By: Billy Dean Valentine
Pace International Law Review, Junior Associate
United Nations Ethics Committee Chairman Robert Benson and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark have protected Dr. Ismail Ahmed from retaliation for making protected whistle blowing disclosures regarding wrongdoing in the UNDP Somalia Office. Specifically, Dr. Ahmed alleged that deception and fraud in the UNDP Somalia Remittances Programme threatened to put at risk the ability of remittance companies to act in accordance with international regulations addressing money laundering and terrorist financing. He also disclosed detailed information about corruption in the procurement process and support provided to a company suspected of links with terrorist organizations. The UN Ethics Committee found that because of the exposé, Dr. Ahmed was subject to retaliation, his professional reputation was tainted, and he was transferred without appropriate support. In addition, according to the decision, UNDP Somalia Office personnel tried in 2007 to spoil attempts by the Somali remittance industry to employ Dr. Ahmed, who has twenty years of experience in this area, and a Ph.D. in Economics. The blacklisting was “communicated quite openly” in relation to a consultancy contract that UNDP funded.
The Government Accountability Project (GAP), whose client is Dr. Ahmed, has applauded the decision to enforce the decision issued by the ethics committee on December 11, 2009. “This decision shows that there can be light at the end of a very long tunnel for UNDP whistleblowers who have overwhelming evidence of retaliation,” said GAP International Program Officer Shelley Walden.
Both the UNDP’s investigative body – the Office of Audit and Investigations (OAI) – and the Ethics Office undermined Dr. Ahmed’s due process rights by failing to disclose retaliatory statements made in his case, and claiming that there was no retaliation against him, despite strong evidence to the contrary. Dr. Ahmed has not been given a copy of OAI’s investigative report, despite a recent United Nations Dispute Tribunal decision that strongly encourages UN funds and programs to release such reports. Moreover, the retaliators in Dr. Ahmed’s case have apparently not been disciplined.