The U.N.won’t be qualifying for any Six Sigma awards any time soon, according to this New York Times report (Registration required):

March 11 – Embarrassed officials disclosed Thursday that the United Nations was unknowingly holding an airplane black box shipped here from Africa after the 1994 crash that killed the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi and set off the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Rwandans.

Secretary General Kofi Annan’s spokesman, Fred Eckhard, who earlier this week had denied knowledge of the box, said Thursday that a search provoked by journalists’ questions had turned it up in a locked file drawer in the office of the United Nations’ air safety coordinator, across the street from headquarters.

Mr. Eckhard said diary entries showed that the officials who received the black box a few months after the crash concluded from the recorder’s “pristine condition” that it could not have been in the wreck. He said it had never been opened nor had its tape been played.

He said that it was being given to outside experts to determine whether it was the black box from the 1994 wreck and that Mr. Annan had ordered the United Nations inspector general to investigate how it had gone unaccounted for. “The secretary general wants to know exactly what went on 10 years ago that this matter wasn’t reported up the chain,” Mr. Eckhard said.

Mr. Annan, speaking to reporters after his monthly lunch with Security Council members, said he was “incredulous,” and called the situation “a real foul-up, a first-class foul-up.”More like standard operating procedure at the U.N. Only 800,000 or so Rwandans were killed in a 100 day wave of terror following the mysterious crash, which apparently was not enough to overcome the inertial bureaucracy of the U.N..

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