UNDP to Investigate NK Operation Over Alleged Aid Diversion

Korea Times

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) said Friday that it would stop paying cash for its operations in North Korea and would start an independent audit. Suspicions have arisen that the U.N. agency funneled millions of dollars in cash to the Kim Jong-il regime.

The announcement came immediately after U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for an urgent investigation into the activities of U.N. agencies.

The U.N. move was in quick response to U.S. accusations that North Korea has diverted U.N. development aid with the complicity of the UNDP.

In a letter to UNDP Associate Administrator Ad Melkert, U.S. Ambassador Mark Wallace claimed that North Korea had “systematically perverted’’ the UNDP aid program since 1998 for the benefit of the Kim Jong-il regime, rather than the people of North Korea.

The Jan. 16 letter said the UNDP program for North Korea “has for years operated in blatant violation of U.N. rules, served as a steady and large source of hard currency and other resources for the DPRK government with minimal or no assurance that UNDP funds and resources are utilized for legitimate development activities.’’

DPRK is shorthand for the official name for North Korea. It stands for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

On Friday Ban met with Melkert to discuss the North Korea issue.

“The secretary-general will call for an urgent, system-wide and external inquiry into all activities done around the globe by the U.N. funds and programs,’’ said U.N. spokesperson Michele Montas.

Ban’s decision indicated that he was determined to avoid a repetition of the scandal over the U.N. oil-for-food program in Iraq, which lingered for months before his predecessor, Kofi Annan, agreed to an independent probe.

In a press conference at the U.N. headquarters in New York, Melkert said his agency’s auditors had raised concerns about the North Korea program and its management.

He said the agency would end all payments in hard currency to the Pyongyang government, national partners, local staff and local vendors as of March 1.

The agency will propose a full, independent audit at next week’s UNDP executive board meeting to make sure everyone understands the nature of work in a country like North Korea, he said.

U.S. officials were quoted as saying that they first received indications that there might be some irregularities in UNDP’s development program in the North in the second half of 2006. They raised concerns that the cash might be misused, possibly for Pyongyang’s nuclear program.

The Associated Press quoted UNDP as saying that in the 10 years, from 1997 through 2006, the executive board authorized more than $59 million for North Korea but only $27.66 million was delivered.

North Korea is under U.N. sanctions imposed after its Oct. 9 nuclear test. It is still refusing to comply with international calls to end its nuclear weapons program.

There has been speculation that the communist country has converted humanitarian aid from South Korea and international agencies for military use.


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