A website run by United Nations Development Programme staff, who say they are committed to openness within the organisation, says recent reports that vehicles registered in the name of the UNDP were used to smuggle diamonds to South Africa are only the “tip of the iceberg”.
The story and others in the on-going investigation by The Insider has been published on the blog, UNDP Watch, giving The Insider a much needed boost in the face of threats from representatives of River Ranch who have lodged a complaint about the story with the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe.
River Ranch wanted to lodge a second complaint over another story but was told that the VMCZ could only deal with one complaint at a time.
The complaint says that the article is defamatory and contains false statements but does not single out any false statement.
The Insider has told the Complaints Committee of the VMCZ that it would prefer the case to go to court because the VMCZ route does not allow an open hearing.
The Insider also felt it could not get a fair hearing from the VMCZ because the original complaint was raised by George Smith who is a board member of the VMCZ. Smith is a consultant for River Ranch. He is also a member of the complaints committee but recused himself.
The Insider is still waiting for the decision of the Complaints Committee on the way forward.
The contribution to the UNDP Watch, which was not part of The Insider series, accused the UNDP of “aiding and abetting” the Mugabe regime for years.
It claimed that the UNDP had steered food and other aid into ZANU-PF cadres’ hands rather than to the needy.
The UNDP had laundered foreign currency both from donors and in aid through the corrupt Reserve Bank, and other selected banks at criminal exchange rates against the now defunct Zimbabwe dollar.
It also claimed that the UNDP had failed to monitor food distribution that actually went to ZANU-PF solidarity zealots and had repeatedly used UN funds to sponsor, aid and abet evil, and to finance internal or external activities for ZANU-PF solidarity comrades. All the time they knew that such activities were immoral or illegal in international law.
The UNDP, it further claimed had selected and used known human rights abusers, criminals in the Zimbabwe Police force for UN peacekeeping duties.
“Their alleged publicly available activity reports and expenditures are either fraudulent, a joke, devoid of fabric, or non-existent. Against the rules of the UN they have refused to be honest and transparent on all of these matters. (They have) been involved in illicit diamond dealing and much more. They are an absolute disgrace to the UN Charter, and to what it purportedly stands for,” UNDP Watch says.
UNDP Watch says it is a grouping of United Nations Staff committed to openness. “We believe that everyone has the right to access information held by United Nations. Despite a stated commitment to openness, UNDP remain a highly secretive agency.”
“Although a wealth of information is available on some UNDP websites, its Executive Board operate behind closed doors, much important programme and administrative information is never made available and, as a rule, information that is disclosed is provided only after relevant decisions have effectively been taken.
“While UNDP has adopted “internal policies” on information disclosure, they in fact operate on precisely the opposite presumption. For the most part, they list which documents will be disclosed and when, and there is a presumption against the disclosure of all the other information they hold. They do not establish right of access, the lists of documents subject to disclosure is limited, they do not set out clear and narrow grounds for refusing access and they do not provide for independent oversight mechanisms to ensure proper implementation of the policy.’
The UNDP carried out a six-month investigation into the operations of its Harare office but has repeatedly refused to release the report of the findings.
UNDP director of communication Stephane Dujarric said investigations had so far found no evidence of corruption, mismanagement or UNDP involvement, including the reported use of UNDP vehicles in diamond smuggling as alleged.
“I want to say clearly that Dr. Zacarias and his staff have the full and complete backing of UNDP,” Dujarric said.
Agostinho Zacarias, a Mozambican, in the UNDP representative in Harare.
The UNDP is currently deeply involved in Zimbabwe’s economic recovery programme.