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At UN Pension Fund, Gag Orders and Mental Health Accusations as Audit Committee Meets

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

UNITED NATIONS, February 11 -- As scandal grows around the UN Joint Staff Pension Fund, which is trying to outsource $9 billion in investments, the Fund's CEO Bernard Cocheme was in Geneva trying to rally other agencies to his side. As Inner City Press' now five-part series has shown and will show, it is the UNJSPF's arbitraging of its status as an inter-agency body, with the claimed ability to circumvent UN rules whenever it is convenience, that has allowed a lawless fiefdom to flourish with $36 billion to now dole out.

            Meanwhile in New York, the cover-up accelerated. Despite purported whistleblower protections and new Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's stated policy for the UN of transparency and of staff speaking to the media, on Friday the following email went out, referring to Inner City Press as "ICP," and attempting belatedly to block any whistle-blowing:

Subject: Pension Fund under attack in the media

From: Ibrahima Faye/UNJSPF/NY/UNO

To: UNJSPF IMS Staff Group, UNJSPF NY Staff Group, UNJSPF NY Consultants Group

Date: February 9, 2007, 10:19 AM

Dear all,

  For a week now, some of our colleagues within the Pension Fund are being subject to targeted attacks through one media press named ICP. In my qualify as your representative, it is my outmost duty, whether you are a manager or a simple staff member, weather [sic] you immediately involved or not, to defend you all from these yet to be substantiated attacks based on a supposedly Confidential OIOS report. I would like to caution myself and each one of you for jumping to immediate conclusions under the given circumstances and be emphatic to our colleagues whose names are mentioned in that press with possible target to their privacy and honorability.

  Furthermore, I would like to also caution each one of you for meeting with that press entity or reporter or any other request for interview as it is strictly forbidden by the Staff Rule for staff member to make any kind of press announcement or speech without prior approval, beside, this press ICP is neither a UN investigative body nor an asermented [sic] United Nations entity.

  As the situation may warrant, I would be obligated to come back to you with more indepth advises. Remember this is our Pension Fund, our working tool, our working environment and when the Fund's name is spoiled, we are all concerned and inbricated [sic] as one.

            Beyond the inappropriate and actionable gag-order nature of this message to all staff, a sad irony is that its putative author is in multiple insider accounts one of the victims of harassment at the Pension Fund, as well as a staff representative.

Mr. Cocheme- "Disagrees" with gag orders?

   The Office of Internal Oversight Services report, referred to above as "supposedly Confidential" but which Inner City Press provided to the UN Spokesperson's Office at their request on February 8, and has since showed up elsewhere -- contains three paragraph about an inappropriate relationship between a supervisor and subordinate, and chides the Pension Fund's management for allowing the supervisor to simply move on to another UN agency.  From the OIOS Report:

111. Although several examples of perceived favoritism as regards promotions were provided in ID/OIOS investigators, numerous comments were made about one particular case involving an alleged intimate affair between a supervisor and her subordinate, and also about the manner in which the UNJSPF management handled it.

112. The interviewees commented that the supervisor in question failed to maintain proper boundaries between her professional and personal life and exhibited bias in the performance assessment of the subordinate whom she favored, which had a negative effect on the workplace environment of that office.

113. After the alleged affair ended, ID/OIOS was told that the supervisor harassed the subordinate and denied him a promotion... Several interviewees added that the above mentioned subordinate staff surreptitiously taped his supervisor and played the tape to 'whoever wanted to listen.'

114. The OIOS subsequently learned that although both the UNJSPF management and OHRM were aware of the alleged affair, the supervisor left the UNJSPF and no formal inquiry was initiated on the matter.

            Since even OIOS found this more significant and than salacious, and since OIOS' pulling of punches may have played a role in the current lack of action or reform, Inner City Press will henceforth report on details behind and beyond the OIOS report.

            The relationship to which OIOS alludes was between Eleanor Phillip and the author of Friday's gag-order email. Ms. Phillip brought him along when she shifted units in the Fund, then later retaliated. She was allowed to move to ICSE at the UN, and is still in the UN phone book, hiding in plain sight. The retaliation efforts continued, for example when the now-gagger agreed as a favor to circulate a staff representative's email message to all staff. In that case, management used a "note into employment file" to get its point across. Ironically and sadly, the retaliation seems to have worked, leading to Friday's quite different mass email. When even a staff representative, a union man in essence, is turned into an enforcer of silence to protect management, a new low has been reached. This is the case in some but by no means all corners of the UN system.

Mental Health Accusations As Management Technique at UNJSPF

            UN Pension Fund management has used other, more sinister modes of retaliation. Among the most inappropriate has been accusing those it perceives as troublemakers of having mental problems. These individuals are then told to go to UN Medical Services on the 5th floor of the Secretariat building, and are told not to return to work while they are being evaluated and / or treated. One individual who nevertheless returned to the Pension Fund was humiliated by being escorted out by security.

            The use of mental health accusations as a management discipline tool is entirely inappropriate. The UN Pension Fund's use of this tool has created an atmosphere where even its victim have requested a continue veil of silence, concerned that being associated with even a spurious allegation of mental problems could hurt their careers and image. Out of respect, Inner City Press is withholding the names of people victimized by Pension Fund management's mental health accusations.

            The UNJSPF claims in numerous venues that is it exempt from UN rules. Mr. Dooley, for example, was rejected for a regular UN contract. But he was given what is called a Pension Fund contract, which does not entitle its holder to transfer elsewhere in the UN system. Technically, at least for one of the two time-determined categories of PF contracts, holders are not eligible for promotions from one UN employment grade to another. However, those favored within the Fund have been allowed such upgrades, including in salary, while others have been told no. The most favored people evade review by the UN's Office of Human Resources Management by entering on a Pension Fund contract, and then are later "regularized" into normal UN contracts and the benefits these convey.

            When the UNJSPF management team tries to get in a favored candidate through purported competition, the difficult stage is the composition of a short-list. Mr. Goddard, for example, Dulcie Bull wanted in the Fund. OHRM for once objected, but still Goddard got in. He got included in the short list, and after that it was hard to object. The supposition is that anyone on the short list is qualified. Those in charge at the Pension Fund know the best stage at which to intervene.

            Often OHRM's objections are only token and can be overcome. OHRM has for a long time -- too long, the Staff Council has voted -- been run by Ms. Jan Beagle. Dulcie Bull of the Pension Fund is close with Ms. Beagle, and has been able to thusly resolve what problems have arisen, and further limit any outside oversight of the Fund. One of the Staff Council's stated bases for voting to ask Ban Ki-moon to clean up OHRM is Ms. Beagle's insider status with the Kofi Annan administration. It is reported that Dulcie Bull, too, had inordinate sway under Annan, reaching all the way back to when both were at OHRM along with some other names which thereafter continued to appear, on the flight logs of UN plane trips and in other UN jobs including at the also scandal-plagued DESA. This personal connections have played a role in shielding the Pension Fund from any accountability, to the detriment of UN staff and pensioners.

            Sources Friday said that some Pension Fund staff, while initially exhilarated by the first installments of this Inner City Press series, later in the week grew concerned that the investigative scrutiny might go too far and "wash their dirty laundry in public," or play into the outsourcing agenda. While Inner City Press follows the facts where they lead, the series began by reporting widespread opposition to outsourcing management of even a portion of the Fund. Continued research reveals that it is a single Member State that is pushing for expedited outsourcing. We will have more on this, in connection it is hoped with the Pension Fund auditors' meeting, which should be considering this series. This investigative reporting is not among the pretexts for outsourcing. A nitty-gritty aspect that is often overlooked, sources say, is that the woman who was running the North American equities portfolio fell sick, asked management for help, but was not given any. Now the porfolio's performance is cited as militating for outsourcing and a shift in strategy.

            Having for years allowed nepotism and harassment to flourish at the Fund, Mr. Cocheme now faces a General Assembly inquiry into his failure to implement an Office of Internal Oversight Services report recommending action against Dulcie Bull and Paul Dooley, and a Pension Board audit committee meeting this week. Mr. Cocheme has still not made any Press replies, nor given any explanation of the basis for his stated "rejection" of the detailed factual findings and recommendations of the OIOS report. Beyond the report, sources say for example that now-barred contractor Gerald Bodell chose to live near Mr. Cocheme in order to when possible walk to work with him, to keep the money flowing. Mr. Cocheme has much to answer for, and although it is already late, this should begin at this week's meeting of the Pension Fund audit committee. Developing.

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Head of UN Pension Fund Ignores Investigation, While Whistleblower Speaks in Exclusive Interview

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

UNITED NATIONS, February 8 -- The chief executive officer of the UN Joint Staff Pension Fund, Bernard G. Cocheme, faced with a UN investigative report recommending action against two staff members for their role in handing out no-bid contracts to one of their former bosses, has said he will "take no action" against the staff members. The stand-off on corruption at the Pension Fund now moves to the General Assembly.

            Despite detailed adverse findings by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services, Paul Dooley and Dulcie C. Bull remain among UN Pension Fund management, as a controversial outsourcing of $9 billion in pension investments in North American stocks continues moving forward over the objections of the staff union and staff council, and the until-now more muted concerns of the General Assembly.

            According to a statement released Thursday by the UN to Inner City Press, Mr. Cocheme "informed OIOS that he disagrees with the findings and recommendations of the report of investigation - as regards the actions of his staff - and advised that he 'intends to take no action' with regard to them. OIOS advised him that pursuant to its mandate, it will report his response to the General Assembly." 

            Inner City Press tried to reach Mr. Cocheme by telephone for an explanation of his disagreement and refusal to act on UN investigators' recommendations, but as of press time six hours later, no response had been received.

            The original whistleblower, Yuri Kondralyev, Thursday evening gave Inner City Press an on-the-record and so-far exclusive interview about the scandal(s). Combined with information by other UNJSPF insiders, not for attribution for fear of retaliation, a picture has emerged of a Pension Fund management out of control.

UNJSPF: Tell it to the General Assembly

            First, some of the tale of Yuri Kondralyev. His memo along with a well-regarded colleague on October 4, 2005, detailed corruption both financial and managerial. It was sent to Controller Warren Sach, to OHRM's Jan Beagle, to OIOS and the now-gone Mark Malloch Brown and Christopher Burnham. Thursday Mr. Kondralyev told Inner City Press that the first responses he received were from Bernard Cocheme, and were classic cover-up. "They nod and do nothing," Mr. Kondralyev says.

            According to Mr. Kondralyev, beyond her involvement in Paul Dooley's shenanigans, Dulcie Bull was abusive to staff, and knew little of her business. Her answers on matters of pensions were ill-informed, and most of her work was delegated to one Norah Fitzgerald. In fact, according to Mr. Kondralyev and other sources, within the Pension Fund those most able to help pensioners are at the General Service or "G" category, while the higher-ups coast by with little knowledge, carried by those beneath them.

            Mr. Kondralyev and others describe an agency out of control, which went beyond its legal powers and bought an office building, only to be ordered by the UN Office of Legal Affairs to divest it. The Pension Fund sought special status, to for example allow more expensive business travel than is the case in the rest of the UN.  These days, it is said by inside sources, Mr. Cocheme is a frequent flier to Geneva by way of Paris. Some is justified by Pension business, these sources say, and some is not. The problem is nobody's watching.

            The Pension Fund is a club in which a father can hire his son. Witness, for example, the passage from Ernie De Turris, former Deputy, to his son Frank, now in the CEO's office (of whom Mr. Kondralyev, despite noting the inescapable family connection, also has kind words). Witness Dulcie Bull's hiring of one Hugh O'Donnell, sources say, who then got his girlfriend hired. Ms. Bull brought in Peter Goddard, saying that of the hundreds of people who applied, only he was the qualifications. This is what Paul Dooley said of his friend Gerald Bodell, in giving him sole source IT contracts. It emerges that beyond Mr. Bodell, there was an even less-present contractor getting paid, working off-site from Dallas. The money was pouring out the door and nobody was watching.

            An informed source says the problem at the Pension Fund is the lack of accountability. No matter how badly a decision works out, no effects are felt. Dulcie Bull hired a woman who, for the first time in Pension Fund history, was unable to close the books at year's end. Yet there were no consequences. Later Ms. Bull was named for action in the OIOS report. But Cocheme denies it, and Ms. Bull made a presentation on pensions earlier this week. Many personnel issues were referred to OHRM, run by Jan Beagle, and nothing was done.

            That remains Mr. Kondralyev main complaint, that nothing has been done. He is not bitter: he lives in Riverdale in the North Bronx, works as a consultant and is writing a book, on economics. During the above-sketched interview, Inner Cit Press twice asked him if he was sure he wished to be named, on the record. Mr. Kondralyev said yes without equivocation. For people with either current and past affiliations with the UN, in light of propensity to try to retaliate, Inner City Press offers anonymity. But for now it must be noted that upbeat whistle-blowing is something the UN needs much more of.

            The OIOS report, on which Inner City Press was the first to report, on February 5 (click here for that initial article) has now been distributed more widely. While on the evening of February 8, some high up in the UN blamed Inner City Press for its release, a copy was given to a UN office on request, and then reappeared in the hands of another reported.

            Following Inner City Press' February 5 exclusive, at the following day's noon briefing, Ban Ki-moon's spokeswoman faced questions about the report, which she didn't yet have. On February 7, Inner City Press asked the spokeswoman about the

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?  ... 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:  ... 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.

            To not simply await the promised opportunity to question Ms. Barcena, which Inner City Press has been told will be on February 12, Inner City Press also on Wednesday asked the Special Assistant to the Spokesman for the GA President, Frehiwot Bekele, the following:

Inner City Press:  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. 

            On Thursday morning, Mr. Bekele told Inner City Press that since the OIOS report hadn't been given a formal number to be released, the Secretary-General's Spokesperson's office would be responding, which they did, requesting a copy of the report and then sending the following response:

Subject: Your question on OIOS and the Pension Fund

From: [Spokesperson's Office at] un.org

To: Inner City Press

Sent: Thu, 8 Feb 2007

In March 2006, the OIOS completed an investigation into allegations of possible conflict of interest, favoritism and mismanagement at the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund. Based upon the evidence adduced, OIOS concluded that several staff members - including two Senior UNJSPF staff - have acted improperly in connection to contracts for information technology services awarded to a consultant retained by UNJSPF. 

OIOS issued several recommendations in this case, including that UNJSPF management take appropriate action against its two staff. The Chief Executive Officer of UNJSPF informed OIOS that he disagrees with the findings and recommendations of the report of investigation - as regards the actions of his staff - and advised that he "intends to take no action" with regard to them. OIOS advised him that pursuant to its mandate, it will report his response to the General Assembly.

Pursuant to General Assembly resolution 59/272, the report is available to Member States upon request. It has already been released, in redacted form, to two Member States who have requested it.

            Who, you ask, are these unnamed Member States?  And what will they be doing? Watch this site.

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

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At the UN, Micro-States Simmer Under the Assembly's Surface, While Incoming Council President Dodges Most Questions

"Horror Struck" is How UN Officials Getting Free Housing from Governments Would Leave U.S., Referral on Burma But Not Uzbekistan

Security Council President Condemns UN Officials Getting Free Housing from Governments, While UK "Doesn't Do It Any More"

At the UN, Incomplete Reforms Allow for Gifts of Free Housing to UN Officials by Member States

Rare UN Sunshine From If Not In Chad While Blind on Somalia and Zimbabwe, UNDP With Shell in its Ear on Nigeria

Annan Family Ties With Purchaser from Compass, Embroiled in UN Scandal, Raise Unanswered Ethical Questions

At the UN, from Casamance to Transdniestria, Kosovars to Lezgines, Micro-States as Powerful's Playthings

Inquiry Into Housing Subsidies Contrary to UN Charter Goes Ignored for 8 Weeks, As Head UN Peacekeeper Does Not Respond

On the UN - Corporate Beat, Dow Chemical Luncheon Chickens Come Home to Roost

Stop Bank Branch Closings and Monopolies in the Katrina Zone, Group Says, Challenging Regions- AmSouth Merger

Ship-Breakers Missed by UN's Budget for Travel and Consultants in Bangladesh, Largest UNIFIL Troop Donor

With Somalia on the Brink of Horn-Wide War, UN Avoids Question of Ethiopian Invasion

In UN's Lebanon Frenzy, Darfur Is Ignored As Are the Disabled, "If You Crave UNIFIL, Can't You Make Do With MONUC?"

UN Decries Uzbekistan's Use of Torture, While Helping It To Tax and Rule; Updates on UNIFIL and UNMIS Off-Message

On Lebanon, Russian Gambit Focuses Franco-American Minds, Short Term Resolution Goes Blue Amid Flashes of Lightening

Africa Can Solve Its Own Problems, Ghanaian Minister Tells Inner City Press, On LRA Peace Talks and Kofi Annan's Views

At the UN, Jay-Z Floats Past Questions on Water Privatization and Sweatshops, Q'Orianka Kilcher in the Basement

In the UN Security Council, Speeches and Stasis as Haiti is Forgotten, for a Shebaa Farms Solution?

UN Knew of Child Soldier Use by Two Warlords Whose Entry into Congo Army the UN Facilitated

Impunity's in the Air, at the UN in Kinshasa and NY, for Kony and Karim and MONUC for Kazana

UN Still Silent on Somalia, Despite Reported Invasion, In Lead-Up to More Congo Spin

UN's Guehenno Says Congo Warlord Just Needs Training, and Kazana Probe Continues

With Congo Elections Approaching, UN Issues Hasty Self-Exoneration as Annan Is Distracted

In DR Congo, UN Applauds Entry into Army of Child-Soldier Commander Along with Kidnapper

Spinning the Congo, UN Admits Hostage Deal with Warlord That Put Him in Congolese Army

At the UN, Dow Chemical's Invited In, While Teaming Up With Microsoft is Defended

Kofi Annan Questioned about Congolese Colonel Who Kidnapped Seven UN Soldiers

UN Silent As Congolese Kidnapper of UN Peacekeepers Is Made An Army Colonel: News Analysis

UN's Guehenno Speaks of "Political Overstretch" Undermining Peacekeeping in Lower Profile Zones

In Gaza Power Station, the Role of Enron and the U.S. Government's OPIC Revealed by UN Sources

UN's Corporate Partnerships Will Be Reviewed, While New Teaming Up with Microsoft, and UNDP Continues

BTC Briefing, Like Pipeline, Skirts Troublespots, Azeri Revelations

Conflicts of Interest in UNHCR Program with SocGen and Pictet Reveal Reform Rifts

UN Grapples with Somalia, While UNDP Funds Mugabe's Human Rights Unit, Without Explanation

UN Gives Mugabe Time with His Friendly Mediator, Refugees Abandoned

At the UN, Friday Night's Alright for Fighting; Annan Meets Mugabe

UN Acknowledges Abuse in Uganda, But What Did Donors Know and When? Kazakh Questions

In Uganda, UNDP to Make Belated Announcement of Program Halt, But Questions Remain (and see The New Vision, offsite).

Disarmament Abuse in Uganda Leads UN Agency to Suspend Its Work and Spending

Disarmament Abuse in Uganda Blamed on UNDP, Still Silent on Finance

Alleged Abuse in Disarmament in Uganda Known by UNDP, But Dollar Figures Still Not Given: What Did UN Know and When?

Strong Arm on Small Arms: Rift Within UN About Uganda's Involuntary Disarmament of Karamojong Villages

UN's Selective Vision on Somalia and Wishful Thinking on Uighurs

UN Habitat Predicts The World Is a Ghetto, But Will Finance Be Addressed at Vancouver World Urban Forum?

UN's Annan Concerned About Use of Terror's T-Word to Repress, Wants Freedom of Information

UN  Waffles on Human Rights in Central Asia and China; ICC on Kony and a Hero from Algiers

UN & US, Transparency for Finance But Not Foreign Affairs: Somalia, Sovereignty and Senator Tom Coburn

Human Rights Forgotten in UN's War of Words, Bolton versus Mark Malloch Brown: News Analysis

In Praise of Migration, UN Misses the Net and Bangalore While Going Soft on Financial Exclusion

UN Sees Somalia Through a Glass, Darkly, While Chomsky Speaks on Corporations and Everything But Congo

Corporate Spin on AIDS, Holbrooke's Kudos to Montenegro and its Independence

The Silence of the Congo and Naomi Watts; Between Bolivia and the World Bank

Human Rights Council Has Its Own Hanging Chads; Cocky U.S. State Department Spins from SUVs

Child Labor and Cargill and Nestle; Iran, Darfur and WHO's on First with Bird Flu

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

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

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