NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Ending Corruption At The U.N.

April 30, 1996

The Clinton Administration has announced it will use its veto power, if necessary, to stop the reappointment of United Nations Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali to a second five-year term. The United Nations is a bureaucratic swamp of corruption and mismanagement, according to a recent report.

The overpaid bureaucracy has grown to 50,000 worldwide -- not counting nearly 10,000 consultants and, at its height in 1993, 80,000 peacekeeping troops.

  • Tax-free salaries are often double comparable private-sector pay in New York City and payroll costs consume at least 70 percent of its operating budget.
  • But Boutros-Ghali estimates that half the employees do nothing useful.
  • The others are used inefficiently -- such as 500 stenographers who type dictated versions of translated documents, when the translators could do it themselves on computers.

Aid money is often lost or stolen and dozens of agencies duplicate efforts.

For example,

  • In Somalia, $369,000 was paid for fuel distribution services a contractor did not provide, and a relief project director pocketed $100,000 of agency money.
  • The U.N. Children's Fund lost $10 million to mismanagement in Kenya.
  • Nearly $4 million in cash was stolen from U.N. headquarters in Somalia.

Many of the problems stem from the structure of the U.N. Each of the 185 member-nations has one General Assembly vote, allowing Third World countries to dominate.

  • The U.N.'s $10.5 billion annual budget has never been independently audited.
  • The United States alone is assessed a contribution of 25 percent of the U.N.'s general budget and 31 percent to its peacekeeping budget.
  • But in 1992, a majority of members contributed a combined total of less than 1 percent of the general budget, while 14 members contributed 84 percent.

Some U.N. critics recommend a comprehensive, independent audit of the U.N., followed by drastic downsizing and reform, including privatization of many agencies. Others favor the U.S. just getting out.

Source: Stefan Halper, "A Miasma of Corruption: The United Nations at 50," Policy Analysis No. 253, April 30, 1996, Cato Institute, 1000 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20001, (202) 842-0200.


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