"There are hard lessons for all of us to learn," Annan said in response to a report that found mismanagement and corruption in the $64 billion program even though he was cleared of personal wrongdoing.
An independent commission headed by former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker found "wholesale corruption" among private companies manipulated by Saddam Hussein's government, including one that employed Annan's son, Kojo.
"I was not diligent or effective enough in pursuing an investigation after the fact, when I learned that the company which employed my son had won the humanitarian inspection contract," Annan said. "I deeply regret that."
Annan said the report underscores the vital importance of management reforms to be considered at next week's 2005 General Assembly in New York, which he said would reduce political pressure from member states and give the secretary-general more freedom to act without prior approval.