Another day, another UN scandal

posted at 10:58 am on March 27, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

If the UN has a program, it also has bureaucrats willing to steal from it.  The latest example comes from the effort to rebuild Afghanistan, when an American trusted with more than a billion dollars of funds spent over $500,000 on his favorite charity — himself:

A former U.N. official who oversaw reconstruction funds in Afghanistan diverted half a million dollars from roads, schools and clinics to fund his luxury lifestyle, according to a confidential internal U.N. investigation.

The U.N. Procurement Task Force accused Gary K. Helseth, an American who headed the U.N. Office for Project Services (UNOPS) in Afghanistan from 2002 to 2006, in December of using the funds for lavish purchases, including first-class flights to Las Vegas and meals in posh restaurants in Copenhagen, Dubai, Florence and New York. Helseth oversaw more than $1 billion in reconstruction funds contributed by the United States and other international donors after the fall of the Taliban.

The probe is a cautionary tale about the risks of lax U.N. financial controls in Afghanistan as the Obama administration presses for a more central role for the United Nations in coordinating rebuilding efforts there.

The task force alleged that Helseth improperly used hundreds of thousands of dollars in funds from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) for rent, a home renovation and luxury items. It also said he stole $65,000 in cash from a U.N. safe and billed the United States and other international donors more than $60,000 for entertainment, including opulent parties at his Kabul residence where guests dined on Beluga caviar, Norwegian salmon and foie gras.

Helseth denies stealing the money but does admit to some of the other allegations. He defended his purchase of a $30,000 Lexus by saying that people judged officials by the kind of car they drive.  Helseth now says that spending $66,000 in gym equipment may have been a little over the top, but blames the UN for having overly complicated financial rules.

Gee, correct me if I’m wrong, but how does one blame complicated rules for buying $66,000 in gym equipment?  And what the heck did he buy with that, anyway?  You can get a Bowflex for a few easy $39 payments, or so the TV tells me.  Maybe USAID can donate the equipment to the prison that Helseth will almost certainly spend the next few years.  He can think of it as a fat farm with better security.

The UN, meanwhile, was supposed to conduct a series of investigations into Helseth and various other corruptions associated with their Afghanistan effort.  They disbanded the unit that discovered all of these issues, but have yet to reassign the investigation to its investigations division as expected when they dissolved this effort.  The man who ran it, former US federal prosecutor Robert Appleton, was supposed to be appointed to run the division and bring his investigations with him.  However, the UN has blocked him from taking the position because, as the Washington Post reports, he’s one short on X chromosomes and has the wrong mailing address:

The United Nations, meanwhile, has blocked the unit’s chairman, Robert M. Appleton, from taking up an appointment as chief of the U.N. investigations division, which is supposed to inherit the task force’s caseload.

Top U.N. officials applauded Appleton’s work but cited the lack of female or non-U.S. candidates on the short list for the job. Appleton, a former federal prosecutor, declined to comment on the investigation.

At face value, this provides an ironic demonstration of the uselessness of political correctness and hiring quotas.  The man who did the job can’t get the job.  But this looks mighty suspicious, especially considering the level of corruption at Turtle Bay.  It seems that the UN doesn’t want an effective investigator poking around its bureaucracies, and prefers to find a political hack instead.

This means, of course, that the scandals, corruption, and theft will continue at the UN, because they have no accountability to anyone except the kleptocrats that populate Turtle Bay.


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Barry, we found you another appointee for Treasury…..

Vashta.Nerada on March 27, 2009 at 11:00 AM

I doubt there’s that many NFL players who drop $66,000 on “gym equipment”.

Probably just some sort of way to say he spent it all in on human trampolines in cathouses.

That sort of activity does have some cardio benefits and can help build up the quads.

NoDonkey on March 27, 2009 at 11:03 AM

I’m glad that the UN will be dealing with the $900 million we are giving to Hamas. Maybe they will skim a bunch off the top so there will be less money for bombs.

myrenovations on March 27, 2009 at 11:03 AM

At least he didn’t rape any young girls…as far as we know.

Somebody should take a flamethrower to that place.

Bishop on March 27, 2009 at 11:05 AM

$66,000 for gym equipment and $30,000 for a Lexus? That sounds backward.

All this extravagance while McDonalds is willing to lower the wattage on their golden arches tomorrow to save energy.

Oh, the shame.

AubieJon on March 27, 2009 at 11:05 AM

For an organization whose founding Secretary General was Alger Hiss, I’d say we’re getting our money’s worth.

Akzed on March 27, 2009 at 11:05 AM

Hey, let’s give them more power and more money !!!

stenwin77 on March 27, 2009 at 11:08 AM

You cannot spell Unf**kenbelieveable without UN.

WashJeff on March 27, 2009 at 11:09 AM

Remind me once again exactly why we need the UN? sarc/

canditaylor68 on March 27, 2009 at 11:09 AM

Does he have blond eyes and blue hair?

BL@KBIRD on March 27, 2009 at 11:09 AM

Don’t forget the ex-Nazi Kurt Waldheim, UN Secretary General, 1972-82. The UN is a joke and should be disbanded.

mossberg500 on March 27, 2009 at 11:12 AM

Barry, we found you another appointee for Treasury…..

Vashta.Nerada on March 27, 2009 at 11:00 AM

.
.
Oh man…….that there was funny!
.
.

subbottomfeeder on March 27, 2009 at 11:12 AM

Finally, someone the UN will excoriate… because he’s American!

max1 on March 27, 2009 at 11:12 AM

If there were no UN, who would lecture the United States about our human rights abuses? And Israel would go about it’s business without anyone to rebuke her actions…

The world would be a cold, dark and corrupt place.

myrenovations on March 27, 2009 at 11:12 AM

Top 10 UN Slogans

AubieJon on March 27, 2009 at 11:14 AM

Can we not butt-kick that worthless excuse of an organization out of our country?

Sheesh.

ladyingray on March 27, 2009 at 11:14 AM

Hey, Timmy, why don’t we let another multinational agency come up with a global reserve currency?

I’m sure nothing will go wrong with that….
/sarc

cs89 on March 27, 2009 at 11:15 AM

Top 10 UN Slogans

AubieJon on March 27, 2009 at 11:14 AM

I just re-read the list and the last one doesn’t apply as well now as it did a few months ago.

AubieJon on March 27, 2009 at 11:15 AM

$66,000 in gym equipment!

Lets see,marble floors,
gold plated plates,bar,and
locking thingys,mirrors
wall to wall,probably a nice
sound system,and probably a
nice big plasma tv!

Oh ya,maybe he has a replica of
Obama’s Temple Pillars to give his
workout room,a touch of Rome!

Me thinks,NUTS!!!!

canopfor on March 27, 2009 at 11:16 AM

Obama wants to send Gaza 900 million. He wants UN to do the delivery. Doesn’t anyone question the UN and it’s lack of cleanliness?
The UN uses the chicago way. Proven and tested way.

seven on March 27, 2009 at 11:17 AM

Anybody who believes we should give more money and concede more authority to the UN is an idiot.

Greg Toombs on March 27, 2009 at 11:17 AM

A $30,000 Lexus is cheap. Most of them are a lot more expensive.

Not that I’m defending this clown…

Attila (Pillage Idiot) on March 27, 2009 at 11:18 AM

Top 10 UN Slogans

AubieJon on March 27, 2009 at 11:14 AM

I have a friend who coaches high school Model UN and now I know what I am getting her for her birthday. Thanks for the link.

myrenovations on March 27, 2009 at 11:18 AM

You can get a Bowflex for a few easy $39 payments, or so the TV tells me. Maybe USAID can donate the equipment to the prison that Helseth will almost certainly spend the next few years. He can think of it as a fat farm with better security.

He’s gonna get workouts to places Bowflex don’t go.

Patrick S on March 27, 2009 at 11:19 AM

myrenovations on March 27, 2009 at 11:18 AM

My wife got me that shirt. There are no middle-of-the-road responses so far.

AubieJon on March 27, 2009 at 11:20 AM

A crooked, brutal, worthless gaggle of ingrates . . . just the kind of organization Hillary can relate to.

rplat on March 27, 2009 at 11:21 AM

Hey, let’s give them more power and more money !!!

stenwin77 on March 27, 2009 at 11:08 AM

Your wish is the UN’s command!

A United Nations document on “climate change” that will be distributed to a major environmental conclave next week envisions a huge reordering of the world economy, likely involving trillions of dollars in wealth transfer, millions of job losses and gains, new taxes, industrial relocations, new tariffs and subsidies, and complicated payments for greenhouse gas abatement schemes and carbon taxes — all under the supervision of the world body.

Spectreman on March 27, 2009 at 11:21 AM

He’s gonna get workouts to places Bowflex don’t go.

Patrick S on March 27, 2009 at 11:19 AM

Really? How many UN officials have been convicted and actually punished for their criminal behavior?

mossberg500 on March 27, 2009 at 11:22 AM

Why did the US give $1B to the UN just to have an American run a billion dollar relief effort when we have an US government organization providing the pretty much the exact same relief efforts in the exact same country?

If I were a cynic, I’d think it was to bypass oversight controls the US has on US governmental agencies and is an easy way to maintain full employment of crooks that are owed political chits. Or owe political chits to others and this finances them. Or both.

Dusty on March 27, 2009 at 11:26 AM

Besides the UN,I still wonder who made money off of Chavez’s
free heating oil,for the poor!

canopfor on March 27, 2009 at 11:27 AM

Besides the UN,I still wonder who made money off of Chavez’s
free heating oil,for the poor!

canopfor on March 27, 2009 at 11:27 AM

The Kennedys.

myrenovations on March 27, 2009 at 11:29 AM

My wife got me that shirt. There are no middle-of-the-road responses so far.

AubieJon on March 27, 2009 at 11:20 AM

I can relate. I bought the t-shirt, “PETA-People for the eating of tasty animals”(front), and “All Gods creatures are welcome next to my mash potatoes”(back). Delmar, CA residents were unanimous in their displeasure(often verbally abusive).

mossberg500 on March 27, 2009 at 11:29 AM

The thing with the UN is…well, they are not into petty thievery.

They do it on a grand scale. Too big to fail. Seems like I’ve heard that phrase before…somewhere.

And just when you thought Gary K. Helseth was bad. Just wait till he gets a presidential appointment to one of those White House Czar jobs. He’s got the cred.

As for the UN…when that new international currency arrives…who is going to be in control of it?

First they came for the banks. Then they came for the insurers. Then they came for the currencies…

Brave New World, complete with wonderfully disarming baby blue berets.

coldwarrior on March 27, 2009 at 11:31 AM

Girls are more impressed by guys who drive expensive cars. I read that somewhere.

a capella on March 27, 2009 at 11:32 AM

Delmar, CA residents were unanimous in their displeasure(often verbally abusive).

mossberg500 on March 27, 2009 at 11:29 AM

It’s our moral duty to influence the blood pressure of the left.

AubieJon on March 27, 2009 at 11:33 AM

And…we fund this organization because…?

CP on March 27, 2009 at 11:35 AM

Girls are more impressed by guys who drive expensive cars. I read that somewhere.

a capella on March 27, 2009 at 11:32 AM

Wonder if Helseth knows the Pastun phrase for “Hey, baby, why don’t you dribble off that burkha and slide into my shiny new Lexus?”

coldwarrior on March 27, 2009 at 11:35 AM

The Kennedys.

myrenovations on Mar 27,2009 at 11:29PM.

myrenovations:Boy,they are sneaky!:)

canopfor on March 27, 2009 at 11:41 AM

Not defending this guy. But….

Compared to the Oil-for-Food, or the Turtle Bay Building Disaster; $500k on a $1Bn program would not even show up on the spreadsheet. The guy was a piker in comparison.

Still a slime tho.

Dr. Dog on March 27, 2009 at 11:43 AM

the John Birchers have a slogan “get US out of the UN”.

kelley in virginia on March 27, 2009 at 11:57 AM

Just goes to show Lord Acton’s old saw is still spot on.

Then we have Mr. Helseth.

SeniorD on March 27, 2009 at 12:03 PM

The eye of the needle is getting smaller and smaller as we are getting closer and closer.

Fuquay Steve on March 27, 2009 at 12:07 PM

Helseth denies stealing the money but does admit to some of the other allegations. He defended his purchase of a $30,000 Lexus by saying that people judged officials by the kind of car they drive. Helseth now says that spending $66,000 in gym equipment may have been a little over the top, but blames the UN for having overly complicated financial rules.
Are we sure that this is not some Onion satirical piece that found it’s way into the “real newsworld” :-)

The “United Nations” is a sick joke.

nagee76 on March 27, 2009 at 12:14 PM

Mr. Helseth needs to spend some quality time with Bubba.

GarandFan on March 27, 2009 at 12:37 PM

Kinda reminds me of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. All you have to do is plug into the story above the names of Frank Raines, Jamie Gorleck or Rahmblow Emmanuel.

Dire Straits on March 27, 2009 at 12:47 PM

Half a million dollars? Please, that’s small potatos compared to the corruption in the Iraq reconstruction:

http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/0407/dailyUpdate.html
http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/iraq/dfi/2005/0629appalling.htm
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/feb/08/usa.iraq1

AJB on March 27, 2009 at 12:51 PM

Would be interesting to know who Helseth voted for last November, wouldn’t it?

whitetop on March 27, 2009 at 12:52 PM

And the UN wants to run the energy sector of the world economy. One hundred sixty antisemitic thugocracies given control over the west’s energy supplies. What could go wrong?

eaglewingz08 on March 27, 2009 at 12:57 PM

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7444083.stm

A BBC investigation estimates that around $23bn (£11.75bn) may have been lost, stolen or just not properly accounted for in Iraq.

The BBC’s Panorama programme has used US and Iraqi government sources to research how much some private contractors have profited from the conflict and rebuilding.

A US gagging order is preventing discussion of the allegations.

The order applies to 70 court cases against some of the top US companies.

I think that people who spent the last eight years defending the Bush administration’s corruption really have no right to criticize the UN for being corrupt.

AJB on March 27, 2009 at 1:00 PM

the John Birchers have a slogan “get US out of the UN”. kelley in virginia on March 27, 2009 at 11:57 AM

“…and the UN out of the US!” is the rest of it.

Akzed on March 27, 2009 at 1:03 PM

Does he have blond eyes and blue hair?

BL@KBIRD on March 27, 2009 at 11:09 AM

No, but he does have red eyes and green hair! 8^D

I’m glad that the UN will be dealing with the $900 million we are giving to Hamas. Maybe they will skim a bunch off the top so there will be less money for bombs.

myrenovations on March 27, 2009 at 11:03 AM

“less money for (buying) bombs” only works as a concept the UN supports if and only if we’re talking about Israel or the US, otherwise….

dmh0667 on March 27, 2009 at 1:03 PM

I think that people who spent the last eight years defending the Bush administration’s corruption really have no right to criticize the UN for being corrupt.
AJB on March 27, 2009 at 1:00 PM

Ah yes, that unimpeachable source the BBC. Did you know tht the Royal Navy will not permit the BBC on its ships because it can’t be relied on to tell the truth?

Thought not.

Moron.

Akzed on March 27, 2009 at 1:04 PM

I think that people who spent the last eight years defending the Bush administration’s corruption really have no right to criticize the UN for being corrupt.

AJB on March 27, 2009 at 1:00 PM

Anyone who defends the UN’s corruption needs to read up on the “Oil for Food” Scam the UN ran…..but then again, AJB probably had no problem with THAT one.

dmh0667 on March 27, 2009 at 1:08 PM

***
Gary K. Helseth could use some U.N. approved punishment. The U.N. is an international law friendly group that likes Muslim governments and punishments.
***
A 1000 lash Sharia punishment should be about right.
***
John Bibb
***

rocketman on March 27, 2009 at 1:08 PM

He probably bought commercial-level and selectorized equipment from Cybex, Precor, etc… That treadmill you run on at the Y probably cost more than your car.

Just a commercial treadmill, elliptical, and bike would run around 30,000+ total.

Just a Cybex flat bench is around 2,000. Also, any machine with selectorized weights is in the 1000′s.

He could easily spend 66,000 on a small gym, especially if it wasn’t his own money.

nottakingsides on March 27, 2009 at 1:39 PM

Get the US out of the UN and the UN out of the US!

Christian Conservative on March 27, 2009 at 1:44 PM

While I’m glad this guy was caught and hope he does some jail time. Does anyone else find it interesting that the only “confidential internal U.N. investigation” that I’ve ever heard of in the top to bottom corrupt UN is aimed at an American?

RJL on March 27, 2009 at 3:56 PM

I.AM.SHOCKED!

In other news…
“Study: Dishonest people more likely to lie, steal”

Glenn Jericho on March 27, 2009 at 4:37 PM

WTF, ABJ?

Corruption at the UN should be excused because a couple dozen contractors that defrauded American taxpayers out of money are headed for jail when the investigations you cited are done?

Corruption in the UN is ok since after all, corruption of the Iraqi reconstruction has been found and is currently being prosecuted?

Grow a frigging brain, would you please?

manofaiki on March 27, 2009 at 6:00 PM

We need to GET OUT OF THE UN NOW….

DL13 on March 27, 2009 at 6:04 PM

Get the US out of the UN and the UN out of the US!

Christian Conservative on March 27, 2009 at 1:44 PM

+1000

Disturb the Universe on March 27, 2009 at 6:09 PM

Ah, yes, the UN. My “favorite” agency is UNICEF, which effectively bought an election in Guatemala and shut down US adoptions there because the adoptions were private rather than government run, and UNICEF wasn’t getting their cut. Now, those kids are starving to death, but hey, it was all about the kids, doncha know.

These are the same a$$holes who send kids out to collect money for them in little boxes at Halloween, so kids in the US go without candy so that others may starve in Guatemala.

The UN can bite me.

tcn on March 28, 2009 at 12:06 AM

The BBC’s Panorama programme has used US and Iraqi government sources to research how much some private contractors have profited from the conflict and rebuilding.

Oh GOD! Profits? From contracts?

CORRUPTION!

Why can’t everything be run like the UN. They stand adamantly athwart all manner of profits, making sure any excess goes to the “right people.”

Mr. Helseth for example…

BKennedy on March 28, 2009 at 8:17 AM