Statement of the Honorable Dana Rohrabacher on “The UN Oil-for-Food Program: The Cotecna and Saybolt Inspection Firms"

Mar 17, 2005
Floor Speeches

 

Washington, Mar 17, 2005 -

Statement of the Honorable Dana Rohrabacher
Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations
Hearing on “The UN Oil-for-Food Program: The Cotecna and Saybolt Inspection Firms”
March 17, 2005

Today as part of our on-going investigation into the UN’s Oil-for-Food program, we will discuss the inspection firms that contracted with the United Nations to examine both the oil shipments from Iraq and the humanitarian goods that came into the country. Additionally, we will talk to a former official who worked for the United Nations Office of the Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraqi (UNOHCI : “YOU-NO-KEE) in Baghdad. Dr. Rehan Mullick repeatedly warned of the shortcomings of the UN’s system for monitoring the delivery of the humanitarian supplies in the Oil-for-Food program and reported that Saddam was diverting these goods to other uses. For his diligence, Dr. Mullick was isolated, demoted, and let go by the UN. The inspection firms we are looking at today, Cotecna (KO-TEK-NA) and Saybolt, were essential players in the Oil-for-Food program. These firms provided the gatekeepers for the transactions of the program. In Cotecna’s case, they were tasked with verifying that the contracted shipments of food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies actually arrived in Iraq and if they were suitable for consumption. In Saybolt’s case, they were tasked to verify that the contracted amount of oil was in fact delivered. In both cases, there were disparities found that complicated, confused, and corrupted the program. Alarmingly though, it is what Dr. Mullick has to tell us about what happened to these supplies once they arrived in Iraq that is of immediate concern. His disclosures are revealing and deserve further investigation. Witnesses interviewed by Committee staff over the last year, told of two avenues on which goods entered Iraq. One went through the Cotecna process, the other avenue was an unobstructed pathway in which goods went uninspected and straight into the country. How could the UN simply ignore this out-of-control situation? Similarly, Committee staff have conducted interviews during the past year in the United States, Europe, and in the Middle East with present-day Iraqi government officials who also detailed stories of humanitarian aid diversions and under-manned or unobservant Cotecna inspection posts. Alarmingly, several witnesses interviewed by Committee staff made allegations of bribe taking by Cotecna inspectors. I hope Ms. Suarez can address some of these points. There are other equally alarming issues Saybolt needs to address. The Committee is in receipt of a great number of documents supplied by Saybolt which detail problems encountered by their inspectors. Early on, problems arose from the fact that Saybolt, in violation of UN rules, had the job of inspecting the oil shipments for the UN while at the same time being inspectors for the buyers of the oil. Conflict of interest is a mild way to put it. Finally, I want to talk about our third witness, Dr. Rehan Mullick. Dr. Mullick was in the eye of the storm in Baghdad. He witnessed first-hand the distribution of the goods from the oil-for-food program. Until now, this was a rarely discussed issue. Today, however, Dr. Mullick is going to tell us how he had repeatedly warned his superiors in his office that Saddam was manipulating the entire process of the food distribution and that other goods were being diverted. According to Dr. Mullick, the only transparency in the program was for the Iraqis, not the UN. The UN did nothing to act on his warnings and in the end essentially fired him for his honesty. Dr. Mullick did the right thing and he was treated as an outcast. This was wrong and they should make recompense to him for his treatment. The UN, through willful blindness, chose to ignore the corruption that Dr. Mullick reported to them. Today, we wish to learn more about how the goods, which were supposed to help the Iraqi people, were diverted and directed elsewhere. Moreover, we wish to understand why the UN sat back and seemingly allowed this to occur. The UN, I believe, has much to answer for. Nearly ten years after the Oil-for-Food program began, we still do not have all the answers. Today’s witnesses are Evelyn Suarez, an attorney for Williams Mullen, Cotecna’s representatives here in Washington and John Denson, General Counsel for Core Laboratories in Houston, the parent company of Sabyolt. Finally, we will hear from Dr. Mullick. I look forward to the testimony of all our witnesses.