Foreign Affairs

Waste, Fraud and UN Headquarters

Tax day is approaching and those of you who still owe Uncle Sam money had better send it in. That’s because the free spending Bush administration has teamed up with the pork dispensers on Capitol Hill to send more of our money to the corrupt regime at the United Nations.   

The UN is embarking on a multi-billion construction project and the timing could not be  better for those who like to waste taxpayer dollars. Liberals have taken over the Appropriations Committees on Capitol Hill, and John Bolton — the most effective UN watchdog ever — is out of the picture. In addition, the UN’s top fiscal office, which used to be managed by a qualified American, is now being run by a Mexican biologist with no financial management experience.  

The project is the renovation of the United Nations headquarters in New York City and the building is a metaphor for the UN itself. It is outdated, falling apart, and no longer useful. It has never had a major renovation, is full of asbestos, and is energy inefficient. And while it won’t pass a fire inspection, it is one of the only buildings in New York where smokers are still allowed to light up.

The architecturally compassionate thing to do would be to introduce the building to a wrecking ball and have Ban Ki-moon secure office space in a strip mall in Senegal. Instead, the UN plans a major renovation with U.S. taxpayers footing most of the ballooning bill. At a time when U.S. officials should be debating the utility of the United Nations, they are helping it build a cathedral of anti-Americanism.

A brief history:

In 2003, two New York-based construction managers presented the United Nations with renovation blueprints — the Capital Master Plan (CMP) — which would cost $953 million. Engineering, planning, and consulting firms were then hired by the UN for additional advice — and paid $7.8 million — only to provide an estimate that then amounted to $1.2 billion. Satisfied with the higher amount, then Secretary-General Kofi Annan presented an invoice for the full amount to the Bush administration.

Not wanting to offend any of the 191 other countries that make up the General Assembly, the State Department offered the UN the full amount by structuring a 30-year loan with a modest 5.5% interest rate. Foggy Bottom’s financial whiz kids must have actually believed the taxpayers would see that money again. But Kofi Annan was so offended that interest payments were tacked on, that he rejected the deal even though no other nation offered as much as coffee and donuts for the construction crew.  

Three years later, the cost of refurbishing the UN now stands at $1.9 billion — double the original estimate. In the last three years alone, the cost has escalated almost $20 million per month. In 2005, New York developer Donald Trump offered to complete the project for one-third of what it will now cost. Kofi Annan refused to discuss the matter with Trump.  

With the price tag spiraling out of control, the UN has cooked up a scheme whereby member countries will add the construction cost to their annual “assessments.” As the largest UN contributor, the United States will not only pay 22% of the regular UN budget, and 25% of all peacekeeping costs, we now get to pay 22% of the $1.9 billion construction project — or $413.6 million.

By contrast, China, with whom we have a $232 billion trade deficit will pay only $38.6 million to the UN reconstruction. Russia, which had one of its own citizens convicted this week for accepting bribes on UN contracts, will be billed $20.6 million. Venezuela, whose dictator is the UN’s most effective anti-American propagandist, gets the bargain price of $3.2 million. Iran will only have to pony up $2.9 million for the UN headquarters, since its cash is needed for its nuclear weapons program. Finally, Sudan, which prefers to apply its resources to its on-going genocide, will help defray a whopping $150,000 of the UN’s $2 billion project.   

The $413.6 million provided by the United States is more than any other nation will provide. But if you think U.S. costs will be capped at that amount, guess again. In December, the General Assembly adopted a resolution requiring that in the “unlikely event” that “the cost will exceed the approved budget,” member countries will be “subject to a further assessment.”  

What the United Nations describes as an “unlikely event,” the Government Accountability Office (GAO) deems a near certainty. A 2006 GAO report says of the UN project that estimates are “preliminary” and can be “expected to change.” Nor will U.S. tax dollars benefit American workers or firms. The General Assembly decreed that the work will be done by “vendors from developing countries and countries with economies in transition.”

Last year, Senators Tom Coburn, Jeff Sessions and James Inhofe expressed concern to the secretary of state about what they deemed an “ill-managed project.” That’s putting it politely. What Congress is doing is giving the United Nations $413 million to build the Great Hall of American Hatred.

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