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.
There is still more controversy swirling around another person close to Secretary-General Annan. His handpicked director of the oil-for-food program's oversight agency, Benon Sevan, was reportedly on the take from the Saddam's government. A U.S. Senate Committee has documents taken by our forces from the Iraqi oil ministry showing that Sevan received allotments of oil from Iraq worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, perhaps millions.
Abuse was rampant in the oil-for-food program. Senate investigators believe that more that $21 billion may have gone back to Saddam's regime, and some of those funds may be financing the insurgency we face today. Moreover, the United Nations is facing charges of misbehavior worldwide: peacekeeping troops accused of rape and extortion, United Nations officials failing to protect civilians in the Sudan, and even sexual harassment and favoritism back at United Nations headquarters in New York.
Obviously, it is time for young Kojo's father to go. The United Nations has been a tabernacle of hypocrisy for decades. The racism it has practiced against unfavored nations -- for instance, Israel -- is well known. The corruption is now impossible to ignore. The departure of Kofi Annan should be the first gesture at reform, but much more is needed.
The halls of United Nations headquarters crawl with conspiracy. During the Cold War, the conspiring was done mainly for political advantage. Now, it is for that and for lucrative deals. There will be needed many more retirements before the United Nations' integrity is restored. For now, our government ought to be demanding reform and refusing to send this corrupt institution any more money until reform begins.
For months, I have marveled at news stories reporting Bill Clinton's interest in someday having Kofi Annan's job. Now, having scrutinized the murky doings of the United Nations, I think I understand. Chelsea might need a job.
How is this for a deal? If Annan retires, we promise not to send Bill Clinton to take his place. Rather, we shall get both Clintons a job at Cotecna SA.
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