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Dr. Coburn, Colleagues Express Concern About Cost of U.N. Renovation Plan

Location: Washington, DC

Dr. Coburn, Colleagues Express Concern About Cost of U.N. Renovation Plan

May 8, 2006

Read the entire letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice

U.S. Senators Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), and Jim Inhofe (R-OK) sent a letter today to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice demanding increased transparency and procurement reform at the United Nations before the international body embarks on an expensive and flawed plan to renovate the U.N. Headquarters complex in the high-rent district of New York City.

"One of our major concerns with the U.N. in general is that it continues to reject any steps towards significant procurement and management reforms. The United Nations is planning to request that its member states fund a $1.749 billion procurement and management project for the renovation of UN headquarters, yet has made no meaningful reform since the Oil For Food scandal, one of the largest financial scandals in history involving billions of dollars in corruption," the Senators said.

The letter complains about the lack of transparency and accountability at the United Nations procurement department despite the news of eight unnamed procurement employees being put on administrative leave and the indictments of U.N. Employees Alexander Yakovlev and Vladimir Kuznetsov. The letter also cites U.N. refusal to divulge details surrounding these incidents or release any reports or audits and specifically names questionable vendors such as Eurest Support Services that were directly involved in the procurement scandals but still maintain active contracts with the U.N.

"Before Americans are required to pour millions more into the hopelessly corrupt U.N. procurement system," the letter stated, "it is imperative that we know that good faith efforts for reform are being entertained and enacted, starting first and foremost with comprehensive transparency."

When asked about the U.N.'s claim that Capital Master Plan chief Fritz Reuter was stepping down after less than a year because of U.S. Congressional obstruction, Coburn responded, "Despite the U.N.'s attempt to blame their largest donor and gracious host for the inaction on the renovation project, it's easy to see why the international body's bureaucracy drove away a competent manager like Mr. Reuter in less than a year."

Coburn added, "Congress has an obligation to be good stewards of the American taxpayers' generosity toward the U.N. Therefore, it is important for American taxpayers to understand the U.N.'s historic failure to manage this project effectively."

"First, the U.N. failed to adequately maintain its complex after 50 years of deterioration and decay. Last year at a Senate hearing I chaired, it was revealed that the U.N. paid millions of dollars to an Italian design firm that had to be fired under intimations of corruption after never producing a single workable plan for the renovation project. Also last year, the U.N. declined a U.S.-guaranteed loan for the entire renovation amount. Then, last Friday, the U.N. rejected the almost laughably-modest procurement reform proposed by Secretary General Kofi Annan," Coburn said.

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