By Colombo Telegraph –
In July 2012, Colombo Telegraph exposed how a leaked UN email suggests that UN money went to LTTE. Another leaked UN email suggests that the FAO Representative, Patrick Evans and the Assistant FAO Representative (Administration), Dihan Hettige was fully aware of the LTTE connections in this US $ 1.5 million fraud.
The FAO in Sri Lanka purchased project deliveries for the Northern and Eastern Provinces of Sri Lanka to a value exceeding US$ 1.5 million from three ‘Ghost’ companies Dev Traders, A. F. Associates and YCO Farm. These ‘Ghost’ companies could not be found at their given registered addresses. Two FAO staff members Niranjala Gunaraj, Finance Assistant and Thevarajah Vaigunthan, National Project Officer both attached to the FAO Emergency Unit collected the payments on behalf of these three companies.
The Colombo Telegraph had earlier reported how Dihan Hettige was aware of the LTTE connections of Thevarajah Vaigunthan, National Project Officer of the FAO Emergency Unit. Dihan Hettige said he had sufficient information to believe that Thevarajah Vaigunthan is directly connected to the LTTE with his capabilities of operating in the LTTE controlled areas easily. He also said that he was aware of the ‘Ghost’ company’s connections to the LTTE and thus their reluctance to reveal their true identities.
On 11 November 2008, Dihan Hettige wrote “I have checked the records with the police station in the area (Cinnamon Gardens Police) and the Bureau of National Intelligence as agreed. He was probably used in Colombo as an informant of the activities carried out at I/NGO level in Colombo and the requests/responses government of Sri Lanka initiated”
The Colombo Telegraph reported that Niranjala Gunaraj, another UN FAO staffer had been involved but, FAO maintained that only one individual associated with the organization was found to be responsible.
Dihan Hettige further wrote “I believe this actions are supported by Ms. Niranjala Gunaraj, Finance Assistant as well by prioritizing the payments for these organizations clearly making a difference in order”. The Colombo Telegraph reliably learns that Niranjala Gunaraj, whom Dihan Hettige believed supported the corruption process and prioritized the payments for these ‘Ghost’ companies, continues to be employed by the organization, discharging the same duties.
A part of the money released to Dev Traders was channeled through Account No.0550255103 maintained with Hatton National Bank. Coincidently the husband of Niranjala Gunaraj, Finance Assistant who collected payments on behalf these ‘Ghost’ companies is an employee of Hatton National Bank.
How did the organization disregarded the credible information provided by Dihan Hettige in the capacity of Assistant FAO Representative (Administration)? On what basis were these details rejected by the organization in clearing Niranjala Gunaraj’s involvement in this fraud?
We also exposed how Dihan Hettige encouraged FAO Headquarters to bury this incident saying that if an investigation is sensed by Theverajah Vaigunthan or the connected individuals, they might disappear suddenly. Dihan Hettige presumed FAO might not be able to operate in the uncleared areas, thereafter also not ruling out the danger of being exposed to the Government of Sri Lanka.
We wrote to Patrick Evans and Dihan Hettige, asking what happened to the inquiry findings but they have so far failed to send us the investigation report.
Instead of making the inquiry report public Patrick Evans maintains “The issue has been thoroughly investigated and addressed in a proper manner.” Quoting The Rome-based UN FAO headquarters spokesperson The Italian Insider wrote; “corrective action was taken” as soon as the problem was brought to light. “FAO stressed that the core problem was not that money was diverted or that FAO did not perform, rather, it was that ‘the way FAO was performing was not correct’. We certainly acknowledge that misconduct took place and regret that improper behavior by one individual in the procurement of agriculture inputs went undetected, and have taken steps to ensure that such a situation can never repeat itself’.”
We beg to differ. Bank details showcasing transfers of monies from these ‘Ghost’ companies prove millions of rupees were transferred to employee’s personnel accounts. The Colombo Telegraph reliably learns that staff members believed to be involved and responsible for this fraud both in the country office and the field continues to be employees of the organization. There has been no conceivable change in their working capacities.
According to the ‘Standards of Conduct for the International Civil Service’ the United Nations and the specialized agencies embody the highest aspirations of the peoples of the world. International civil servants should share the vision of their organizations. It is loyalty to this vision that ensures the integrity and international outlook of international civil servants; it guarantees that they will place the interests of their organization above their own and use its resources in a responsible manner.
The concept of integrity enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations embraces all aspects of behavior of an international civil servant, including such qualities as honesty, truthfulness, impartiality and incorruptibility. These qualities are as basic as those of competence and efficiency, also enshrined in the Charter.
Where is the so called accountability? Can the organization getaway with a fraud of over US $ 1.5 million by blaming the improper behavior by one individual?
We ask the UN FAO to publish the investigation report.