A lot is assumed about corruption in the United Nations,  not least of which is that the organization is, in fact riddled with corruption, and the commonly held concept of corruption involves wads of cash in brown envelopes.

Should anyone ask the UN about corruption, however, the Organization will strenuously deny even a single very slim wad of cash changing hands, in an envelope of any color.

They can do this for one very good reason, and that is that there is no evidence of any such corruption, and if there is no evidence, then it follows that none exists.

No corruptionThe reality, however is that most of the day-to-day corruption in the UN is not even cash-related; because the job itself is its own reward. The reason for that is the Noblemaire Principle which means, for most people working in the UN, they are on a salary that far exceeds anything they could ever hope for in their home country. The prospect of a promotion means even more money and the threat of not having their contract renewed is the carrot and the stick that ensures no one will do anything to rock the boat.

If you understand that, and you accept that the way to success and promotion is to give your bosses what they want, some things start to become clear.

Secondly, as with all allegations of criminality, the UN is very good at denying there is any “probable cause” to investigate, saying there is “no evidence” of any wrongdoing.

If there is no ‘probable cause’ to investigate, there will be no investigation, and if there is no investigation, there will never be any evidence, and if there is no investigation, the Secretary-General will be happy because that will be “proof” that the entire operation is squeaky clean….

This is often done by means of an “assessment”, which is a preliminary investigation to decide whether a real investigation is necessary, and which – surprisingly enough – often concludes that the witnesses have no credibility or there is insufficient evidence for any further investigation…. so although the report might be “assessed”, it was not actually “investigated” because there was no misconduct to investigate, and the statistics served up to the General Assembly don’t look too bad.

The next problem is that even if it is not possible to dismiss the complaint at the “assessment” stage and an investigation is deemed necessary, before the real investigators ever get to interview anyone, all the witnesses have been identified – so the guilty party knows who to pay off, or they are simply intimidated.

One would be amazed at how often investigators have arrived somewhere to find that the complainant had recanted their story or had moved away and could not be located.

When something ugly does rear its head and it an investigation cannot be avoided, if a senior official is involved, the U.N. likes to bend over backwards to find there was no wrongdoing.

To ensure this happens, investigations are conducted within very narrow parameters and investigators can be sanctioned for unapproved curiosity or excessive enthusiasm, except, of course, if the decision has already been taken that the subject is guilty and has to be punished – as happened to Mr. Anders Kompass.

I know because I was an investigator in the UN, and what follows is the story of how I came to grief after the UN tried to sanction me for asking too many questions. The UN’s concept of an “investigation” has very little to do with finding out what happened. What they want instead is a very narrowly defined box-ticking exercise. I was told that as an investigator I was only supposed to ask pre-approved questions, and must never never ask about anything that I had not been authorised to investigate….

Such restrictive parameters maximise the chances of a complaint – particularly if it is a complaint of a rape or sexual assault – resulting in a closure report, with no wrongdoing being found.

If the objective is to identify wrongdoing; the system is designed to fail. If, on the other hand, the objective is to generate a lot of activity but rarely ever find evidence of any misconduct; the UN does that very well.

So what happens when, despite all of this, a UN staff member is investigated for something serious and the report is substantiated?

This is where the Organization rejoices in its own inefficiency, and hides behind the 1946 Convention on Privileges and Immunities. If a UN staff member is accused of any crime, the local police have no jurisdiction to even interview him because he is protected by the UN’s immunity.

The UN cannot investigate anyone for any criminal offence; it can only investigate its own staff for beaches of the staff rules, and the only sanction they have against them is to terminate their employment. If a UN internal investigation indicates that the staff member has committed what appears to be a criminal offence, the Secretary-General can waive the immunity and refer the case to the local authorities for criminal investigation.

The only problem with that is that the investigation and internal justice process is the UN has been designed to be as inefficient and as slow as possible. Investigations routinely take several years to conclude, and only at that stage will the decision be made to refer someone to national authorities – by which time, having milked the job for all that it was worth for as long as possible – the staff member can simply resign.

This leads to a situation where, in a dysfunctional state like Congo or Sudan, the local police might be provided information about a rape and although the UN has identified the person who their investigation has found to have done something that may or may not meet the statutory definition of rape under local law, they have to start their own investigation into something that took place several years earlier.

Where is the suspect? The UN cannot deliver him to the local police. He may be, say, a Bulgarian national, who no longer works for the UN and who we think may have retired to Bolivia.

Where is the victim? Where are any other witnesses? Who knows? All of whom would have been paid off years ago and have moved.

Should they want to go ahead, the local police would then have to apply for extradition of the suspect, who is going to argue (quite correctly) that there is no physical evidence of any rape anyway and any admission should be inadmissible because it was obtained when he was not entitled to legal counsel.

All law enforcement agencies have a “too hard” drawer.

What is of more concern, however, are the cases closed by the UN, because if a UN staff member is accused of a serious criminal offence but is cleared by the UN’s own internal administrative investigation – which is a system that has a vested interest in clearing him – he is home free and will never face any criminal charges anywhere.

The UN Secretariat is run like a Government with no meaningful accountability, which is great for the senior management but not so great for everyone else. The problem is that the Organization is not only failing to protect the people it is supposed to protect, but it is wasting millions if not billions of taxpayers dollars every year in doing so.

How much of that money is embezzled by UN officials, ends up in the pockets of corrupt politicians, or misappropriated by criminal gangs, war profiteers or terrorist organisations?

We don’t know.

We don’t know because the UN doesn’t want to know. The UN certainly doesn’t want competent investigators let loose on the question and prefers that none of it ever be be investigated at all – because if there is no investigation, there will never be any evidence, and if there is no evidence, the Secretary-General will be happy because that will be “proof” that the entire operation is squeaky clean….

And for me, it all started with the inexplicable and obstinate refusal to answer 38 questions