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The U.N. agency that oversees intellectual property rights has assigned an independent external auditor to investigate its books following allegations of irregularities, officials said Thursday. “In order to respond to the allegations concerning the World Intellectual Property Organization, the director-general has decided that an independent review be undertaken,” Philippe Petit, a deputy of WIPO Director-General Kamil Idris, told the general assembly of WIPO’s 183 member states on Wednesday. WIPO has been involved in allegations of mismanagement and bribery, the latest of which concern the award of a contract for a building project at WIPO’s headquarters in Geneva. The allegations center on Michael Wilson, a Ghanaian businessman and former vice president of Cotecna, a Swiss company mentioned in the investigation into the United Nations’ oil-for-food scandal. Other allegations of mismanagement have been raised this year by media. The Geneva-based daily Le Temps has accused WIPO of wasting over 100 million Swiss francs (US$77 million; euro64.5 million) between 1998 and 2003 on two computer projects that were later discreetly abandoned. Other accusations have surfaced over the financing of a swimming pool on Idris’ property. “Our goal is to find out if there is anything to the allegations,” said Jon Dudas, the U.S. undersecretary of commerce for intellectual property and director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. “What we are about is making sure that WIPO and other U.N. organizations are as effective as they can possibly be. “If there is a finding of fraud or anything like that, the member states will have to determine what to do then,” said Dudas, who attended the assembly’s meeting. WIPO’s general assembly also decided to create an internal audit committee to ensure the agency is properly run and help implement findings by the United Nation’s inspection units. In addition, WIPO will set up a permanent internal audit division with a professional auditor to improve internal management, the agency said in a statement. WIPO’s auditing moves come six months after the U.S. and other governments called for a full investigation by the organization in a meeting with Idris. Petit said the external review would be supervised by the Swiss Federal Audit Office, which will assign an external company to carry out the review. Earlier this year, the U.N. Joint Inspection Unit, the United Nations’ internal inspection unit, raised questions about some financial and management practices at WIPO and told the agency to make a “comprehensive reassessment of the full range of human resources policies and practices.” Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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