Sunday, March 29, 2009

UNOPS in the News

It's been two years since my last blog post.  In the intervening years, we've had an historic election, dropped into the worst recession since the Great Depression, and seen an "Awakening" in Iraq, amongst other events both grand and mundane.  

I am still in Afghanistan, still working for the United Nations, and still not sure what I'm doing in another war zone.  I've decided to start blogging again and what better topic than a report on an investigation of my employer, UNOPS?  Watch this space for discussion of conflict zone reconstruction, Central Asia history, food and culture, and other joys of working in the 'Stan.

By Colum Lynch 

Washington Post Staff Writer 
Friday, March 27, 2009; Page A11 

UNITED NATIONS -- 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.