WIPO Group On DG At Impasse As Idris Defence Challenged 28/09/2007 by William New, Intellectual Property Watch 1 Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)A special panel of member states of the World Intellectual Property Organization appears to have reached impasse on its mandate this week of examining reports on possible wrongdoing involving the WIPO director general. The group, formed after key members called for the WIPO head to step down, has been working in an atmosphere of accusations and counterclaims coming from all sides. A WIPO paper defending Director General Kamil Idris circulated on the first day of the assembly, 24 September, stated to be from the “WIPO Secretariat” on Monday generated outrage from independent UN investigatory arms that claim that assertions made in the WIPO paper are untrue and possibly defamatory (IPW, WIPO, 24 September 2007). The WIPO paper is available here. In 2006, Idris moved to correct his recorded birth date at WIPO from 1945 to 1954, more than two decades after joining the organisation and climbing the ranks. The WIPO paper took aim at a confidential report by the internal auditor that found a pattern of decades of misrepresentation of his age by the director general, which may have helped him to obtain higher positions in the organisation, according to a copy obtained of the report (IPW, WIPO, 20 February 2007). Participants in the Friends of the Chair group may report back to the assembly that it could not reach agreement on a report. Questions remain as to what that would mean for the disputed assembly agenda item 12 which called for a discussion of the confidential auditor’s report. A representative of the African Group, which has been defending Idris (who is originally from Sudan), said it might be limited to a discussion on procedure. The African Group member said the group is seeking to have the issue moved to the WIPO Audit Committee, possibly with a timeframe for addressing it and reporting back to the chair. But no agreement could be reached on this approach. WIPO is trying to keep the confidential report from being disseminated. For instance, it ordered a copy of the report removed from the Intellectual Property Watch website when it was posted earlier this year (IPW, WIPO, 1 March 2007). In the WIPO paper, it also criticised Fox News, a conservative US news outlet, for having left the report as a link in a news story posted to the Internet around the same time. A WIPO official made a case on 28 September in the Intellectual Property Watch Inside Views column that the report may be illegal. JIU, Internal Auditor Attack WIPO Defence The United Nations Joint Inspection Unit (JIU), which initiated the report on Idris’ age, issued a letter to member states from Chairperson Deborah Wynes, available here, on 25 September defending its actions and asserting that the WIPO paper contained “serious errors.” The JIU confirmed that there is a “seemingly turbulent JIU/WIPO relationship,” which it would like to change for the better. “The inspectors of the Joint Inspection Unit take their obligations to discharge their duties in a fully independent manner, with the highest standards of integrity and in the sole interest of the organisations very, very seriously,” it wrote. “No staff member or official of any organisation, including the JIU, is exempt from upholding these standards.” “This is even more so important at the highest level of an organisation for the tone is set at the top and is set by example,” it added. Several of the claims which it countered involved the dissemination of documents by the JIU. Another point countered by the JIU was that a 2005 report it did on possible mismanagement at WIPO (and which found a variety of problems) made no reference to fraud in the organisation, implying that there was none. But the inspectors note that it was stated in their report that the alleged fraud unearthed earlier in Idris’ term relating to WIPO building contracts was not reviewed in their report. The JIU said it regretted that the WIPO document was distributed on the assembly’s first day, and that it was not made available to the JIU in advance “to correct the serious errors contained therein or to member states so they could take an informed decision on the matter.” “We cannot help but conclude that the document is designed to deflect attention away from the real and substantive issues at hand by attempting to focus on procedures and process,” it said. “This is unfortunate.” Even more strongly worded was the response of the internal auditor who conducted the confidential report, which found among other things evidence that Idris repeatedly signed documents with the wrong age, including visa documents for travel to the United States. The response came in a private email to WIPO Legal Counsel Edward Kwakwa and cc’d to the top officials at WIPO, and obtained by Intellectual Property Watch. Referring to paragraphs in the WIPO paper that questioned his work, the internal auditor said, “As you are aware, the above mentioned paragraphs do not objectively reflect the facts, represent an explicit attack to my integrity, reputation and professionalism and constitute a clear case of defamation, calumniation and retaliation.” “In addition, those paragraphs amount to a clear attempt to undermine the credibility, independence, impartiality and authority of the Internal Audit function enshrined in the Internal Audit Charter approved by the member states of WIPO.” The auditor claimed he followed all official procedures, which he said is well documented. He said the WIPO paper was issued “without due regard for the legal rights of the staff member” and threatened a possible lawsuit. According to sources, the WIPO Staff Association this week also made a statement to the closed-door assembly that may have been vetted through Idris’ office first, but which apparently took issue with the treatment of the internal auditor, who has moved but is a WIPO staffer. The internal auditor’s email received a reply from Kwakwa, who said that the WIPO paper was not issued by him and was not his responsibility. Other Concerns Arising This week, some are discussing related legal cases within the UN system that might have bearing on Idris’ case, such as International Labour Organization Tribunal Case Number 2602, in which an official was dismissed for falsification of employment documents. Other allegations and concerns are circulating around WIPO as well. Among them are concerns about family members of Idris supporters receiving positions within the organisation, pictures of a swimming pool (suspected of being built using WIPO resources) at Idris’ chateau despite the WIPO paper’s claims that it is non-existent, and a real estate website, www.derham.ch, ostensibly showing Idris’ chateau in Genthod-Bellevue now for sale for CHF16 million. A Geneva canton website shows Idris purchased it for CHF1.9 million in 1998. Friends of the Chair group Formation of the special group on Idris drew significant debate, sources said, but was finally set up to include the chair of the assembly who is the Nigerian ambassador, the vice-chair of the assembly, and two members from each regional group: Algeria and South Africa (African), Italy and Switzerland (Group B developed countries), Poland and Slovenia (Central European and Baltic States), Kyrgyzstan and Russia (Eastern European and Central Asian), Pakistan and South Korea (Asian), Brazil and Chile (Latin America and Caribbean) and China (its own group at WIPO). 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