NEW YORK – The man tapped to lead an investigation into the U.N. Oil-for-Food scandal will not be able to effectively do his job, outgoing U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Danforth (search) told FOX News on Friday.
Danforth said that Paul Volcker (search), the chairman of the independent inquiry committee commissioned to probe the troubled U.N. program, has not been given the proper tools to conduct an investigation.
"The fact that he doesn't have subpoena power, he doesn't have a grand jury, he can't compel testimony, he can't compel production of documents and witnesses and documents that are located in other countries might be beyond his reach," Danforth told FOX News' Jonathan Hunt on Friday.
"Those are tremendous handicaps so what he is — I wouldn't say likely to do — but what is possible, is that his focus would move from the bad acts, from the criminal offenses to something that he will view as more manageable — namely the procedures and was it a tight enough procedural system, which might be interesting but not the key question to investigate."
Volcker's office released a statement late Friday quoting him as saying that his team has known the challenge of investigating Oil-for-Food would be "difficult and complex."
"However, I am confident that we have adequate tools — as good as anyone, considering the international nature of the investigation, and our access to internal U.N. documents — for getting the job done," Volcker said.
The back-and-forth comments came as Volcker's commission readies to release 400 pages of pages of internal audits related to the investigation on Monday. The commission has gone on record, however, saying the audits "don't prove anything."
"They are professionally done, very detailed audits focusing on the control system and how it should be tightened up, but they don't prove anything," Volcker told The New York Times in an interview this week. "There's no flaming red flags in this stuff."
To be released Monday are 56 completed official reports, including 19 that cover the U.N. Compensation Commission dealing with claims arising from Saddam's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Two other reports in draft form will also be made available.
Volcker's committee has been downplaying expectations of the separate report due for release at the end of the month, saying it will not have all the answers nor all the names of people involved. But one person who will be named is Benon Sevan (search).
Volcker, the former U.S. Federal Reserve chairman, has said the January report will clarify the roles of U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan (search) and Sevan. Volcker was appointed by Annan to probe the scandal.
"I don't know what we're going to be able to say at the end of January about some of this stuff. What we said is, we'd issue this report in January, but it's going to be a real squeeze," Volcker said in the Times interview.
In his statement released Friday, Volcker said his team expected the interim report to "address some of the questions that have been raised about the ability of the inquiry to get to the bottom of things.”
Sevan has been accused of accepting millions of dollars in illegal oil allocations and Annan has come under fire for his oversight of the program. In addition, he's also been chastised for the connection between one of the program's contracting companies, Contecna (search), which employed his son, Kojo Annan (search).
Volcker also told the Times that the January report would highlight how the United Nations used $1.4 billion from the 2.2 percent fee it received for administrative costs, how the banks and inspectors monitoring the program were chosen and how the contractors were selected.
Although Volcker said it was most difficult to get much cooperation from the U.S. government on the panel's investigation, other committee officials would not comment to FOX News on that specific point.
Several congressional committees have also launched investigations into the Oil-for-Food program but some lawmakers say they have been hampered by the U.N.'s refusal to divulge critical documents. Some lawmakers such as Sen. Norm Coleman (search), R-Minn., has gone so far as to call for Annan's resignation.
The program ran from 1996 to 2003 and was aimed at easing the effects of sanctions on the Iraqi people. It allowed the former Iraqi regime to sell oil as long as the money went primarily to buy humanitarian goods and pay reparations to victims of the 1991 Gulf War.
Saddam's government decided on the goods it wanted, who should provide them, and who could buy Iraqi oil — but the U.N. Security Council (search) committee overseeing sanctions monitored the contracts.
But it's been found that Saddam diverted billions of dollars from the program with bribes, illicit oil sales and surcharges. Volcker said in an interview last month that there was a lot of confusion made between money Saddam earned from smuggling and money obtained illegally under the U.N. program.