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UN Chooses US State Department Official to Oversee Management Reforms


The United Nations has unveiled a sweeping management reform package designed to improve accountability and ethical conduct following a series of scandals. A top Bush administration finance and management specialist has been named to head the reform effort.

Three months ago, President Bush named Christopher Burnham acting Undersecretary of State for Management. Tuesday, Secretary-General Kofi Annan snatched Mr. Burnham away, appointing him U.N. Undersecretary-General for Management.

Mr. Burnham is a former Connecticut state treasurer and Republican member of the state legislature. He also served as the State Department's chief financial officer and assistant secretary for resource management.

Mr. Burnham moves to the United Nations at a time when the organization is reeling from scandals that have led some Republican lawmakers to call for Mr. Annan's resignation.

The 49-year old finance and management expert will be charged with instituting a vast reform program unveiled at the same time his appointment was announced.

Making the announcement, Deputy U.N. Secretary-General Louise Frechette acknowledged the scandals have exposed flaws in the way the world body does business. Part of the problem, she said, is that the United Nations has evolved from an international conference center into a massive agency with tens of thousands of employees and 75,000 peacekeeping troops spread across the globe.

"We have moved from being an organization that is basically a conference support organization with a very static workforce and slow change to an organization that has acquired enormous responsibilities in the field,” she said. “We now have more people in the field than we have at headquarters. We are asked to take on, on short notice, many complex mandates and our systems just have not kept up with this new reality.

Ms. Frechette admitted the reforms are partly a response to allegations of corruption in the U.N.-run oil-for-food program and sexual abuse by peacekeeping troops. But she rejected a reporter's suggestion that the reforms might have prevented the oil-for-food scandal.

"There are many features of oil-for-food that are quite exceptional,” she explained. “They don't recur in our regular activities, so I'm not sure that all of the issues that are coming out with the oil-for-food program would have been resolved by them."

Ms. Frechette, a Canadian, said she would head a new Management Performance Board to monitor the work of senior U.N. managers. She stressed that the reforms being instituted over the next few months would not be the last.

Mr. Burnham will take over his new U.N. post June 1.

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