By NILES LATHEM -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan March 20, 2004 -- WASHINGTON - U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan reversed himself yesterday and said an outside investigation was needed into the mushrooming Iraq oil-for-food bribery scandal, conceding it is "highly possible there has been quite a lot of wrongdoing." Annan's announcement came the day after congressional investigators reported that Saddam Hussein had stolen an estimated $10.1 billion from the U.N.-run program. Bowing to pressure from Iraq's new government and Capitol Hill, Annan admitted the internal U.N. probe of widespread corruption he ordered this week would not be enough to restore the world body's shattered credibility. "I think we will need to have an independent investigation and an investigation that can be as broad as possible to look into all these allegations which have been made and get to the bottom of this, because I don't think we need to have our reputation impugned," Annan told reporters. "It is highly possible there has been quite a lot of wrongdoing." Annan's announcement came as the House International Relations Committee and the House national security subcommittee announced they will hold hearings on the scandal next month. "This is a pretty outrageous circumstance . . . Saddam was getting payoffs at both ends, you have people and companies who were willingly going along and allowing Saddam to clean up at the expense of his own people," Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.), the chairman of the security subcommittee, told The Post. "We are talking billions of dollars here and we need to make sure something like this will never happen again." The oil-for-food program was set up in 1996 to allow Saddam's government to sell enough oil to purchase food, medicine and other humanitarian goods for the Iraqi people during a time when world sanctions were in place. Profits from the oil sales were placed in a giant escrow account in the French bank BNP-Paribas. The General Accounting Office reported Thursday that Saddam stole a staggering $10.1 billion through a series of scams that included oil smuggling and imposing surcharges on oil sales and demanding kickbacks of 10 percent from suppliers of food and medicine. So pervasive was the corruption that Iraq was knowingly spending millions of dollars on rotten food and outdated medicines just to get the kickbacks, according to information obtained by the Iraqi Governing Council from meticulous records kept by Saddam's henchmen. The Iraqi Governing Council has also unearthed thousands of documents indicating that Saddam created a giant $2 billion influence-peddling scheme within the U.N.-run program, in which he gave out sweetheart middleman oil contracts to 270 sympathetic international politicians in as many as 15 countries. Link 10 Billion dollars in fraud from the UN. The US contributes something like 25% of the moneys that fund the UN. It will probably take years to sort out where all the money went, but I sure it goes well beyond Iraq. In fact I believe most the of the money was transferred through a French bank, hmmmm.