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BK Blog Post
Posted by Tom Devine.
Tom Devine is legal director of the Government Accountability Project, where he has worked to assist thousands of whistleblowers to come forward and has been involved in the all of the campaigns to pass or defend major whistleblower laws over the last two decades.
On June 11, 2015, accountability took a step forward at the United Nations. The UN Dispute Tribunal issued a judgment recommending that a manager be sanctioned for retaliation and cover-up, and a whistleblower be reinstated and compensated for damages.
The operative paragraphs of the judgment are quoted below.
Accountability of United Nations’ Managers
156. The obvious conclusion in this case is that by blowing the whistle on dubious and unwholesome practices in the obtaining, handling and disbursement of certain project funds by UN Women personnel, the Applicant annoyed her managers who were inclined to cover up what had transpired.
157. The Tribunal is appalled that Ms. Odera, even during the proceedings, continued to dismiss the Applicant’s concerns about the misappropriation, abuse of project funds and engagement in outside activities by the NPO as unfounded even though she was privy to the contents of the OAI investigation report. Had the Tribunal not ordered the production of the said investigation report, these matters would never have come to light.
158. The non-selection of the Applicant to the upgraded post was undoubtedly prompted by the Applicant’s diligence and boldness in unearthing and reporting the financial scam perpetrated by WARO and Ms. Coulibaly, the NPO. On their part, Ms. Odera and Mr. Houinato wanted the matter swept under the carpet. For her diligence in unearthing the financial scam and for speaking out against it, the Applicant was retaliated against and rewarded with separation from the Organization.
159. Unfortunately, the Counsel for the Respondent sought deliberately to mislead the Tribunal by presenting her case as if the OAI investigation report did not exist. It is not surprising that she would contradict the said report in her comments (when it was produced to the Tribunal) by submitting that “there was no evidence that any third party or investigation subject was personally enriched from the project funds.”
160. The Tribunal notes with a measure of sadness that the Respondent’s Counsel when ordered to produce the investigation report proceeded to produce an incomplete report by omitting the annexes to the said report. Needless to mention, this was most unprofessional.
161. Counsel must realize that in prosecuting a case, they are first and foremost officers of the Tribunal and their efforts at all times must be directed at laying all their cards face up on the table with a view to helping the Tribunal achieve the ends of justice. Counsel at all times must be beyond reproach and not place themselves in a position where they stand or fall with their clients.
162. As held by UNAT in the case of Dalgaard et al, “it is the self-evident duty of all counsel appearing before the Tribunals to contribute to the fair administration of justice and the promotion of the rule of law. Counsel for Dalgaard et al failed in this duty by allowing the Appeals Tribunal to proceed on a factual basis which counsel should have known to be untrue...”3
163. The Tribunal hereby exercises its power of referral under art. 10.8 of its Statute and refers this case to the Secretary-General for the purpose of considering what action should be taken in respect of the conduct of Ms. Odera in deliberately seeking to cover up an egregious financial scam which involved a shameful corruption of civil society organizations by UN Women personnel and wrongfully influencing the outcome of a selection process in retaliation against a whistle-blower.
Bea Edwards is Executive & International Director of the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection organization. She is also the author of The Rise of the American Corporate Security State.