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Press Conference on Leaked Internal Memo by Outgoing Under-Secretary-General for Office of Internal Oversight Services

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

22 July 2010

During a press conference at Headquarters today, two senior United Nations officials responded to questions regarding a leaked 50-page internal memo sent to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon from Under-Secretary General Inga-Britt Ahlenius, upon her exit as the Under-Secretary General for the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS).

Speaking by video link from London, Angela Kane, Under-Secretary-General for the Department of Management, and Catherine Pollard, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources Management, took questions from reporters in New York about the internal report leaked at the end of Ms. Ahlenius’ five-year term. The memo called into question Secretary-General Ban’s leadership abilities, and sharply criticized many United Nations policies and procedures.

Ms. Kane, who said the memo was supposed to be an “end of assignment report” and an internal management tool for the Secretary-General, added that there were numerous inaccuracies in it, but that its contents would be taken seriously. However, she reiterated: “This is an end of assignment report. It is a personal opinion of one person.”

Continuing, she said that it was important to look at the whole picture as it appeared, not just at the few select examples in the memo, such as the hiring of D-2 level staff. Along with numerous inaccuracies, the document ignored instances where there was compliance with policies and procedures. She said the question was really was “where to go from here”.

When several journalists asked if the report would be released publicly, Ms. Kane reiterated that it was an internal memo, and a management tool that was not intended as a public document. For her part, Ms. Pollard noted that the United Nations Procurement Task Force — an ad hoc working group within the Internal Oversight Office — was engaged in dealing with many cases that had to go to the administration for a determination on the conduct of staff members. The key was to ensure the due process of staff was respected. “Publishing some of these reports with the findings as they may have been written for internal documents could be seen as prejudicing the rights of staff members if not carefully handled,” she said.

Regarding questions about the Secretary-General attempting to set up a separate investigations unit, Ms. Kane said that was not something that Mr. Ban had suggested, but an idea that had come out of the General Assembly’s 2005 World Summit. In that Summit’s Outcome Document, Member States had requested the establishment of a task force, which would involve OIOS, she said. “It is not correct to say the Secretary-General was attempting to set up another investigative capacity. That is absolutely not correct. And I must respond to that in the strongest terms. He has been very supportive of OIOS and its investigative capacity.”

When asked about the world body’s policy on whistleblowers who needed to be protected, Ms. Kane said that there was a strong policy for whistleblowers, because such policies were an important part of an international organization such as the United Nations. It was up to whistleblowers to ask for protection from the ethics office.

The scathing critique of the Secretary-General on issues such as Myanmar, was “surprising and not reflective of the facts”, Ms. Kane continued, adding: “In fact, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has been at the forefront of the important issues of the day, such as climate change.”

Responding to a journalist’s remark regarding the Secretary-General’s promise of transparency, Ms. Kane said that indeed there had been steps forward for staff. One example of that was that the Secretary-General had compacts with senior managers, and senior managers had them with their deputies. The compacts were published on the Intranet. “There is very much an openness and this has to be acknowledged,” she said. Ms. Pollard added that there were great efforts to simplify staff rules, and increased consultation with staff, so staff knew what was expected of them.

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For information media • not an official record

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