Friday, 5 November 2010

U.N. Spends $567,000 To Print 'Vanity Publication'

The Sunday Telegraph

LOS ANGELES — For the outgoing U.N. chief, Secretary-General Annan, it might make a good Christmas stocking filler. But the newly published official history of the U.N. Development Program would surely be one of the most expensive gifts that he ever received.

Figures uncovered last week show that the book, authorized by Mr. Annan's right-hand man, Mark Malloch Brown, cost $567,379 to produce. Branded a "vanity publication" by critics, it has become the latest symbol of profligate spending and waste at the world body.

What has provoked outrage are the huge costs incurred in producing the book: a salary of $252,000 paid to the author, Craig Murphy, for less than two years' work; $37,299 in travel expenses for author interviews, and $87,639 given to an unnamed "project coordinator."

Research and editing cost $91,559, and $26,752 was spent on office space. The UNDP also paid the Cambridge University Press more than $55,000 for hundreds of copies of the 390-page book to distribute to libraries.

The true cost of the book was uncovered by a community activist from New York with a long history of probing irregularities in banks and other public organizations, Matthew Lee. A former lawyer, Mr. Lee has turned his fire on the United Nations and has become an accredited reporter at the world body so he can probe its activities and question senior figures more closely.

"This is a major U.N.organization with offices all over the world and a budget of over $4 billion," he said. "This money is meant to be helping the poor."

An international-relations specialist at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, Mr. Murphy calls the book "a sort of West Wing view of the U.N." In his introduction, he singles out for praise the British-born Mr. Malloch Brown, who is a former administrator for the World Bank, saying he offered the "unbeatable combination" of a "good salary and travel budget."

The UNDP is responsible for coordinating the work of the United Nations in more than 150 countries, but the body has become embroiled in a number of scandals; in particular, the Oil for Food program in Saddam's Iraq .

Mr. Malloch Brown's office failed to respond to questions about the cost of the book or provide sales figures.

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