The Oil-for-Food Programme, established by the United Nations in 1995 (under UN Security Council Resolution 986) and terminated in late 2003, was intended to allow Iraq to sell oil on the world market in exchange for food, medicine, and other humanitarian needs for ordinary Iraqi citizens without allowing Iraq to rebuild its military.
The programme was introduced by United States President Bill Clinton's administration in 1995, as a response to arguments that ordinary Iraqi citizens were inordinately affected by the international economic sanctions aimed at the demilitarisation of Saddam Hussein's Iraq, imposed in the wake of the first Gulf War. The sanctions were discontinued on November 21, 2003 after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and the humanitarian functions turned over to the Coalition Provisional Authority.
the scandel -
The scheme is alleged to have worked thusly: individuals and organizations sympathetic to the Iraqi regime, or those just easily bribed, were offered oil contracts through the Oil-for-Food Programme. These contracts for Iraqi oil could then be sold on the open world market and the seller was allowed to keep a transaction fee, said to be between $0.15 and $0.50/barrel (0.94 and 3.14 $/m³) of oil sold. The seller was then to refund the Iraqi government a certain percentage of the commission.
Contracts to sell Iraq humanitarian goods through the Oil-for-Food Programme were given to companies and individuals based on their willingness to kick back a certain percentage of the contract profits to the Iraqi regime. Companies that sold commodities via the Oil-for-Food Programme were overcharging by up to 10%, with part of the overcharged amount being diverted into private bank accounts for Saddam Hussein and other regime officials and the other part being kept by the supplier.
The involvement of the UN itself in the scandal began in February 2004 after the name of Benon Sevan, executive director of the Oil-for-Food Programme, appeared on the Iraqi Oil Ministry's documents. Sevan allegedly was given vouchers for at least 11,000,000 barrels (1,700,000 m³) of oil, worth some $3.5 million. Sevan has denied the charges.
In addition to criticism of the basic approach, the programme suffered from widespread corruption and abuse. Throughout its existence, the programme was dogged by accusations that some of its profits were unlawfully diverted to the government of Iraq and to UN officials. These accusations were made in many countries, including the US and Norway. 
Benon Sevan of Cyprus, who headed the programme, defended it, claiming that it had only a 2.2% administrative cost and that it was subject to more than 100 audits (internal and external), blaming restrictions from the Security Council for making the situation difficult. He also claimed that 90% of Iraq's population relied on the programme for its monthly food basket. While Benon Sevan was in charge of the programme, he stonewalled efforts to review and investigate the programme.  He ordered his staff that complaints about illegal payoffs should be formally filed with the whistleblower's country, making them public and allowing Iraq to bar any whistleblowers. In 2000, Dileep Nair, the UN corruption watchdog, wanted to determine the programme's level of vulnerability. Sevan, along with UN Deputy Secretary-General Louise Frechette, rejected any such investigation, claiming that it would be too expensive to be worthwhile. Sevan ordered the shredding of years' worth of documents concerning the programme.
In response to these criticisms, and to evidence acquired after the United States invasion of Iraq, UN Secretary-General ] accusations were made that skimmed profits were being used to buy influence at the UN and with Kofi Annan himself.
According to an interim report released on February 3, 2005 by former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker's commission (see Investigations below), much of the food aid supplied under the programme "was unfit for human consumption". The report concluded that Sevan had accepted nearly $150,000 in bribes over the course of the programme, and in 2005 he was suspended from his position at the United Nations as a result of the investigation of fraud in the programme. 
Peter van Walsum, the now-retired Ambassador of the Netherlands to the United Nations and chairman of the Iraq sanctions committee from 1999 to 2000, speculated in a recent book that Iraq deliberately divided the Security Council by awarding contracts to France, Russia, and China but not to the United Kingdom and the United States. He also stated he encountered a number of cases in which he felt the lack of Iraqi cooperation was designed to exacerbate the suffering of its own people. He also claimed that it was his opinion that the sanctions were not an effective deterrent.
Until 2001, the money for the Oil-for-Food Programme transited through the BNP Paribas bank, whose main private share-holder is Iraqi-born Nadhmi Auchi, a man estimated to be worth about $1 billion according to Forbes, and ranks 13th in Britain according to The Guardian. Auchi received a 15-month suspended sentence for his involvement in the Elf scandal, which has been qualified by the British newspaper as "the biggest fraud inquiry in Europe since the Second World War. Elf became a private bank for its executives who spent £200 million on political favours, mistresses, jewellery, fine art, villas and apartments". Elf, an oil company, merged with TotalFina to become Total S.A. in 2003.
al Mada list
One of the earliest allegations of wrongdoing in the programme surfaced on 25 January 2004, when al Mada, a daily newspaper in Iraq, published a list of individuals and organizations alleged to have received oil sales contracts via the UN's Oil-for-Food Programme. The list came from over 15,000 documents which were reportedly found in the state-owned Iraqi oil corporation, which had close links to the Iraqi Oil Ministry.
Named in the list of beneficiaries were British MP George Galloway and his charity, the Mariam Fund; former French Interior Minister Charles Pasqua; and Shaker al-Kaffaji, an Iraqi-American businessman who contributed US$400,000 to produce a film by ex-UN inspector Scott Ritter discrediting the weapons searches. India's foreign minister was removed from office because of his role in the scandal. Many prominent Russian firms and individuals were also included on the al Mada list. Even the Russian Orthodox Church was supposedly involved in illegal oil trading. The former assistant to the Vatican secretary of state, Reverend Jean-Marie Benjamin, is said to have received rights to sell 4.5 million barrels (720,000 m³). George Galloway subsequently won two libel actions against the Christian Science Monitor and Daily Telegraph, which reported the allegations.
The president of Oilexco Ltd, Arthur Millholland, whose name also appeared on the al Mada, list denied any wrongdoing, but confirms the charges that illegal surcharges were being paid to the Iraqi government by contractors.  However, the al Mada list does not discuss bribes paid to Iraq - it discusses bribes paid to individuals so that they would support Iraq. Few deny that in Iraq, like in many third-world countries, bribes and kickbacks were regularly paid to the leadership in order to get contracts, but some suggest that kickbacks would normally not occur in such countries when a UN-run programme was involved.
After the 2003 Invasion of Iraq and subsequent Coalition victory over the Iraqi army, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) was given the task of finalizing all Oil-for-Food related supply contracts made with the now-defunct regime as well as tracking down the personal fortunes of former regime members.  During the execution of this task, the GAO found weaknesses in the programme that allowed kickbacks and other sources of wealth for Saddam Hussein.
The GAO estimates that the Saddam Hussein regime generated $10.1 billion in illegal revenues. This figure includes $5.7 billion from oil smuggling and $4.4 billion in illicit surcharges on oil sales and after-sales charges on suppliers. The scale of the fraud was far more extensive than the GAO had previously estimated. A U.S. Department of Defense study, cited by the GAO, evaluated 759 contracts administered through the Oil-for-Food Programme and found that nearly half had been overpriced, by an average of 21 percent . Unlike the 661 committee, members of the Security Council had the authority to launch investigations into contracts and to stop any contract they did not like. The British and the Americans had turned down hundreds of Oil-for-Food contract requests, but these were blocked primarily on the grounds that the items being imported were dual-use technologies.
To quote the GAO report, in its summary:
- Both the U.N. Secretary General, through the Office of the Iraqi Programme (OIP) and the Security Council, through its sanctions committee for Iraq, were responsible for overseeing the Oil-for-Food Programme. However, the Iraqi government negotiated contracts directly with purchasers of Iraqi oil and suppliers of commodities, which may have been one important factor that allowed Iraq to levy illegal surcharges and commissions.
Joseph A. Christoff, director of international affairs and trade at the General Accounting Office, told a House hearing that UN auditors had refused to release the internal audits of the Oil-for-Food Programme . Benon Sevan, with support from Kofi Annan, had written letters to all former Oil-for-Food contractors asking them to consult Sevan before releasing any documents to GAO or US congressional inquiry panels . Throughout its history, the programme had received both complaints from critics saying that it needed to be more open and complaints from companies about proprietary information being disclosed.
The United Nations has denied all requests by the GAO for access to confidential internal audits of the Oil-for-Food Programme.
While attempting to determine the complexity of the Oil-for-Food Programme for an article in the New York Times, investigative journalist Claudia Rosett of the Foundation for the Defence of Democracies and the Hudson Institute discovered that the UN treated details such as the identities of Oil-for-Food contractors; the price, quantity and quality of goods involved in the relief deals; and the identities of the oil buyers and the precise quantities that they received as confidential. The bank statements, the interest paid, and the transactions were all secret as well.  Rosett has come under harsh criticism from Denis Halliday  and Benon Sevan , who have claimed that many of Rosett's claims (such as Oil-for-Food funding the approval of an Olympic stadium, and where responsibility for various issues lay according to the UN resolutions) were incorrect.
The US House Committee on International Relations investigated the Oil-for-Food Programme and discovered that money was provided by Sabah Yassen, the former Iraqi ambassador to Jordan, to pay the families of Palestinian suicide bombers between $15,000 to $25,000. From September 2000 until the invasion of Iraq, the families of Palestinians killed or wounded in the conflict with Israel (including 117 responsible for suicide bombings in Israel) received over $35 million. It is alleged that this money came from the UN Oil-for-Food Programme.
in my humble opinion Iraq (and the UN) had it coming. . . americans are worried about our reputation? and the Bush has ruined it? that's like calling elliot ness a criminal. . . france, china, russia were all involved.. . . france has become a better ally, but the other nations are terrible. . . . Bush will be remembered like Elliot Ness, he took down the big bad guy, period.