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UN steps up defense of secretary-general

By Evan Buxbaum and Gabriella Casanas, CNN
A departing U.N. official wrote the agency was "drifting into irrelevance" under Ban Ki-Moon's supervision.
A departing U.N. official wrote the agency was "drifting into irrelevance" under Ban Ki-Moon's supervision.
  • High-level U.N. staffers speak out in defense of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
  • An outgoing U.N. official criticized Ban in a 50-page report leaked to media
  • The leaked report says the U.N. is "difting into irrelevance" under Ban
  • U.N. officials say the report was meant to be a confidential "end-of-service" letter

United Nations (CNN) -- The United Nations stepped up its defense Thursday of its beleaguered boss with high-level staffers speaking out in support of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Martin Nesirky, Ban's spokesperson, said that the secretary-general felt "a trust, a bond, had been broken" over the comments contained in a leaked 50-page report by the departing senior U.N. official in charge of anti-corruption, Inga-Britt Ahlenius.

Through his spokesperson, Ban explained how the "end-of-service" letter is "supposed to be a management tool that is meant to allow all senior advisers to learn from the frank thinking and advice of a departing senior manager," Nesirky said.

Nesirky quoted Ban as saying, "regrettably... the report was leaked."

A senior U.N. official briefed journalists Thursday afternoon, saying Ahlenius "lacks perception." The diplomat highlighted Ban's leadership on matters such as climate change and gender empowerment, which Ahlenius failed to acknowledge in her report.

After serving out her five-year term, Ahlenius left her post at the U.N.'s Office of Internal Oversight Services in mid-July. She sent a shock wave throughout the U.N. with a correspondence to her boss admonishing the secretary-general for his "absence of strategic guidance and leadership."

She continued to pepper Ban with harsh critiques in the leaked document, saying the U.N. was "drifting into irrelevance" because under Ban's supervision, the secretary-general's office is in a "process of decay."

"There is no transparency, there is lack of accountability. ... I do not see any signs of reform in the organization," she wrote.

The letter was leaked to the Washington Post, which posted a three-page summation from Ahlenius on its website along with a responding letter from Vijay Nambiar, Ban's chief of staff.

When Ban came into office he promised that "transparency and accountability would be the cornerstone of his tenure," wrote Nambiar in reply to Ahlenius.

After nearly a week of controversy, the U.N. brought two human resources staff members to speak to reporters via video-conference from London on Thursday to help ease concerns about Ban's ability to do his job.

Catherine Pollard, assistant secretary-general for human resources management, and Angela Kane, under-secretary-general for management , described Ahlenius' letter as an inaccurate personal attack, full of omissions about the secretary-general.

While Pollard and Kane didn't discuss whether Ahlenius considered herself to be a "whistleblower," they did express concern over the way her 50-page confidential letter was handled.

Ban's deputies are currently reviewing Ahlenius' report, Nesirky said Thursday.

The Office of Internal Overnsight Services had no comment on Wednesday following the revelations contained in the memo from their former administrator.

According to Nesirky, Ban "did not expect his senior advisers would always agree with him, and that's the beauty of the United Nations."

"He said that's why he always welcomed constructive criticism," Nesirky said of the secretary-general. "But as public servants there are rules and procedures."