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Secret UN report finds WIPO chief 'broke procurement rules'

Demands to view redacted document

The secret UN report into the behaviour of WIPO boss Francis Gurry has found him guilty of “conduct... inconsistent with the standards expected of a staff member of the World Intellectual Property Organisation.”

The chair of WIPO's General Assembly Colombian ambassador Gabriel Duque is still refusing to release the full report into the WIPO boss, despite urging from WIPO's staff council, several member states and the US Congress Foreign Affairs Committee.

Instead Duque has sent a redacted summary of the investigators' findings to ambassadors that found Gurry did have a case to answer over his interference with a computer procurement process and handing a contract for computer security to one of his friends.

The document, marked Strictly Confidential for Member States, seen by The Register, is an excerpt of the investigation by the Office of Internal Oversight Services. It reduces the 1,000-page probe to just three pages, with names and financial details redacted.

Investigators looked at two areas of alleged misconduct by Mr Gurry – one concerning a computer procurement process and one concerning the theft of DNA samples from staff.

They found Gurry stopped a procurement process in order to include a bid from a company run by an acquaintance of his.

After the new bids were in, Gurry told the chair of the evaluation team to base their decision purely on the technical evaluation, despite the fact that his favoured bidder was only one point better than the nearest rival but cost almost twice as much as the nearest competing bid.

OIOS investigators found that ignoring the financial aspect of the evaluation was a breach of WIPO procurement rules. The redacted report says that Gurry and the company's founder had been acquainted since 1997 – Gurry previously denied knowing him. However, investigators found no evidence that Gurry profited directly or indirectly from the deal.

Neither did investigators find evidence that Gurry had been involved in the theft of DNA samples from staff. Gurry was accused of organising the theft of personal items from the offices of senior staff by a member of his security team. The items were checked for DNA by a Swiss police laboratory in a failed attempt to find the author of anonymous letters of complaint sent to WIPO.

The report says:

Although there are strong indications that Mr Gurry had a direct interest in the outcome of the DNA analysis, there is no evidence that he was involved in the taking of the DNA samples.

Investigators also failed to find evidence that Gurry had been involved in the suppression of the subsequent investigation into the thefts or that settlement agreements reached with staff members who complained about the DNA profiling were in breach of WIPO rules

The report ends with one recommendation:

It is recommended that the Chair of the General Assembly of the World Intellectual Property Organisation consider taking the appropriate action against Mr. Francis Gurry.

Many member states have demanded access to the full report in order to decide what action should be taken. Only Iran supports the continued suppression of the findings.

The US State Department said in a statement: “We continue to reiterate the need for maximum transparency, including sharing of the report with member states.”

The department said it believes that sharing the OIOS report, even redacted to protect witnesses and others involved in the investigation, played a part in that transparency.

“Our understanding is Ambassador Duque continues to brief member states, and we look forward to hearing from Ambassador Duque regarding next steps,” the Department said.

The British Embassy in Geneva told The Reg: "We are confident that the WIPO General Assembly Chairman will take appropriate steps following the conclusion of this investigation and will brief WIPO member states in due course.”

Gurry in February was fiercely criticised by the US Congress Foreign Affairs Committee, during which a Congressman described WIPO as "the FIFA of the UN". Members were particularly shocked that Gurry organised shipments of computer equipment to both North Korea and Iran in breach of US and UN sanctions.

The committee heard claims that Gurry sent an HP Proliant DL360 G7 server, a $14,000 high-end printer, a 24TB disk array and a SonicWall firewall to North Korea. Payment for the shipment was intercepted by the Bank of America because it broke sanctions, they were told. When challenged, Gurry reportedly said WIPO was not subject to UN Security Council sanctions or US restrictions against trading with North Korea.

The committee also heard that Gurry sacked the head of the staff council after he complained about his behaviour.

The US government has withheld a percentage of WIPO's funding because of its refusal to protect whistle-blowers.

The allegations against Gurry first came to light when his deputy, James Pooley, wrote a report of complaint outlining his boss's behaviour. No action was taken, but Pooley was visited by WIPO's legal officer and a US reporter who wrote about Pooley's complaint was threatened with legal action in Switzerland. The Register later published Pooley's full report.

Mr Gurry's predecessor Kamal Idris had to step down from his post after allegedly lying about his age.

Diplomats and lawyers are increasingly frustrated at the UN's lack of action against Gurry's misconduct and the continued secrecy.

An insider said the lengthy scandal has left WIPO: “in a complete and utter state.”

WIPO and Ambassador Gabriel Duque failed to respond to emails or phone calls requesting comment. ®

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