Shape-up, Clean-up at the U.N.

August 26, 1994

Seventeen months after former U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh left a high-echelon job at the United Nations, charging that the world organization "is totally lacking in effective means to deal with fraud, waste and abuse," the U.N. at last has an inspector general with powers comparable to those in like positions in federal agencies.

This is not a step pleasing to the huge U.N. bureaucracy or its protectors in the General Assembly or field operators accustomed to the loose controls of a budgeting system Mr. Thornburgh described as "surreal." Rather, it is a form of obeisance to the U.S. Congress, which has withheld $410 million in payments due the U.N. until the new post was created and filled.

The new undersecretary for internal operations at the U.N. is Karl Theodor Paschke, director of administration at the German Foreign Ministry. Some members of Congress wanted the post filled by an American, but Germany, as the third largest contributor to the U.N., had a claim to the job.

With the United Nations taking on more and more peacekeeping operations, Mr. Paschke will have an agenda not limited to injecting some order and modern practices in a regressive organization. He will have to oversee the expenditure of funds, goods and equipment during sudden, far-flung emergencies where opportunities for graft abound. The independence and credibility of his office will be constantly on the line.

It is crucial to the U.N.'s future that it develop a reputation for efficiency and honesty, for only in that way will democratic donors be in a position to provide the resources needed. U.N.-bashers in Congress are always ready and willing to pounce on any evidence of "waste, fraud and abuse" as an excuse to withhold or cut back funding. While shortcomings are inevitable in a $4 billion-a-year undertaking, it is imperative that the U.N. act be cleaned up -- and that it is so perceived.

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