Yellow Humvees and the UN Procurement Scandal

November 18, 2008

Kenyan blogger Juliana Rotich is the editor of Green Global Voices, which monitors citizen media in the developing world, and is a regular contributor to this page. Thomson Reuters is not responsible for the content – the views are the author’s alone. 

 The use of SUVs by UN staff in Nairobi is rankling some bloggers. They are posting pictures on their blogs, and have even created a flickr pool called ‘Kick The Habit’. The title of the set of pictures borrows from UNEP’s (United Nations Environment Program) campaign from June of this year, which encouraged ‘countries, companies and communities’ to reduce their CO2 emissions.

The blogger on Sukuma Kenya started the flickr pool in June, after he noticed that many UN vehicles in Nairobi were SUVs, and felt that the UNEP campaign did not communicate how it was reducing carbon emissions while it was asking individuals to ‘kick the CO2 habit’.

On the 27th of October, the Journalist-blogger Nick Wadhams noticed a yellow Humvee with United Nations vehicle plates. He posted a picture on his blog, noting a recent report about the United Nations procurement scandal.

Is it any surprise that Saturday’s Nation newspaper contained this item: “The United Nations office in Nairobi may have lost Sh10 billion in procurement and administrative scandals over the past three years, an internal audit report has revealed.”

Sadly, this kind of thing was a common story when I covered the U.N. Maybe all that money is going to banana yellow Humvees (the picture at top left is of a Humvee at a show in New York in 2003)

Earlier this month, Nick posted an update after confirming that the yellow Humvee seen in Kenya did belong to a UN employee.

PS: I was driving on James Gichuru Road the other day, climbing the hill as it approaches Wayaki Way, and what should I see hurtling in the opposite direction? You guessed it, the B.Y.H! I caught only the briefest of glimpses of the driver (was that you, Charles?), and considered turning around and following him. But there were two other passengers in our car, one of whom happened to be an eight-month-old baby who was angry about being 45 minutes late for a one-year birthday party. Next time, Charles! Next time!

PPS: In the spirit of full disclosure, I should note that we drive a 1989 Mitsubishi Pajero, which, to be honest, probably gets worse gas mileage than Charles’ Humvee. At the moment, there is a problem with the injector pump and it spews a lot of black smoke. Working on it!

Commenting on the post, the blogger Baba Mzungu makes the point that NGO’s often use 4x4s as they travel to remote areas, but he takes issue with the fact that the Humvee is driven by an ‘IT guy’ in Nairobi( an urban area that is hardly the beaten path).

As a representitive of an NGO who travels off the beaten track (and let’s face it, some of the beaten tracks aren’t fantastic), I can see the argument for using a 4×4. But an IT guy? In Nairobi? Driving the biggest bl00dy tank available?
Don’t think so.

The Sukuma blog posts a humorous rhyme about the UNEP campaign and continued sightings of UN 4×4 vehicles. The rhyme was penned by Ed of African Works blog.

“Isn’t it a bummer
when you buy yourself a hummer
and some prat puts you down on the net!
Global warming’s just for fairies
the science about it undoubtedly varies
and most of its apologists are wet.
So even though I work for UNEP
I am rightly proud of my rep
as an aging but highly sexed eco czar
in a oversized gas guzzling toy of a car”

The sightings of SUVs appear to be continuing, as the blogger on NairobiKoll chimes in on the Sukuma blog with a link to a picture they took recently.

For a copy of the full report on the UN procurement scandal, the blogger Kenyan pundit made the PDF available for download on her blog.

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