PRESS CONFERENCE BY OFFICE FOR COORDINATION OF HUMANITARIAN AFFAIRS

25 April 2006

PRESS CONFERENCE BY OFFICE FOR COORDINATION OF HUMANITARIAN AFFAIRS

25 April 2006
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

PRESS CONFERENCE BY Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

 


In the post-9/11 world, more rigorous efforts were under way to separate the “bad guys from the good guys”, and the United Nations had enlisted the services of a leading provider of structured intelligence on heightened-risk individuals and businesses to help it in that process, especially when organizing and delivering humanitarian assistance in emergencies, when time was short, correspondents were told today.


Briefing on the Organization’s newest effort to put on the ground the most efficient, cost effective and most responsive humanitarian reaction possible, Kevin Kennedy, Director of the Coordination and Response Division, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said that World-Check, offered on a programmable basis, enabled United Nations agencies in the field to do a due diligence check on peoples and companies they were doing business with.  Enlisting World-Check’s services was an effort to expand the Organization’s private sector relations, its repertoire and its resources in the ongoing effort to organize and deliver an effective humanitarian response.


Mr. Kennedy explained that World-Check would be used by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and OCHA, among others in the system, to screen vendors, potential partners and business associates for known risk.  The arrangement would allow the United Nations to analyse contracting records, including those involving tsunami relief efforts, for the presence of entities at known high risk for criminal activity, such as money laundering, drug trafficking or even terrorist financing.  World-Check currently served more than 1,600 financial institutions and government agencies in 120 countries, he said.  Its clients included 43 of the world’s top  50 banks, as well as hundreds of regulatory and government agencies.


The Chief Executive Officer and Founder of World-Check, David Leppan, said it was an honour to be working with such an esteemed organization as the United Nations.  World-Check was a provider of highly structured information on persons or organizations considered to be of extremely high risk.  The service enabled users to assess an online database.  The sources were all from the public domain.  World-Check’s database, which was updated daily in real time by the company’s international research team, was derived from hundreds of thousands of public sources covering more than 240 countries and territories.  The intelligence gathered from those open sources was consolidated and organized into highly structured profiles on each and every entity.


He explained that World-Check was about mitigating risk.  It would not be possible to rule out doing business with all the “bad guys”.  The bad guys spent even more time and more energy trying to conceal their entities, and not just with the United Nations, than the United Nations and everybody else spent time proactively in reducing the risk to the extent possible.  Things could still go wrong, because the bad guys were very bright.  That did not mean that the United Nations, or anybody else, had failed in their efforts.  Before 9/11, there was an environment where very little due diligence had been carried out on anybody, and now, the “grey sheep and black sheep” in every community were being singled out.


Asked whether World-Check provided any sort of alert, Mr. Leppan explained that the company gathered what was available in the public domain in multiple languages, and then connected the dots.  World-Check provided a synopsis, provided the information, and then the United Nations decided whether or not it wished to do business with those individuals.  Clearly, there were individuals or sources from lists with which United Nations would not wish to do business, such as from sanctions or embargo lists.  At the end of the day, World-Check supplied the information, and it was very much up to the United Nations whether or not it was comfortable dealing with those individuals.


To a follow-up question, Mr. Kennedy explained that decisions as to whom to work with would be made on a case-by-case basis.  In terms of an emergency response, such as in a country where the United Nations had not worked before, he might want to do due diligence on, say, a trucking company hired under contract, to see if it was involved in any kind of questionable activity.  Given the urgency in emergency responses, that would be helpful when there was not a lot of time.


Asked about the cost to the United Nations, Mr. Kennedy said there would be no cost to the Organization, which had enlisted World-Check as part of its accountability efforts in the tsunami response, and had become exposed to it through Price Waterhouse Coopers.  So, yes, the United Nations approached World-Check, rather than the other way around, he replied to the correspondent.


As to why the United Nations had not had such a service in place before, Mr. Kennedy said he was not a procurement officer, so he did not know, but he knew such a service would enhance his ability to do due diligence.


Would there be any tension between a contract based on merit and the point raised yesterday in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) that contracts should be by region and country, and that developing nations should get more contracts from the United Nations for reconstruction work? another asked.


Mr. Kennedy replied that contracts would be based on merit and regional distribution and so forth, and all the elements on which they were formerly based, only now when he came across people by whatever means they were selected, due diligence would be performed on them.


So many people had said in the past five years of World-Check’s existence that they could not believe it had not existed before, Mr. Leppan added.  There had been sanctions lists and embargo lists, but nobody had sat down and said, “let’s put this global puzzle together”.  Now, millions of dollars were invested on an annual basis to monitor thousands upon thousands of individuals and companies.  He saluted the fact that the United Nations had now chosen World-Check to use proactively in its own efforts.


As for what was “in it” for World-Check, he said that the company had just celebrated its fifth anniversary and its staff had a passion about the work, which was putting something back into the community. 


Mr. Kennedy explained that World-Check would be used by various United Nations agencies and involved different procurement steps and procedures, in response to a question about the United Nations being under political pressure to deal with certain people.  He said, to a second part of the question, that World-Check would be a valuable step, a first port of entry.


Mr. Leppan agreed that World-Check might be used as an initial check.  It provided its sources, which might be press releases, arrest warrants, sanctions lists, and so forth.  It was a question of saving its clients’ time and money and of highlighting its findings and of pointing out who was linked to whom.  Was it the be all or end all?  No.  It could be the end of the line, but it was always the start of the due diligence process.  As to whether there were permutations, the short answer was, yes.  World-Check picked up aliases and alternative spellings, and it picked up mistakes by journalists and Governments.  Even if a name was spelled wrong, it had to include that, and then cross-reference it.


Asked why OCHA was giving the press conference and not the Procurement Division, Mr. Kennedy said that the use of World-Check had come out of the United Nations’ humanitarian response and duties and the effort to expand its repertoire.


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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.