A top "good governance" official at the United Nations accused of dishonest practices may escape penalties despite a scathing internal report that faulted his "gross negligence" and mishandling of a $2.8 million trust fund donated by the Greek government.
Guido Bertucci, director of the United Nations' Division of Public Administration and Development Management, was supposed to use the funds to promote transparency and good government in the former Soviet republics.
But a confidential report prepared by a U.N. anti-corruption task force paints a very different picture, accusing Bertucci’s office of nepotism, favoritism, falsifying documents and obstructing a U.N. inquiry — just the sort of practices his office was meant to help root out.
The Greek government is seeking around half a million dollars in restitution for the money remaining in the fund, estimated between $200,000 and $390,000, and for at least $182,000 in operating costs that it says Bertucci’s office wrongly spent.
The United Nations' own report, issued by its Office of Internal Oversight Services following an 18-month investigation, recommended that the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, or DESA, which controls Bertucci’s office, repay $34,000 in wrongly awarded contracts.
The OIOS further suggested that Bertucci, himself, might be held "personally accountable and financially liable" for any misspent funds.
But the 60-year-old Bertucci is unlikely to face those recommended penalties as the clock ticks down to his retirement by the end of July.
The report lies in limbo in the hands of Sha Zukang, the undersecretary-general for DESA and Bertucci’s boss.
"That is where it now sits," said Inga-Britt Ahlenius, undersecretary-general in charge of OIOS, in an e-mail to FOXNews.com. So long as Sha does not rule on the findings of the OIOS, investigation of the report may go unconsidered until Bertucci’s retirement.
The United Nations does not customarily pursue actions against employees who have left its service. With a little stalling, neither the requests of the Greek government nor the recommendations of the United Nations' own investigators will likely be considered.
Calls and e-mails to Sha and DESA were not returned, and questions about the status of the report and of the findings against Bertucci were not answered.
Bertucci, however, was defiant and defended his service.
"I will not resign," he told FOX News. "I’ve not resigned for these 18 months [of investigation] because I’ve done nothing wrong. ...
"All the serious charges were cleared," he added. "There was no fraud, diversions, no misappropriation — nothing."
U.N. investigators disagreed, outlining a series of violations they say Bertucci and his colleagues committed, and called on his office to make restitution to the Greek government.
It’s a payment that Greece has been seeking since 2006 and has demanded repeatedly since the founding in 1999 of the U.N. Thessaloniki Center for Public Service Professionalism in Thessaloniki, Greece.
The now-defunct UNTC was funded by Greece and administered by Bertucci's department. Its role was to promote good government in Eastern and Central Europe — a goal that none of the interested parties say was met.
The U.N. report found that Bertucci hired consultants without judging their qualifications or confirming that they performed the work they were paid to do and often failed to inform the Greek staff of the UNTC that he had hired the contractors.
One consultant, Derry Ormond, was given a "fictitious consultancy contract" for $5,025 out of the UNTC trust for unrelated work he did for DESA months before, according to the report. Bertucci and a colleague also paid Ormond $5,000 for travel expenses, "despite the fact that the travel never actually took place," the report alleged.
Another consultant, Dimce Nikolov, was given contracts for $17,587 for work entirely unrelated to the UNTC because of Nikolov’s "need to pay for his daughter’s education," U.N. investigators found.
Favoritism wasn’t the only factor determining hiring practices, investigators charged; there was alleged nepotism, too. The report claims, for example, that one consultant, Kashif Abbas, secured contracts for $13,025 at the recommendation and request of his uncle, a senior adviser for DESA.
According to the report, Abbas was recruited because of his relationship with his uncle, who told OIOS investigators "that he was not related to Mr. Abbas," though he returned to the investigators' office hours later to tell them that he was, indeed, Abbas’ uncle.
Abbas’ work was certified and he was paid even though officials never checked for "what, if any, work had been performed by Mr. Abbas under his contract," the report found.
Bertucci told FOX News he didn't know why he would be held culpable for restitutions, maintaining that he did no wrong and was the victim of a witch hunt led by the government of Greece.
"I think this is a witch hunt, a political investigation dictated by political reasons," he said. "I really believe that in these 18 months [of investigation] I’ve shown that I’m faithful to my job."
But during those months, U.N. officials said he "consistently failed to provide meaningful cooperation with the task force investigation," repeatedly delaying the issuing of their findings.
Considering the findings, Bertucci told FOX News that if any funds were misallocated it was "because of the incompetence, the sheer incompetence of the local staff" — the Greek employees of the UNTC.
He specifically named Panos Liverakos, chief technical adviser of the center from 2004 until 2005 and whom Bertucci said he fired for being "incompetent."
Liverakos, in an interview, rejected that idea and said Bertucci fired him because he "blew the whistle on him" — that is, called the alleged mismanagement of the UNTC trust and offices to the attention of the United Nations.
He accused Bertucci of using the trust money "to do favors and exchanges with people around him," and he called the trust a "slush fund" for Bertucci.
Despite the findings of the report and accusations by Liverakos, Bertucci said he had not misspent any money.
"Not one cent of the Thessaloniki Center was wasted," he said. "It was not pocketed by me — not one cent."
To back up the claim, Bertucci told FOX News he would "refute [the charges] word by word, with documents — not with innuendos or allegations."
Bertucci has yet to provide any documents, but as the end of July fast approaches and as he edges ever closer to retirement, he may soon have no need to defend himself to anyone.