks.

Jan. 15 2010 10:47 AM
Sam Queens from NYC

I also found this episode painful, partly for the reasons Bibi listed, and also because I feel the dogged neutrality and cautiousness in Mr. Heilprin's responses during this live interview undermine his excellent written piece on the subject. That piece seems to hold potential to inspire seriously needed change at the U.N. The lack of conviction or passion in Mr. Heilprin's speech here, I think, would likely deflate any such inspiration in reform-minded parties.

Jan. 15 2010 04:06 AM
diana from Manhattan

I was for many years Chief of the UN Section that prosecutes cases of corruption or other malfeasance. Now I am retired, but still defend staff or former staff who are accused of mis- or malfeasance, pro bono. This morning I had just finished a defense statement in a UN case,and turned on the radio. Leonard Lopate was questioning a reporter, I think his name was Heilprin, who had apparently accused the UN of multiple cover-ups of fraud and corruption particularly in Iraq. The case I was doing involved an allegation of corruption in Iraq, based in part,I think, on a vicious published piece decrying the fact that the UN's investigator was let go, while the UN
was colluding in a cover-up of massive fraudulent activities.
I had left the UN when this case was revealed, but I had occasion to read the allegations, or many of them. Many involved outside contractors, not UN staff.There was frankly very little impeachable conduct on the part of UN staff. If I remember rightly, only 2 staff were prosecuted and at least one is at present in an American jail. There was, however, massive corruption on the part of Saddam's colleagues and staff, and also of some U.S. firms, some of which are now being prosecuted in U.S. courts.

Jan. 14 2010 04:26 PM
Bibi from NYC

It was painful to listen to this interview. I was very interested in the topic at hand, but Mr. Heilprin didn't seem to answer ANY of the questions Leonard asked. He either gave a generic answer, said he wasn't there/didn't have enough experience, or avoided it altogether. I learned absolutely nothing more than when I tuned in 30 minutes before the interview (other than what I learned from the questions proposed.) I will simply do my own research on this topic. Leonard, great questions, by the way. Thanks for trying...

Jan. 14 2010 03:15 PM

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