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UN Pension Fund's Investment Director Has Resigned, Sources Say, Recusal and Revolving Door Remains Unresolved

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN

UNITED NATIONS, February 7 -- In the midst of controversy about proposals to outsource the money-management of a portion of the UN Joint Staff Pension Fund, Inner City Press has been informed by well-placed sources that the director of the Fund's Investment Management Service, Chieko Okuda, has resigned.

            Ms. Okuda has resigned, these sources say, and yet remains on the job, as a still-withheld Request for Proposals is circulated to an undisclosed short-list of bidders to take over management of the North American equities portion of the Fund. Questions that arise include whether there is any possibility of Ms. Okuda going to work at the investment firm, if any, deemed the competition's winner, and even whether Ms. Okuda should play any role in the selection process, given that she is, as one source puts it, "in play," and looking for a job outside of the UN, in the financial field.

   With the UNJSPF still refusing to release either the Request for Proposals or the short-list of bidders, any outside review of conflicts of interest is rendered impossible, perhaps intentionally. Given the detailed picture of conflicts of interest within UNJSPF painted in an until-recently-confidential investigative report by the UN's Office of Internal Oversight Services, and the failure to have acted on this conflicts and OIOS recommendations, serious questions have arisen about UNJSPF's withholding of information.

            On Monday, Inner City Press asked UN Controller Warren Sach for a copy of the Request for Proposals, and was referred to Ms. Okuda. A telephone call to Ms. Okuda's number on Monday has still not resulted in obtaining the RFP, nor the requested list of bidders.

            Needing answers, at Wednesday's noon briefing by the Spokesperson for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Inner City Press asked for the Secretariat's position, and about the until-this-week confidential OIOS "Investigation of conflict of interest, favoritism and mismanagement at the UN Joint Staff Pension Fund." This report among other things details how through the Pension Fund's Paul Dooley, millions of dollars in contacts were given to a company called Sprig, Ltd, run by Gerald Bodell, who was previously Dooley's supervisor at New York Guardian Mortgage Corporation.  "Sprig received an additional seven ICA contracts from UNJSPF, for a total of nine contracts without competitive bidding."

            Recommendations 1 and 2 of the OIOS investigative report directs that "appropriate action be taken regarding Ms. Bull" and Mr. Dooley.  As confirmed Tuesday by Inner City Press, both remains working for the UN, despite the OIOS' findings and recommendations. Both Dulcie Bull -- regarding whom "action" was recommended by OIOS -- and current Pension Fund CEO Mr. Cocheme played their roles: "Ms. Bull and Mr. Cocheme both recommended approval of the contract... and Mr. Bahel signed on behalf of the UN." Regarding Mr. Cocheme, and others named in the OIOS report, there will be more detailed accounts shortly. For now we can report that there is no love lost between Ms. Okuda and Mr. Cocheme, and that it is Mr. Cocheme, in the first instance, who stands to have to answer for the lack of action on OIOS' findings as to Mr. Dooley and Ms. Bull.

Bernard Cocheme, CEO of UN Pension Fund

   It should also be noted that much of the current opposition to the outsourcing plan dates back to a switch in the last UN administration, attributed Mark Malloch Brown and the Under Secretary General for Management, toward outsourcing and privatization.

            Further back, the Fund's lack of transparency springs from its status as an inter-agency body, which has been allowed by, among others, the Office of Legal Affairs and Jan Beagle of OHRM to veer from Secretariat rules. As the OIOS report puts it, "as an inter-agency entity, the UNJSPF is not bound to follow the specific regulations and rule of any of its member organizations in any area, including the application of financial regulations and rules." It also bear remembering that the OIOS report does not even purport to have investigated and addressed all the issues raised: many were simply "referred" to OHRM, that is, to Jan Beagle, regarding whom the Staff Council has passed a vote of no-confidence. It has previously been requested that Ms. Beagle come to a press briefing, to discuss a variety of issues. Many staff now say they'll take measure of forty-day Secretary General Ban Ki-moon by how he addresses this pension outsource question.

            From Wednesday's noon briefing transcript:

Inner City Press: On the Pension Fund, in the last couple of days, thereís been a lot of action.  Thereís a meeting today of the Staff Union to endorse the Staff Council resolution that was passed, which, among other things, calls on the Secretary-General to, as a fiduciary of the Pension Fund, to at least stall, if not stop, the outsourcing of management of parts of the pension.  So, Iím wondering, one, if the Secretary-General is aware of that Staff Council resolution, has any response to it?  And also, there seems to be an OIOS audit, which names individuals that still work for the Pension Fund actually, that was recommended that action be taken.  We understand that Burnham, Chris Burnham, before he left asked that the action be taken.  I donít know if Ms. Barcena has followed-up on that?  Whatís going to happen with that?  So, Iím sorryÖ thereís two different questions:  overall, what the Secretary-General is going to do about outsourcing the pension; and number two, is there any follow-up to the OIOS investigation?

Spokesperson:  Well, an answer to your question is contained in the briefing given to staff on the Pension Fund on Tuesday by Mr. Warren Sach, the Controller.  This is on 'ISeek,' and you can have all the information you want on this.  All the information you ask me for, itís there, itís public.

Inner City Press: I guess, after that meeting, the Staff Union is now voting to take an additional step, so thatís why Iím, youíre just saying the Secretary-General stands behind the outsourcing?

Spokesperson:  Well, so far, no.  Iím not saying this.  Iím saying that you had information on it given by the Controller, and the Secretary-General has not reacted yet, nor has Ms. Barcena, who, as I said earlier this week, is coming back from her trip to Nairobi.  And she should be coming to speak to you when she gets back.  She has accepted to come and respond to your questions.

            While awaiting the promised opportunity to question Ms. Barcena on a variety of matters, it is worth noting that while the previous Under Secretary General for Management served as S-G's representative for the Pension Fund, his successor Ms. Barcena has not for now taken the post, leaving it to an arguably conflicted Warren Sach, who is also in charge of procurement. The above-quoted OIOS report makes much of the "principle of segregation of responsibilities between requisitioning and procurement." It is also unclear if the post-employment restrictions, weakened and announced in the final work week of the Kofi Annan Secretariat apply to Ms. Okuda.

            Following Wednesday's noon briefing, Inner City Press followed the spokesperson's advice and checked Mr. Sach's presentation on the UN's iSeek computer system. (This system is not available outside of the UN, and so cannot be linked-to here.) The presentation still does not answer the question of how large a fee would be paid, and makes no mention of the question made about the ACABQ recommendation to undertake a comprehensive asset-liability management study (A/61/545, paragraph 17 (c)). On Monday, Sachs responded vaguely that the ACABQ only made recommendations, that the ACABQ had "no expertise" on the subject, that the asset-liability management study would not eventually help to take a decision on the matter, and that the General Assembly had rejected it.

            As some noted at the time, this last is not entirely correct. The General Assembly in section VIII, paragraph 3 of its resolution 61/240 (draft A/C.5/61/L.29) "stresse[d] the need for a comprehensive asset-liability management study...".  The Secretariat, or at least those within now pushing for outsourcing, may argue that "stressing the need" is not binding for management, but it seems clear in context that the General Assembly did not reject the idea.

            Due to the lack of answers elsewhere, and the Secretariat's gloss on the General Assembly position, on Wednesday Inner City Press also asked the Special Assistant to the Spokesman for the GA President, Frehiwot Bekele, the following:

Inner City Press:  Something a little different: the Staff Pension Fund reports to the GA, is a creature of the GA in relationship to it.  So, Iím wondering, thereís been an OIOS investigative report that has been titled 'Conflict of Interest, Favoritism and Mismanagement in the UN Staff Pension Fund.'  Iím wondering if this was ever turned over to the GA, and if the GA has taken action on it.

Special Assistant:  Iím not aware.  I can try to find out.

Inner City Press:  Iíd appreciate that. 

            To be continued.

Feedback: Editorial [at] innercitypress.com

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At the UN Pension Fund, Those Investigated Remain Firmly in Their Jobs, As Outsourcing Proceeds

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, February 6 --  Two individuals against whom action was recommended last year by the UN's Office of Internal Oversight Services remain working at the UN Joint Staff Pension Fund, part of a move to outsource management of a portion of the Fund, Inner City Press has found.

            A day after UN Controller Warren Sach took questions from UN staff and the press about this proposed outsourcing to an as-yet-unnamed investment bank, another pension workshop was given at UN headquarters, this time by Dulcie C. Bull, chief of Operations for the Pension Fund. An until-yesterday confidential "Investigation of conflict of interest, favoritism and mismanagement at the UN Joint Staff Pension Fund" describes how through the Pension Fund's Paul Dooley, millions of dollars in contacts were given to a company called Sprig, Ltd, run by Gerald Bodell, who was previously Dooley's supervisor at Guardian Mortgage Corporation. 

   Recommendations 1 and 2 of the OIOS investigative report directs that "appropriate action be taken regarding Ms. Bull" and Mr. Dooley.  As confirmed Tuesday by Inner City Press, both remain working for the UN, despite the OIOS' findings and recommendations. Both Dulcie Bull -- regarding whom "action" was recommended by OIOS -- and Mr. Cocheme played their roles. According to the OIOS:

"Mr. Dooley recommended to Ms. Dulcie Bull, the Chief of Operations at the UNJSPF and Mr. Dooley's direct supervisor, that the UNJSPF hire an accounting consultant... He advised her that he had 'identified a contractor with experience' to undertake the necessary work and recommended that the UNJSPF enter into a five-money contract with Sprig... The award of these contracts was authorized by Mr. Gieri, Mr. Dietz, his Deputy, and Mr. Bernard Cocheme, the current Chief Executive Officer of the UNJSPF."

            Inner City Press has been told that former Under Secretary General for Management Christopher Burnham, before he left the UN for Deutsche Bank in November 2006, wrote to the Pension Fund's CEO Bernard Cocheme to ask why the top two recommendations of OIOS had not been put into action. Apparently no answer was given, because Mr. Burnham is now gone, for more than 10 weeks, and Ms. Bull and Mr. Dooley remain.

Needed again: an OIOS briefing in Oct. 2005, Inga-Britt Ahlenius at right

      For months, media including Inner City Press have been requesting a briefing by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services. In December 2006, then-spokesman Stephane Dujarric answered Inner City Press' request by stating that OIOS would provide the briefing in early January 2007.  It is now February, and still OIOS has not appears to answer questions.

            In light of new Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's January 19 call for urgent audits of all operations of UN funds, programs and specialized agencies, some now question what action would be taken even if these audits discover crimes. Already the UN Development Program, which for months refused to provide access to audits of its operations in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, is bragging to other UN agencies about how it extricated itself from the burst of scrutiny. How much bragging there is within those still managing the UN Joint Staff Pension Fund is not fully known.

            Meanwhile, Warren Sach's statements on Monday that the General Assembly overrode the recommendations by the UN's ACABQ to wait before any decision to outsource management of parts of the pension were further called into question on Tuesday. Many have suggested a delay of at least six months, pending completion of a study. "What's the rush?" one pension beneficiary asked Inner City Press on Tuesday. It's a question not fully answered by Mr. Sach. Nor despite Monday's requests were copies of the Request for Proposals or of the short list of bidders provided. Developing...

Other Inner City Press reports are available in the ProQuest service and some are archived on www.InnerCityPress.com --

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Press Freedom? Editor Arrested by Congo-Brazzaville, As It Presides Over Security Council

The Place of the Cost-Cut UN in Europe's Torn-Up Heart;
Deafness to Consumers, Even by the Greens

Background Checks at the UN, But Not the Global Compact; Teaching Statistics from Turkmenbashi's Single Book

Ripped Off Worse in the Big Apple, by Citigroup and Chase: High Cost Mortgages Spread in Outer Boroughs in 2005, Study Finds

Burundi: Chaos at Camp for Congolese Refugees, Silence from UNHCR, While Reform's Debated by Forty Until 4 AM

The Chadian Mirage: Beyond French Bombs, Is Exxon In the Cast? Asylum and the Uzbeks, Shadows of Stories to Come

Through the UN's One-Way Mirror, Sustainable Development To Be Discussed by Corporations, Even Nuclear Areva

Racial Disparities Grew Worse in 2005 at Citigroup, HSBC and Other Large Banks

Mine Your Own Business: Explosive Remnants of War and the Great Powers, Amid the Paparazzi

Human Rights Are Lost in the Mail: DR Congo Got the Letter, But the Process is Still Murky

Iraq's Oil to be Metered by Shell, While Basrah Project Remains Less than Clear

Kofi, Kony, Kagame and Coltan: This Moment in the Congo and Kampala

As Operation Swarmer Begins, UN's Qazi Denies It's Civil War and Has No Answers if Iraq's Oil is Being Metered

Cash Crop: In Nepal, Bhutanese Refugees Prohibited from Income Generation Even in their Camps

The Shorted and Shorting in Humanitarian Aid: From Davos to Darfur, the Numbers Don't Add Up

UN Reform: Transparency Later, Not Now -- At Least Not for AXA - WFP Insurance Contract

In the Sudanese Crisis, Oil Revenue Goes Missing, UN Says

Empty Words on Money Laundering and Narcotics, from the UN and Georgia

What is the Sound of Eleven Uzbeks Disappearing? A Lack of Seats in Tashkent, a Turf War at UN

Kosovo: Of Collective Punishment and Electricity; Lights Out on Privatization of Ferronikeli Mines

Abkhazia: Cleansing and (Money) Laundering, Says Georgia

Post-Tsunami Human Rights Abuses, including by UNDP in the Maldives

Citigroup Dissembles at United Nations Environmental Conference

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