House Foreign Affairs Committee

U.S. House of Representatives

For IMMEDIATE Release

Nine House Members Seek GAO Audit of UN Agency

Poe and foreign affairs committee members

push for review of World Meteorological Organization

WASHINGTON - Nine members of Congress including Congressman Ted Poe today requested that the Government Accountability Office open an inquiry into a UN agency that monitors global climate following reports of management irregularities and the dismissal of an auditor critical of agency management.

In April 2005, an internal audit report concluded that millions of dollars in funds were embezzled from the Geneva-based World Meteorological Organization (WMO), beginning as early as 1999.

In late 2006, the former chief auditor responsible for the report, Maria Veiga, was reportedly dismissed by WMO. She has alleged that she was precluded from fully pursuing her investigation, that she was pressured to cover up facts regarding involvement by other WMO personnel in the irregularities, and that there is a possibility that fraudulent schemes persist.

The 2005 audit accuses Sudanese national and former WMO official Muhammad Hassan, with the help of other WMO personnel, of misappropriating more than $3 million from the WMO.

The United States is a member and the leading financial supporter of the WMO, a specialized agency of the United Nations that serves as an authority on the state of the Earths atmosphere and climate. Since 1997, the U.S has provided more than $115 million in assessed and voluntary contributions to the WMO, and the Bush Administration has requested more than $10 million for the U.S. contribution to the WMOs budget for the fiscal year 2008.

The GAO request was initiated by U.S. Reps. Ted Poe (R-TX), Ranking Member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), Dan Burton (R-IN), Elton Gallegly (R-CA), Edward R. Royce (R-CA), Steve Chabot (R-OH), Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Bob Inglis (R-SC). All are Members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, on which Ros-Lehtinen serves as the Ranking Republican.

The 2005 report concludes that embezzled funds were misused to exert improper political influence within the Organization, as part of a money-for-votes scheme that stretched back at least as far as 1999. Stolen funds were used to pay for travel, accommodation and pocket money of [Permanent Representatives] and Delegates of certain countries who would then vote and act according to Mr. Hassans and other WMO staff members instructions. In addition, stolen funds were misused to pay the minimum contributions of some countries to allow them to recover voting rights.

In the letter to GAO, the Members want an examination of: whether U.S. contributions to the WMO have been misappropriated or misused; the adequacy and veracity of the UN investigation and report; and the adequacy of current WMO oversight mechanisms.

Text of the Letter to David Walker, Comptroller-General of the United States:

The United States of America is a member state and the leading financial supporter of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), a specialized agency of the United Nations which serves as an authority on the state of the Earths atmosphere and climate. The United States has provided more than $115 million in assessed and voluntary contributions to the WMO since 1997, and the President has requested more than $10 million for the U.S. contribution to WMOs budget for the fiscal year 2008.

Significant malfeasance was detailed in an official WMO Internal Audit Investigation Report dated April 29, 2005 (the Report). The Report states that a Sudanese national and former WMO official named Muhammad Hassan, with the help of other WMO personnel, misappropriated more than three million dollars from the WMO. Mr. Hassan fled shortly before authorities moved to arrest him, after phone contact with certain WMO officials.

The Report describes that, in addition to enriching Mr. Hassan, the embezzled funds were misused to exert improper political influence within the Organization, as part of a money-for-votes scheme that stretched back at least as far as 1999. Stolen funds were used to pay for travel, accommodation and pocket money of [Permanent Representatives] and Delegates of certain countries who would then vote and act according to Mr. Hassans and other WMO staff members instructions. In addition, stolen funds were misused to pay the minimum contributions of some countries to allow them to recover voting rights.

The former chief auditor responsible for the Report, Ms. Maria Veiga, was reportedly dismissed by WMO in late 2006. She has alleged that she was precluded from fully pursuing her investigation, was pressured to cover up facts regarding involvement by other WMO personnel in irregularities, and that [t]here is a real possibility that thefraudulent schemes persist.

The purpose of this letter is to request the Government Accountability Office to examine and report on: (1) whether U.S. contributions to the WMO have been misappropriated or misused for the personal gain of WMO personnel, to recover the voting rights of other countries, to influence the outcome of WMO elections, or for any other illicit purpose; (2) the adequacy and veracity of the investigation and Report regarding the fraudulent misappropriation of WMO funds; (3) the adequacy of the investigation into alleged irregularities relating to the 2003 election of senior WMO officers, including the current Secretary-General; (4) the extent to which the WMO has disciplined, fired, or waived immunity from prosecution for personnel who were complicit in the malfeasance detailed in the Report, or culpably lax in its prevention; and (5) the adequacy of current WMO oversight mechanisms and activities.

Your acceptance of this request will greatly support the efforts of Members of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in conducting oversight over United States participation in the United Nations system, and assessing current and future requests for United States funding of the World Meteorological Organization.

#####