More questions for Cotecna and Company (WASHINGTON TIMES EDITORIAL) 01/31/05)
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Writing on the opposite page, Robert Massey, CEO of Cotecna
Inspection SA, responds to some of the serious questions that have
been raised about his firm´s performance in overseeing the U.N.-
administered oil-for-food program in Iraq. In his Op-Ed, Mr. Massey
makes a number of important, valid points about the need for the
press and lawmakers to be careful about getting the facts straight
before they level charges of wrongdoing against businesses like
Cotecna. That said, Mr. Massey has only begun to respond to the many
questions that need to be fully answered about Cotecna´s work in
From 1995 to 1997, Kojo Annan, the son of embattled U.N. Secretary-
General Kofi Annan, was employed at Cotecna, which had been
inspecting humanitarian goods imported by Iraq with U.N.-administered
proceeds from its oil sales. He served as a consultant until 1998.
U.N. officials had claimed that that´s when the payments from Cotecna
to Kojo stopped. Then, in November, we learned that the payments had
not ended in 1998 after all. In fact, Kojo Annan continued to receive
up to $2,500 a month from Cotecna until February 2003 as part of
a "no compete" agreement.
Had Cotecna´s administration of the oil-for-food program gone
smoothly, Kojo Annan´s relationship with the firm would have likely
been a minor issue, a historical footnote. Unfortunately for everyone
concerned — in particular for the Iraqis who were cheated out of
billions worth of food and other humanitarian aid they were to have
received from sales of Iraqi oil — that was not the case.
In February 1999, Cotecna started work in Iraq authenticating freight
shipments arriving under oil for food. And the company´s stewardship
was marred by problems. In his Op-Ed, Mr. Massey alludes to one of
the problems documented in an April 2003 audit of Cotecna´s work on
the program undertaken by the U.N. Office of Internal Oversight
Services: the failure to post inspectors at certain sites around the
clock. Mr. Massey appears to suggest that this was a misunderstanding
that was eventually resolved. But this was just one of many problems
highlighted in the OIOS audit, which goes on for more than 20 pages
criticizing the failure of the U.N.´s Office of the Iraq Programme to
adequately monitor Cotecna´s work.
The audit, for example, says that shortly after Cotecna signed the
$4.8 million contract, U.N. officials authorized $356,000 worth of
extra costs that should have been paid by Cotecna — not by the United
Nations, which was using money that belonged to the Iraqi people. The
fee paid to Cotecna was inappropriately raised from $499 per man per
day to $600. Checkpoints had inadequate numbers of inspection agents.
There were myriad instances of "unprofessional conduct"by Cotecna.
And this is just a partial listing of the problems mentioned in the
In the coming days, we hope that more answers will be coming from
Cotecna, Kofi Annan, former OIP boss Benon Sevan (who, according to
Iraqi records, was benefiting from illicit oil sales) and everyone
else who had a hand in the mess that was the oil-for-food program.
(Copyright 2005 News World Communications, Inc. 01/31/05)
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