11 January 2005

Statement by Secretary-General’s Spokesman on Release of Initial Analysis of Oil for Food Programme

NEW YORK, 10 January (UN Headquarters) -- The following statement on the release of the internal audits and the Independent Inquiry Committee’s initial analysis of the “oil for food” programme was issued today by the Spokesman for Secretary-General Kofi Annan:

We welcome the release of the internal audits and the Independent Inquiry Committee’s (IIC) initial analysis. This is just one step in the progress of an inquiry which the Secretary-General initiated, and which continues to enjoy his full support and cooperation.

We are going to study the IIC’s briefing paper carefully, and we look forward to the broader findings that will be contained in the interim report due in the next few weeks. What this initial briefing from the Committee does show is that there was a dynamic auditing process generated by the UN itself, as well as the reports of external auditors which have already been made public. All the audits, both internal and external, were conducted in accordance with internationally recognized standards.

At the same time, it is already clear from the briefing paper that there were deficiencies in the management of this unique and highly complex programme, which had to be implemented in an acutely difficult political environment.

The IIC has said that its interim report later this month will examine how far the UN’s management safeguards and responses were sufficient or deficient. We ourselves are already focused on issues of management and accountability, and engaged in a critical review of the way we work, which will lead to a broad overhaul of the UN’s management structure and systems in order to improve performance and accountability. The lessons of the Committee’s interim report, when it is available, will be fully taken into account in that process.

Some lessons are already being applied. For example, on the financial side of the tsunami relief effort the UN is already implementing procedures for greater accountability and transparency. The tsunami effort, like oil for food, is a humanitarian programme on an unusually large scale, although they differ from each other in nearly all other respects.

Finally, let us not forget that the oil for food programme did fulfil its main objective by providing humanitarian relief to 27 million Iraqis and thereby helping to maintain political support for the sanctions which, in turn, prevented Saddam Hussein’s regime from acquiring weapons of mass destruction.

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