FAO "Samba singer" hire sparks ILO probe

Cover of Telma Viale's CD reconvexo

ROME -- ILO officials are investigating FAO consultant Telma Viale for a possible conflict of interests for apparently working for both agencies, ILO sources say.

"Ms Viale is still being paid by the International Labour Organisation as a consultant, meaning she shouldn't be working on contract for the FAO at the same time," said a senior ILO source. "We are investigating to determine whether there is a conflict of interest," the Geneva-based source told Italian Insider. "Obviously we expect FAO to cover up for this." 

 The Salvadorean Viale, aged 51, raised eyebrows at FAO with a you-tube video clip advertisement for a samba music CD she has made in which she apparently strips to the buff. Ms Viale is one of a constellation of consultants hired by FAO's new director general, José Graziano da SIlva, since he took office at the start of this year at the Rome-based famine-fighting agency. OECD countries have complained that the hirings, many of them at high salaries of as much as dlrs 20,000 a month, are unjustified, particularly in the wake of the tragic death of a Japanese staffer in Cairo in March, which raised questions over whether existing staff are undervalued.

Viale is seen as a potential head of human resources at the FAO. The probe into a possible conflict of interest was sure to be controversial as the FAO prepares to welcome heads of Government and state to Rome to attend the annual World Food Day jamboree, FAO watchers said.

 Australia recently cautioned that it will withdraw its funding for FAO if the reform programme initiated in 2007 is not adhered to more strictly by the troubled agency. jp

A publicity photo for Ms Viale
Telma Viale in performance