Waiting On UN's Ban Ki-Moon For Answers About Contractual Arrangements Between United Nations And Incoming GA President Sam Kutesa's Company, ENHAS
Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon
Five days ago The Black Star News contacted The United Nations spokesperson and raised the issue of potential conflict of interest involving Mr. Sam Kutesa, Uganda's foreign affairs minister and the presumed President of the United Nations General Assembly.
Mr. Kutesa is a major shareholder in a private company in Uganda called Entebbe Handling Services (ENHAS) and was or is still chairman.
ENHAS has monopoly over luggage and cargo handling services company at Entebbe Airport in Uganda and lists on its website as a client MONUSCO, the United Nations peace-keeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Black Star News asked the spokesperson the following questions: "Could you comment on whether the UN's guidelines permit the organization to have a contract of the above nature with a company (ENHAS) in which the President of the UN General Assembly is also a shareholder/Chairman/major shareholder?; What is the nature and VALUE (amount and duration) of the contract?; Does the UN also have a contract with ENHAS to handle luggage/cargo at Juba airport in South Sudan?; At the time the UN executed the contract with ENHAS to handle luggage/cargo at airports where MONUSCO operates in the DR Congo was the UN aware of Mr. Kutesa's role in ENHAS?"
The questions were also sent to the Miguel de Serpa Soares the Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and United Nations Legal Counsel.
This is the response provided by the spokesperson: "We have checked with our peacekeeping colleagues about your questions. The answer they have provided follows below: The UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) confirms that ENHAS has no contract to provide any services to MONUSCO in the DRC. Since your subsequent questions are based on the first one, I don't have anything further to say on this."
The Black Star News then asked the spokesperson if the publication can "report that the UN says ENHAS has no contracts with the United Nations?"
This was the response: "I checked with Monusco, the mission you asked about. I am not aware of any others but we checked only with that peacekeeping mission."
The Black Star News then submitted the following question to the spokesperson: "Please kindly confirm whether ENHAS has any contracts the United Nations, or: ENHAS is paid through a second or third party. Mr. Kutesa's company ENHAS lists on its website www.enhas.com as clients: MONUSCO, UNMISS and UNAMID. Might this be an issue that the Legal Department/General Counsel would find of interest and relevance?"
This was the response from the UN spokesperson: "Thanks; we are checking to determine whether ENHAS has any UN contracts. Please allow some time for us to get that information. "
Just to make sure The Black Star News and the UN were on the same page, the publication summed the questions for the UN spokesperson: "So just to be clear. You will try to find out if ENHAS has/had any contract(s) with the UN or with a UN subcontractor or any third party. The essential question is, since ENHAS's clients include MONUSCO, UNMISS, and UNAMID, how was ENHAS receiving payment for its services?
1. Also: the duration and financial terms of the contract and how much payments (total) that ENHAS has received for its services to: MONUSCO; and to UNAMID; and to UNMISS
2. At the time MONUSCO, UNMISS, and UNAMID became clients of ENHAS, was the UN familiar with the ownership of ENHAS and Mr. Kutesa's stake in the company?
3. Was the UN aware that there was a judgement of $6 billion to $10 billion against Uganda by the International Court of Justice (2005) with respect to Uganda's war of aggression against Congo and the destruction to life and property resulting from that war and the occupation of Congo?
4. Did the UN perform due diligence before any agreement for services by ENHAS for MONUSCO was concluded?
5. Did the UN perform due diligence before any agreement for services by ENHAS for UNMISS was concluded?
6. Did the UN perform due diligence before any agreement for services by ENHAS for UNAMID was concluded?"
The Black Star News has been waiting for the past five days for a response from The United Nations regarding the status of the organization's dealings with Mr. Kutesa's private company ENHAS.
The publication reached out again, yesterday, to inquire about an estimated response time; there's been no reply from the spokesperson or the UN's Legal Department.
The election of Mr. Kutesa by acclamation is scheduled for tomorrow. Hopefully, the UN is not anticipating that questions about the contractual arrangements will then disappear and that there will be no need for a response?
On the contrary, there would be even more questions. Surely the UN must remember the oil-for-food scandal with Iraq in 1996, when a subsequent report headed by Paul Volcker, former chair of the US Federal Reserve found that UN mismanagement had allowed Saddam Hussein to siphon billions of dollars from the program into his personal treasury?
As a report in The Guardian in 2005 noted, the Volcker report found the UN guilty of "corrosive corruption", and that there were "serious instances of illicit, unethical and corrupt behaviour within the United Nations". "The inescapable conclusion from the committee's work is that the UN organisation needs thoroughgoing reform - and needs it urgently," The Guardian reported Volcker's findings.
"The investigation, which produced a stream of damaging interim reports this year, has badly undermined Mr Annan and the UN," The Guardian reported.
And as PBS reported, on the Volcker report: "Some of the findings were: the procurement process was marred by political considerations and did not follow U.N. guidelines. And the audit process was under funded and undermanned. The report went on to say the director of the program, Benon Sevan, had 'seriously undermined the integrity of the U.N.,' in choosing which contractors were able to purchase the oil. Sevan has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing." The report also addressed issues such as "the involvement of Secretary-General Kofi Annan and his son, Kojo. Kojo Annan was employed by a Swiss company also under investigation for its role in the program."
Annan later apologized for his son's role.
One would expect the UN to be on top of these matters as a result of that episode.
In the instant case, not only is there apparent personal conflict of interest involving Mr. Kutesa and his company, but it also involving Uganda. Uganda was a party to the war in the DR Congo, Mr. Kutesa is foreign affairs minister of Uganda, MONUSCO is in Congo as a result of Uganda's war of aggression against Congo, and Mr. Kutesa's company ENHAS, essentially, profits from the conflict.
ENHAS started handling 10 UN airports in Congo in 2006, according to a media account quoting the company's CEO Tytens Georges; presumably handling that many airports is worth several millions of dollars.
The irony is exceeding. In 2005 the International Court of Justice (ICJ) found Uganda liable for the war of aggression against Congo and awarded Kinshasa $6 billion to $10 billion. Uganda has not paid Congo and yet foreign minister Kutesa is earning revenue from the destruction of Congo, from the UN. (Uganda is aware of even its criminal liability. On June 8, 2006 The Wall Street Journal reported that President Yoweri Museveni asked Kofi Annan, then Secretary General to block an investigation by the International Criminal Court.)
Media also reported that ENHAS was finalizing with the UN a deal to handle 10 airports in Sudan at the time.
Uganda is involved in the current South Sudan conflict, fighting on the side of President Salva Kiir against former Vice President Riek Machar. Uganda controls the airport at Juba; Mr. Kutesa's company says it handles luggage and cargo at Juba airport; so, Mr. Kutesa and his company ENHAS also profit from that conflict.
Tomorrow Mr. Kutesa officially becomes President of the General Assembly of the United Nations.
The questions about the contractual arrangements becomes even more significant and still needs answers.
As Mr. Kutesa's connections with ENHAS makes clear, peace in Congo, South Sudan and elsewhere is not good for the incoming President's bottomline.