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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 104

New U.N. Chief to Disclose Financial Assets

By Thalif Deen - Inter Press Service

United Nations, 06 January, (IPS): The U.N.'s new Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has moved swiftly to hold himself up as a model international civil servant by voluntarily declaring his financial assets to the newly-created Ethics Office.

U.N. spokesperson Michele Montas told reporters Friday that Ban submitted his financial disclosure statement on Tuesday, his first day in office in the U.N. Secretariat, where he is starting a five-year term as the world body's chief administrative officer.

His statement is expected to be reviewed -- like those of all other staff members required to file such statements -- by the U.S. accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.

"Upon completion of the review, the secretary-general has also decided to publicly disclose the statement," Montas said.

Although his predecessor Kofi Annan also made a declaration of his assets, he did not go public with the disclosure statement.

Since the secretary-general is technically not a U.N. staffer because he is elected by the Security Council and the General Assembly, he is usually exempted from staff rules.

When he took his oath of office before the 192-member General Assembly last month, Ban said he will seek to "set the highest ethical standard."

"The good name of the United Nations is one of its most valuable assets -- but also one of its most vulnerable," he said of the organization which has, rightly or wrongly, been accused of condoning fraud and corruption in its multi-billion-dollar, now defunct oil-for-food programme in Iraq.

"The U.N. charter calls on staff to uphold the highest levels of efficiency, competence and integrity, and I will seek to ensure to build a solid reputation for living up to that standard," he said, adding "I assure you that I will lead you by example."

Briefing reporters last November, the outgoing U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Management Chris Burnham proposed that all high-level staffers in the world body should not only disclose their private financial assets but also make them public.

He said that Ban had given advance notice last year that he will not only sign a financial disclosure form but also go public with it.

Burnham also pointed out that the U.S. government, and dozens of governments throughout the world, including South Korea, have made it mandatory that all civil servants make information about their financial assets available to public scrutiny.

Addressing reporters, Burnham said: "I would encourage you to suggest that making financial disclosure forms public at the level of the secretary-general alone is too limiting."

In the future, he said, all senior officials, including under-secretaries general (USGs) and assistant-secretaries general (ASGs), should make their personal financial information public, as should staffers dealing with U.N. procurement worldwide.

As a result of the new ethical guidelines, more than 2,000 staffers have signed disclosure forms in the U.N. system worldwide, compared with about 200 in 2005.

The U.N. Ethics Office, which came into existence in January 2005, has pledged to protect whistleblowers against retaliation for reporting fraud and malfeasance in the U.N. system around the world.

According to guidelines laid down by Annan, "All (U.N.) offices and staff members shall cooperate with the Ethics Office and provide access to all records and documents requested by it."

The exceptions to this are medical records that are not available without the express consent of the staff member concerned, and records of the U.N. Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) that are subject to confidentiality requirements.

Meanwhile, as Ban names a new team in the Secretariat, he has asked all USGs and ASGs -- except those whose appointments are subject to action/consultation by or with the appropriate intergovernmental bodies -- to voluntarily offer their resignations.

On the U.N. totem pole, the officials ranked below the secretary-general are the deputy secretary-general (DSG) followed by USGs, and ASGs.

The collective resignations, Montas said, "would allow the secretary-general the flexibility he needs in forming his new team."

Ban is expected to review the offers of resignation and may decide to retain the experience of some senior officials to assist him in the discharge of his responsibilities while getting rid of others.

So far, Ban's new team includes Asha-Rose Migiro, Tanzanian foreign minister, as the new DSG succeeding Mark Malloch Brown of Britain who left office Dec. 31.

His other appointments include: Vijay Nambiar of India as chief of staff; John Holmes of Britain as USG for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator; and Alicia Barcena Ibarra of Mexico as USG for Management.

- Inter Press Service (IPS) News Agency -

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