WASHINGTON, D.C. ? If you believe that United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan is very smart, as I do, consider what a prodigy his son is.
In 1995, at the age of 22, Kojo Annan found employment at Cotecna Inspection SA, a multinational firm based in Geneva. Its responsibilities have been awesome -- and I do not use the term in the trendy, vacuous way American teenagers use the term, or American news anchors for that matter. Cotecna SA, among other things, has had the duty of inspecting humanitarian aid sent to Saddam Hussein's Iraq as part of the oil-for-food scam of the 1990s. Young Kojo was right there on the scene, making sure things were up to snuff.
Now there is controversy. When Annan left the employment of Cotecna SA in 1997, he served as a consultant for modest remuneration. Naturally, given his proven expertise, he received still more payments from Cotecna SA as a consultant -- to wit, a monthly check for $2,500 as a "no compete" payment. Possibly Cotecna SA believed that Kojo, now 25, would become a powerful competitor to Cotecna SA, though I would have thought that unseemly. Kojo's father is secretary-general of the United Nations, the very body that Cotecna SA was working for. At any rate, Kojo did not compete with Cotecna SA, and presumably Cotecna SA thrives.
Yet now there is controversy. United Nations officials thought that Kojo's $2,500 ended with his consultancy in 1998. Now it is revealed that the "no compete" checks continued until February 2003.
"Naturally, I was very disappointed," the secretary-general told reporters the other day, "and surprised, yes." Quite right, get that "surprised" in there, Mr. Secretary-General. The secretary-general has also said, "I have no involvement with granting of contracts, either on this Cotecna one (doubtless he is referring to Cotecna SA) or others." That is untrue, says Claudia Rosett, the journalist who has done the most to expose the oil-for-food scandal and general corruption of the United Nations.
Knowledgeable as she is of the organized criminality that is the United Nations, Rosett reports that "the contract that Mr. Annan referred to as 'this Cotecna one' ... belonged to the handful signed by the U.N. Secretariat." It was "handled by the U.N. Procurement Division. And the U.N. Procurement Division reports to the secretary-general." That is to say, to Annan pere.