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Ex-UN Staffer Makes Whistleblower Claim


By JUSTIN BERGMAN

AP


September 7, 2007


UNITED NATIONS (AP) — A second former employee of the U.N. anti-poverty agency is seeking whistleblower protection from the U.N. Ethics Office, claiming he was fired in retaliation for raising complaints to his superiors, his legal adviser said Thursday.

Mathieu Credo Koumoin, who worked for the U.N. Development Program in West Africa, sent a letter to U.N. ethics chief Robert Benson on Tuesday, asking him to review his case under the U.N.'s new whistleblower protection rules, said his counsel, Jeanne-Marie Col.

The request comes weeks after Artjon Shkurtaj, the former operations officer for UNDP in North Korea, also sought whistleblower protection from the Ethics Office, claiming he lost his job after making allegations about the agency's financial transactions in the communist country.

The cases present a serious challenge to the Ethics Office two years after then-Secretary-General Kofi Annan signed the U.N.'s first whistleblower protection policy.

The policy requires all U.N. employees to report any breach of the organization's rules and regulations, and offers them protection from retaliation if they do so. But Shkurtaj's case has been rejected on a technical jurisdiction issue, drawing criticism from the U.N. Staff Union and members of Congress.

Benson said last month there was enough initial evidence to support an investigation into Shkurtaj's claims of retaliation, but the UNDP refused to cooperate on grounds that its operations are not covered by the Ethics Office.

Because it has its own governing board, the UNDP cannot be investigated by the Ethics Office unless it so requests. Instead, UNDP has said it will seek an external review of its now-defunct North Korea program.

In the new case, Col said Koumoin's contract with UNDP was not renewed last year after he approached his superiors with complaints that "things were not being done properly" in the agency's West Africa program. She declined to specify what the complaints were because the case is currently being reviewed by the U.N. Joint Appeals Board.

"He took his grievances to his superiors and he was ignored and he was fired and he was retaliated against," said Col, a professor at John Jay College in New York and a member of the U.N. Panel of Counsel, which provides volunteer legal advice to U.N. staffers.

"He was close to a promotion and his evaluations were consistent with being promoted," she said. "But a performance review dated after he was fired says he was poor performer."

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September 2007 News




Senator Tom Coburn's activity on the Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, and International Security

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