Hey all. I was on CNN two days ago, discussing the UN topic. Here's a transcript from my interview with Kyra Phillips, (who is a really great inteviewer):
CNN: Live From...
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Critics are calling it the worst fraud in the history of the United Nations. They're talking about allegations of corruption in Iraq's Oil-For-Food Program. U.N. chief Kofi Annan is under fire. He says he's disappointed in his son, Kojo, for staying on the payroll of a company with an oil-for-food contract. Republican Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota heads the Senate investigation of the program. He's calling for Annan to resign.
Coleman appeared on CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. NORM COLEMAN (R), MINNESOTA: We're not going to get to the bottom of this with any kind of credibility unless the guy that was in charge step back and then let us figure out what happened. And bottom line is what happened to the billions that are out there? And are those billions being used to fund an insurgency that's taking American and coalition lives today?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: "Forbes" magazine staff writer Michael Maiello has been covering the oil-for-food controversy. He joins us now live from New York.
Mike, good to see you.
MIKE MAIELLO, "FORBES" MAGAZINE: Thank you having me.
PHILLIPS: Well, when you first wrote your article, you exposed a lot of loopholes in the Oil-For-Food program. Just in a nutshell, to give our viewers an understanding of how the U.N., how it all started by the U.N. setting the prices for this oil as it began to, this program with Iraq.
MAIELLO: Right. Well, the program was not as simple, it seems, as the U.N. thought it would be. They wanted to encourage companies to buy Iraqi oil, because the oil proceeds were going to go to feed the people of Iraq. To encourage them, they set the prices through most of the program for Iraqi oil at below market rates. Of course this created an immediate opportunity for companies to profit by buying the oil, and then quickly trading it on the secondary market, trading it to other companies, trading it to other traders, sometimes individuals it seems.
In basically an unregulated market for this oil that was bought at a mandated discount...
PHILLIPS: Keyword, "unregulated." You had this trading then that wasn't monitored properly by the U.N. You didn't have enough inspectors there in Iraq and other places to monitor it. You had Saddam Hussein, who was picking the companies he wanted to deal with. OK, then comes companies companies like Cotecna, who were brought in, or it was brought in, to monitor the humanitarian aid. Here comes Kojo Annan. Now what happened with this dynamic?
MAIELLO: Well, Cotecna was a Swiss company that people would not know much about, that was contracted by the U.N. to monitor the humanitarian goods that were flowing into Iraq. It seems that Secretary-General Annan's son, Kojo, is working as a consultant for this company. They say he was working in West Africa, not in Iraq, and that he stopped working for them in 1999. This came out a while ago. This was revealed maybe about a year ago at this point, but their immediate thing was to say that Kojo had stopped working there back in '99 and there was no real problem.
Now it turns out that Kojo had a noncompete agreement with the company so the company was paying him a salary not to get into the same industry until -- up until the end of the program so...
PHILLIPS: Why would Cotecna want Kojo?
MAIELLO: Well, I mean, I guess one could speculate that if you wanted to get U.N. contracts it would be nice to have a connection with the secretary-general. I mean, that would be the most cynical explanation one could come up with. And there's an appearance problem here. I think that -- you know, whether or not that is true, whether or not that's why they hired him, that's what it looks like. And credibility was the main issue with this entire -- with the entire Oil-For-Food Program, it was one of the most important things to have. And it astounds me that the U.N. would have allowed this to go on and allow this to become an issue that basically has brought the entire institution up for question now.
PHILLIPS: And now of course you're working on another big report for "Forbes" magazine. And all of these requests from various political leaders, saying, Kofi Annan should resign. What are you hearing? And do you think that's fair? What do the people say that you're interviewing now and talking about this relationship and his job basically being at stake?
MAIELLO: Well, Mr. Annan's job is, indeed, at stake. Norm Coleman, who is running the Senate investigation, of course, has been spearheading -- just had a column in "The Wall Street Journal" today, calling for Mr. Annan's resignation. He does make one good point, which is how can we trust the U.N.'s internal investigation into this while Mr. Annan is still in charge?
It seems that -- if only for appearance's sake, Mr. Annan has to go. I think that that's right. I don't hear a lot of sympathy for Mr. Annan from anyone I'm talking to. And it's hard to have sympathy for him at this point, too because you have to remember, the Oil-For- Food Program was vitally important. It is the program that kept the peace for six years. It's the reason we weren't back at war in Iraq earlier than we wound up going. Had the program worked...
PHILLIPS: Is it scary to you that the U.N.'s reputation is at stake now?
MAIELLO: It is, to me, because I happen to believe that having a vibrant global political body is important, especially in a world where money flows so quickly, commodities flow so quickly, and people move so quickly from place to place. We have to have a global institution that we can trust. And I think this is just hurtful for the world political scene, in general.
I don't think it's good going forward. I think -- there are a lot of people in America who have always been skeptical of the United Nations. I think that even if some of these allegations are overblown, the fact that the appearances are there has given ammunition to the U.N.'s critics. And I think for people like me who really believe in having a vibrant, global body like this that it's very disappointing...
PHILLIPS: Michael Maiello...
MAIELLO: ... just get so easily attacked.
PHILLIPS: Point well made, Michael Maiello, looking for your next story in "Forbes" magazine. Thank you.
MAIELLO: Thank you.