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At UN Pension Fund, More Complaints, More Impunity, No Stop to Outsourcing Assured

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

UNITED NATIONS, March 8 -- There is a lot of talk from the UN against impunity. But at the UN Pension Fund, despite detailed findings of irregular no bid contracts and cover-up of sexual harassment, impunity is the order of the day. Secrecy, too: Inner City Press is informed that a half dozen staffers from the Pension Fund's Investment Management Service have written to Ban Ki-moon's envoy to the Fund, Alicia Barcena, expressing deep concerns. Ms. Barcena's office has been asked about the letter, with no response by press time. And in this chaos, with questions about past outsourcing still unresolved, $9 billion is headed out the door, on perhaps a two month delay.

            For thirty days, Inner City Press has reported on a 20-page investigative report by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services on conflict of interest, favoritism and mismanagement at the Pension Fund. The Report includes the complaint, by Yuri G. Kondratyev and another staff representative, which led to the investigation. The OIOS report asked Fund CEO Bernard Cocheme to take action on three individuals -- Dulcie Bull, Paul Dooley and Sanjaya Bahel, since incarcerated -- and, among other things, for the UN's Office of Human Resources Management to become more involved in the Pension Fund to ensure fairness.

            On February 28, Bernard Cocheme deigned to appear for a press conference, at which he twice resorted to reading out pre-written statement. The upshot is his claim that OIOS has mysterious agreed to ignore its own findings, and allow no action to be taken on Dulcie Bull and Paul Dooley, nor on getting OHRM more involved, and perhaps -- as many are now calling for -- canceling the Memorandum of Understanding signed by OHRM's Jan Beagle which has allowed the Pension Fund to become its own fiefdom.

            Mr. Cocheme began by focusing on one of the seeming irregularities on which Inner City Press had reported, the Pension Fund's hiring of Frank De Turris whose father Ernest De Turris has worked at the Fund. Mr. Cocheme claimed that a decade intervened. But multiple sources say that De Turris the Younger first got a job on a Pension Committee in Geneva, then through Peacekeeping, before getting the inside track at the Pension Fund in New York.

            Mr. Cocheme claimed that he had no contact with staffer Ibrahima Faye, who in the past month has twice sent mass emails to all staff, telling them not to speak to the Press. This is not true either.

Mr. Ban and Chairman of GA's 5th Committee, which will soon hear of OIOS and Pension Fund

            On March 7, Inner City Press again interviewed Yuri G. Kondratyev, for a second time, again affirmatively on record (Mr. Kondratyev has said, "I wasn't scared then, how much less so now that I am retired." The book he is writing should be finished, he says, by summer.)

    Since he filed the complaint that led to the recommendations, what does he now think?

  "Nothing has been done," said Mr. Kondratyev. "Dulcie is protected."

   Why does Bernard Cocheme do nothing?

   "No one can understand this. He said he only came for one term, maybe that it why he didn't want to stop what Goddard and Dulcie did. Now it is two terms."

            And how many more? Mr. Kondratyev described and provided documentation about the Pension Fund's system for keeping files on employees. This was used to discipline Ibrahima Faye, who was sexually harassed and said as much in a five to seven page memo to Cocheme which, according to Mr. Kondratyev, Cocheme acknowledged receipt of and then retaliated by letter-to-file. When Mr. Kondratyev asked to see his own file, he found inside complaints he'd never seen, one of which, from a Vivian Garcia, was quietly removed by the following day.

            The Pension Fund's tactics are not limited to staff, but now extended to the Press. The story continues on the spurious complaint the UN Pension Fund filed with UN Security regarding Inner City Press' attempt to ask question outside the meeting of the Fund's Audit Committee on February 15. Inner City Press signed into the building, went without incident to the reception area outside the meeting, and waited for some twenty minutes there, with press pass and tape recorder. A man who did not identify himself then came out and asked, "How did you get in here?"

            "Though the front door."

            Subsequently Mr. Cocheme's assistant Pat Ryder came out to say that questions would be answered later. Inner City Press left a business card, but no questions have been answered. Rather, two weeks later and just after Mr. Cocheme's tense press conference on February 28 where he responded to questions about his inaction on the recommendations in an investigative report by the Office of Internal Oversight Services, Inner City Press got a call from Victor Buttaro of UN Security. Mr. Buttaro said a complaint was filed but declined to say by whom. He demanded from Inner City Press a signed written statement without explain how such a statement would be used.

            The following day at Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson's noon briefing, at the suggestion of other UN correspondents, Inner City Press raised the issue, asking the spokesperson's office to provide guidance to the UN Pension Fund that it is not appropriate to waste UN Security's time on spurious complaints that are only designed to reduce media coverage.  Video here.

            On March 6, Mr. Buttaro of UN Security again called Inner City Press. Inner City Press forwarded his number to the staff of the office of the spokesperson. Inner City Press was approached by UN Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit, with questions about the Pension Fund's complaint -- which, Inner City Press was in this conversation told, is attributable to the Pension Fund's executive office(r) and ultimately to Mr. Cocheme -- and even questions about the content of Inner City Press' recent articles. When Inner City Press returned Mr. Buttaro's call, he said, are you giving a signed written statement or not?

  "If you explain what happens with such signed statements."

   "It goes in my report."

     "And what happens to the report? What are the potential consequences?"

    "It goes to my supervisor." And soon it was suggested that Inner City Press come in too the Security Office, and see the Supervisor. Apparently -- and this is the first written use of a phrase Inner City Press long ago orally coined -- they think the First Amendment stops at First Avenue. This phrase has been proffered to press-freedom central at the UN; we'll see. And more to follow on the Pension Fund and those trying, and those not trying, to hold its senior management accountable.

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Outsourcing of UN Pension Fund Delayed Through April, Cocheme's Inaction on OIOS Report

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

UNITED NATIONS, March 5 -- The proposed outsourcing of $9 billion of the UN Pension Fund will not take place at least through the end of April, said Alicia Barcena, Under-Secretary General of Management, on Monday.

            The outsourcing, widely questioned by UN staff and beneficiaries, had been aggressively pushed by previous Under Secretary General for Management Chris Burnham and UN Controller Warren Sach. The bids of 13 investment banks were opened on February 15. In response to questions from Inner City Press on February 28, Mr. Sach said the winner would not be selected until the end of March. On March 1, Ms. Barcena took over for Mr. Sach as the Secretary-General's representative to the Pension Fund.

            Asked Monday about the outsourcing on Monday, Ms. Barcena moved the date back at least another month, to the end of April, and put in sequence before any final decision the completing of an asset-liability management study, and decisions on an investment strategy, which she said she'll discuss this week with the chair of the Pension Fund's investment committee, Merrill Lynch official William McDonough. Video here, from Minute 33:08.

            Ms. Barcena also appeared to distance herself -- wisely, observers say -- from Pension Fund CEO Bernard Cocheme. Mr. Cocheme was presented with an investigative report by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services in late March 2006, which among other things called for him to take action on, Dulcie Bull and Paul Dooley, two managers who were involved in steering no-bid contracts to the previous boss of Mr. Dooley.  After first claiming that the OIOS report was never final, then being quoted as "disagreeing" with the report, Mr. Cocheme on February 28 claimed that OIOS has allowed him to take no disciplinary action. If so, the problems only grow deeper, including in light of the UN General Assembly's Fifth Committee March 5 discussion of failure to follow OIOS reports on spending following the tsunami.

            Ms. Barcena, asked by Inner City Press about the failure to impose any disciplinary action despite OIOS' written findings and recommendations, said that the "the person to responsible to answer is Bernard Cocheme," but that she will be meeting with him "on this ground." Video here, from Minute 36:09. We expect to have more news about Mr. Cocheme and his future on Thursday. Ms. Barcena has been asked follow-up questions about Mr. Cocheme and the Pension Fund.

Mr. Ban, boss of Ms. Barcena -- AND of Mr. Cocheme

            For now, we note that on December 16, 2005, Cocheme wrote to the UN Staff Council to complain about their resolution 69, which criticized his management. In the letter, Cocheme along other things claims that the OIOS reported was "requested by me" and "rejects any allegations of wrongdoing or irregularities in its management," a claim challenged by the OIOS' findings three months later. Even before then, Rosemarie Waters of the Staff Council wrote back stating that "I have personally spoken with members of the UNJSPF management concerning staff allegations of abuse of authority, yet those concerns were never acknowledged or addressed."  And now it only gets worse. Developing.

At UN Pension Fund, No Outsourcing in March, Cocheme Speaks As Complaint Filed to Block Press Access

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

UNITED NATIONS, February 28 -- The proposed outsourcing of $9 billion of the UN Pension Fund will probably not take place for at least a month, UN Controller Warren Sach said Wednesday at a press conference with Pension Fund CEO Bernard Cocheme.

            Mr. Sach spoke first, and explained that the evaluation of the 13 bids for the outsourcing contracts is ongoing, and will in all likelihood require the hiring of yet another outside contractor. When asked if these additional contractor will be chosen through a bidding or request for proposals process, Mr. Sach said no.

            Bernard Cocheme read out loud a statement he had made on February 15 to the UN Pension Board's Audit Committee. Video here, from Minute 16:35 through 25:30. Inner City Press had attempted to observe or at least ask questions outside that meeting, held at the Pension Fund's office at 1 Dag Hammarskhold Plaza. After waiting nearly half an hour in the Pension Fund's reception area, Inner City Press was told that its questions would be answered later, in writing. Inner City Press then left the Pension Fund's office.

            Wednesday Mr. Cocheme stated that later in the day at that February 15 meeting, the head of the UN's Office of Internal Oversight Services came and told the Committee that there had been no need for Mr. Cocheme to discipline the senior managers named in a March 2006 OIOS report, namely Dulcie Bull and Paul Dooley, who awarded no-bid contracts to his previous boss Gerard Bodell. Mr. Cocheme's statements on Wednesday are at odds with the statement provided and to date not retracted by Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson's office, that Mr. Cocheme told OIOS he disagrees with the report and "will take no action" --

Subj: Your question on OIOS and the Pension Fund 

Date: 2/8/2007 2:48:05 PM Eastern Standard Time

From: Farhan Haq [at]

To: Inner City Press

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.

            Mr. Cocheme distinguished Wednesday between "take no action" and "take no disciplinary action." He insisted he has told both staff members to in the future avoid the "possible misperception" that they are acting in an "non-prudent manner."

     At few places other than the UN can a person give no-bid contacts to his previous boss and then, even when caught out, merely be admonished not to "create misperceptions" in the future. 

Mr. Sach - Mr. Cocheme, at side, not shown in this UN photo

            Mr. Cocheme stated that since the above-quoted response by Ban Ki-moon's spokesman's office, OIOS has confirmed to him in writing that despite its reports recommendation that "appropriate action" be taking on Mr. Dooley and Ms. Bull, no disciplinary action is required. Inner City Press on Wednesday asked for a copy of such an OIOS statement, but Mr. Cocheme declined. It is imperative that OIOS ask questions, given the seeming non-action on its report and recommendations.

            Mr. Cocheme acknowledged that two emails have circulated this month to all staff in the Pension Fund, to not talk to the media, specially naming Inner City Press. Mr. Cocheme stated that the staff representative sent these without Mr. Cocheme's knowledge. Asked about his previous statements to staff that "it is not okay to accuse colleagues of benefiting from preferential treatment," Mr. Cocheme said that this was not intended to discourage whistle-blowing. He said that "anyone who knows" him would know he would not say to not speak to the press. When told that many Pension Fund staff feel, based on the two recent emails and Mr. Cocheme's previous statement discouraging any complaint about favoritism or corruption, that they are not to speak to the media, Mr. Cocheme respond, "But we are talking to the press." Video here, from Minute 44:15 to the end.

            Immediately following these questions and answers with Mr. Cocheme, including follow-up questions in the hallway outside the briefing room, Inner City Press returned a call to UN Security, specifically to Victor Buttaro of the "Special Investigative Unit." Mr. Buttaro asked, "How did you get into the Pension Fund last week?"

            "Through the front door." Inner City Press signed in, waited in a reception area, and left without incident as soon as the request was made. Inner City Press further explained the attempt to observe or ask questions of those entering the Pension Board Audit Committee meeting on February 15.

            Mr. Buttaro stated that a complaint had been filed about Inner City Press' presence. When asked who had filed the complaint, Mr. Buttaro declined to answer, saying his investigation is open. When asked if the name of the complainant would be provided if and when his investigation was closed, he said, "you could try to get a subpoena." He asked for a written statement, which he said must be signed.

            It seems clear that the Pension Fund management filed this spurious complaint with UN Security, in order to discourage coverage of the meetings of its Pension Board and Committees. Given Mr. Cocheme's statement that the head of OIOS attended the meeting and absolved Mr. Cocheme of any responsibility to take disciplinary action on the individuals named in the OIOS Investigative Report, the attempt to make it impossible to even observe who entered the meeting seems particularly unsavory. As the Pension Fund has used complaints-in-file for domination and intimidation, including of the current staff representative, it seems that the Pension Fund doesn't care that their complaint is meritless. Its mere existence, particularly any memorialization of it, is intended to have a chilling effect and to discourage future coverage.

            Other UN correspondents and staffers consulted on Wednesday also opined that the complaint is absurd and abusive. Reporters at the UN routinely wait outside any and all UN meetings in order to try to ask questions. Most dispositive, a staffer pointed out, is that when the Pension Fund's Ms. Pat Ryder, who functions as Mr. Cocheme's secretary, suggested that Inner City Press leave and await answers later in writing or by phone -- which never arrived -- Inner City Press immediately left. Despite UN Security's current refusal to provide the name of the complainant -- which is something that Mr. Cocheme himself derided in his press conference on Wednesday -- most opined that the complaint can and should be ascribed to Mr. Cocheme, and that it should be immediately withdrawn and expunged. We'll see.

            As to the wider question of outsourcing, which the Pension Fund's spurious complaints are meant to stop reporting on, some observers argue that the question of passive indexation is much ado about nothing. Lost in such arguments is that the proponents of outsourcing, in mid-2006 at the type of Pension Board meeting where heretofore decisions had been made by consensus, suddenly called for a vote, which the outsourcing side one by 17-11-1, with nearly all staff and beneficiary representatives voting against outsourcing. Some, hearing this, then characterize the questioning of outsourcing as no more than a battle for turf, a power struggle. But with these questions in the air, including the seeming impunity for irregularities in the previous outsourcing of IT services, covered in the OIOS report, a call is growing for Ban Ki-moon to at least delay the outsourcing until more is known, not only from OIOS but also from the asset-liability management study which Mr. Sach said will be finished in July 2007.

We will have more to report about the Feb. 28 press conference and aftermath, but for now file this interim dispatch. Developing...

At UN Pension Fund, Outsourcing, Corruption and Abuse of Staff To Be Questioned

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

UNITED NATIONS, February 27 -- As questions snowball around the UN Pension Fund, its CEO Bernard Cocheme is now slated to have to give some answers, in a press conference Wednesday in United Nations headquarters.

            On February 5, UN Controller Warren Sach purported to answer questions about the proposal to outsource $9 billion of the Pension Fund. Inner City Press asked for a copy of the Request for Proposal which had already been circulated to, and has now been submitted by, at least 13 investment banks. Not even the RFP has been provided. Inner City Press has run a series of ten articles about the pension fund, and has requested that Mr. Cocheme, who refused to answer telephone or email questions, come to provide answers in the public briefing room.

            There are at least three sets of issues: outsourcing, employment and procurement abuses and inaction on a UN investigative report.

            The rush to outsource began under previous Under-Secretary General for Management Chris Burnham. The Staff Council and many others distrust the plan for that main reason  and others. Mr. Burnham having left the UN to return to Wall Street, specifically to Deutsche Bank, has only fueled these suspicions.

            The Pension Fund's own Annual Report reports the Burnham-procured vote to move ahead with outsourcing, by a 17-11-1 margin. Previously, Pension Board decisions were by consensus. For that reason, staff and beneficiaries saw no harm in having only one-third of the votes on the Board. Then in the June 2006 vote in Nairobi, Burnham turned two thirds against one third. Later the General Assembly deferred to that split decision. (In between, the Fifth Committee said to wait until an asset-liability study is completed). The rush to outsource gathered stream. Now 13 bids have been opened. It is anticipated that once a winner is selected, there will be a rush to sign a contract, so that there will be no turning back.

            The Staff Council has voted to explore the chance to sue. Ban Ki-moon's new Under-Secretary for Management Alicia Barcena rushed to meet with the Staff Council, to deride their legal theory. But it's just as much a test case of management theory. Mr. Ban is the fiduciary of the Pension Fund, and the legal representatives of the people whose interests he is supposed to protect have opposed the outsourcing. Until now, Mr. Ban has deferred to a plan that was set in motion before he took office. With Burnham gone, Ban is in essence deferring to an empty chair. Will Ban now reconsider the outsourcing, and the unique legal status of the Pension Fund?

            A factor militating for putting the outsourcing on hold is the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services' detailed findings, in March 2006, that the Pension Fund's previous outsourcing of IT contrasts were riddled with the appearance of conflict of interesting.  Paul Dooley fed no-bid contracts to his ex-boss Gerard Bodell, with the help of Dulcie C. Bull and Sanjaya Bahel. The last of these three has been indicated and just got out on bail. Ms. Bull and Mr. Dooley, on the other hand, continue working for the Pension Fund, because CEO Cochame has refused to act on the OIOS recommendations.

Bernard Cocheme - soon, another UN picture

            Bernard Cocheme, when Inner City Press first reported on the OIOS report, told the staff that the report was only a draft. Then, when that story could not hold up, he told them that OIOS had agreed that all Cocheme needed to do was to form an internal advisory board. But that is contradicted, too, by the Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson's office:

[See above]

            Mr. Cocheme on Wednesday will be expected to explain his in-house spin of the OIOS report.

            Finally, detailed accounts of abuse of staff at the Pension Fund continue to accumulate. Executive Officer Peter Goddard likes to shout at employees and have them escorted from the building. Dulcie Bull and Norah Fitzgerald like to hand jobs to their friends (in Ms. Bull's case, according to the OIOS report, the favoritism extended to contracts worth millions of dollars).  Alan Blythe walks the floor as an enforcer. Ostensible staff representative Ibrahima Faye, once a victim as noted, without name by OIOS, now urges other staff not to speak to the press, not to speak of OIOS, to cover up. Bernard Cocheme has long been aware of all of this, and has done nothing. Wednesday, however, he will be expected to explain. And for time thereafter...

At UN Pension Fund, Cocheme Spins Staff Twice in Two Days, As Scrutiny Closes In

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

UNITED NATIONS, February 22 -- As questions mount about the UN Pension Fund's inaction on a UN investigative report completed nearly a year ago, CEO Bernard Cocheme has taken to the bully pulpit. On February 21 at a Town Hall meeting, Cocheme derived this investigative series and propounded a counter-history of the Fund. This was followed by a mass email on February 22, ostensibly what Cocheme said at the February 15 Audit Committee meeting which the press was not allowed to attend or even question Committee members afterwards.

            Cocheme's story is that the Office of Internal Oversight Services report of investigation was only done because he requested it. But the OIOS report itself makes clear that the trigger was two staff members' October 4, 2005 eight-paragraph "memorandum to several high-ranking UN officials, including the Under-Secretary-General" of OIOS, Inga-Britt Ahlenius.

            The resulting report of investigation specifically calls for action to be taken on Dulcie Bull and Paul Dooley, for their roles in the award of no-bid contracts to a company called Sprig, Ltd, openly run by Mr. Dooley's ex-boss at New York Guardian Mortgage Company, Gerard Bodell. [That the ownership connections to Sprig may run deeper yet is a matter yet to be reported on.]

            On February 22, Mr. Cocheme claimed that he has spoken with OIOS, which has agreed that despite the plain language of the investigative report, no action was or is needed on Ms. Bull or Mr. Dooley, just the formation of another in-house advisory committee. With this claim, Mr. Cocheme is directly contradicting a statement issued by the Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary-General, which we will now quote in full:

Subj: Your question on OIOS and the Pension Fund 

Date: 2/8/2007 2:48:05 PM Eastern Standard Time

From: Farhan Haq [at]

To: Inner City Press

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.

            Mr. Cocheme's spin does not appear to hold up.  It is time for Mr. Cocheme to take questions on the matter, rather than one-way mass emails to staff.

Inga-Britt Ahlenius: Cocheme says she gave OK for inaction

    The OIOS report called for action on three officials: Dulcie Bull and Paul Dooley of the Pension Fund, and Sanjaya Bahel of the UN's Procurement Section. The first two continue untouched and with impunity at the Pension Fund, while Mr. Bahel has been indicted and faces trial. In Cocheme-logic, if an advisory committee had been set up for Bahel, he too could still be teaching workshops about procurement.

            Meanwhile at the Pension Fund, new video surveillance camera are being installed. Dulcie Bull herself is out this week, attributing this to back trouble. She has nearly dodged the bullet. She has told staff that she intends to retire next year, but will not return, at least not for long, to the UK. Her associate Norah Fitzgerald, known to some as Mother Superior, for two days last week stopped answering her phone. At least as to the Press, Bernard Cocheme long ago stopped answering...

UN Pension Fund Outsourcing Draws 13 Bidders, Over 10 from USA, Kudos for Shrink-Wrap

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

UNITED NATIONS, February 16 --Nine billion dollars of the UN Joint Staff Pension Fund's money was up for bid on Friday. In a small conference room of a building on 45th Street, the ritual opening of the bids -- thirteen in total -- was held. In attendance were representatives of five of the bidders, four UN procurement staff, a genial staff council representative, and a lone media representative, from Inner City Press.

            Journalist attendance became possible only at the last minute. Inner City Press had written to UN Controller Warren Sach to request access, without receiving any direct response. At the UN's noon briefing on Friday, Inner City Press asked to be given access, to the opening then less than three hours away.  The spokesperson said she would check, but at 2:20 p.m. said she had not heard back, and anyway "it's just the beginning of the process." 

   Inner City Press got word that the Department of Management decided to allow access, although this was never announced or communicated by the Department.  Inner City Press showed up, on the second floor of 304 East 45th Street, and the procurement staff said they had been told to permit access. This time only, they appear to think. Inner City Press was forbidden from audio or video taping. These bid opening should always be public.

            And so, this exclusive Inner City Press report, one hour after the opening. Bidders could apply for the "passive indexation" of the Pension Fund's North American equity portfolio or for "transition management," or for both. Indexation refers to a shift away from picking the stocks of individual companies, and rather tracking the market as a whole. In the transition toward that, well, someone would have to manage. The thirteen bidders, in alphabetical order with package identifiers are as follows:

1. Alliance Bernstein LLC (USA), for both, six envelopes each with three enclosures, two velobound and one soft covered.

2. Barclays Global Investors (USA), for both, two boxes full of binders by an institution who's parent is based in London but has paid to put its name on a stadium in Brooklyn.

3. Blackrock (USA), for both, four FedEx boxes, velobound volumes, black as in Blackrock.

4. Citigroup, Inc. (USA), for transition management only, two boxes, six copies.

5. Goldman Sach (USA), for transition management only, one FedEx box with thin velobound volume stamped "Strictly Confidential and Private."

6. JPMorgan Asset Management (USA), for passive indexation only, two soft FedEx envelopes.

7. Lehman Brothers Asset Management (USA), for transition management only, six green binders.

8. MFC Global Investment Management (USA), for passive indexation only, thin envelopes, thin velobound volumes.

9. Russell Investment Group (USA), for transition management only, a box, then wrapped in black paper, then shrink-wrap (an "oooh" went up from the small crowd, and Russell's observer said, "We don't mess around").

10. State Street Corp. (USA), for both, six envelopes.

11. The Bank of New York (USA), for both, six envelopes, wire-bound volumes.

12. The Northern Trust (USA), for both, one FedEx, three thin velobound volumes and two pamphlets, a slender and confident presentation by a firm already on the inside (see below).

13. UBS, AG (Switzerland), for passive indexation only, 3 UPS packages (that's right, UPS for UBS).

            By mistake, but perhaps predictive, The Northern Trust's submission was opened before The Bank of New York. The master of ceremonies, otherwise smooth as silk, apologized for the gaffe, which had been pointed out by Northern Trust's observer. Also in attendance was a Mr. Khan, who went to the door when it was knocked on. The bidding room felt not unlike a small funeral parlor, with a series of viewings throughout the day. This step to outsource $9 billion in UN staffers' pensions took place mechanically, mundanely, with little notice, but a bit more than the contracts described in the OIOS report, given to Sprig without bidding, or with only sham bidding. The opening of bids took place as described above. What happens next is again in the shadows....

            When asked at a February 5 town hall meeting how large a management fee would be paid, UN Controller Warren Sach did not have an answer. Following the meeting, Inner City Press asked Mr. Sach for the list of bidders, or those on the short list who got the Request for Proposals, as well as for a copy of the RFP.  For the RFP, Inner City Press was referred to the administrative officer of the UN Investment Management Service, Chieko Okudo, from where another referral was made. As days and then a more than a week sent by, the RFP was never provided, and Inner City Press was told that neither would the list of bidders be released. Similar difficulties in obtaining answers and documents arose last year during Inner City Press' reporting on the conflicts raised by UN investment fees being paid to Pictet & Cie., whose Ivan Pictet still serves as an "ad hoc" member of the UN Pension Fund's Investment Committee, on which now sits a Vice Chairman of Merrill Lynch and former directors of Morgan Stanley and Commerzbank.

That there are causes of concern can be found in an until-now confidential report of investigation by the UN's Office of Internal Oversight Services. In OIOS' "Investigation of conflict of interest, favoritism and mismanagement at the UN Joint Staff Pension Fund," the complaints of two whistleblowers are considered and upheld. Specifically, OIOS confirmed that 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.  According to the audit,

"OIOS found no evidence that UNJSPF [the UN Pension Fund] considered candidates other than Sprig for any of these contracts. Similarly, there is no  evidence that UNJSPF made any checks on the background of Sprig independently (for example by requesting a D&B report on Spring) or that UNJSPF attempted to independently determine whether Mr. Bodell's fees were consistent with those charged by other consultants."

            The audit reports that Sprig was "operated by Mr. Bodell from the basement of his home," but nevertheless was given a higher score for "Web experience" than the accounting firm of Deloitte & Touche. Sprig's contract for "Strategic Information Technology and Management Consulting Study" was signed for the UN by Sanjaya Bahel, who was since by indicted and most recently had his bail revoked. A subsequent contract amendment for Sprig was signed for the UN by Andrew Toh, an Assistant Secretary General who is currently under investigation and for that reasons has not been asked to resign by new Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The audit concludes with the recommendation that "any contracting and procurement activities undertaken by the CEO of the UNJSPF comply with the Pension Board's directive that they be limited and only under exceptional circumstances."

Andrew Toh and Ms. Frechette: back to the future?

            At the February 5 meeting, the Staff Council referred to documents which challenge Mr. Sach's presentation of himself as having opposed an earlier attempt to outsource Pension Fund business. After the meeting, Inner City Press asked Mr. Sach about these documents. Mr. Sach showed a copy of a memo from Chieko Okudo to then-Under Secretary General Christopher B. Burnham, on which was scrawled at the bottom of the first page an instruction to "do this by the book, -CBB." Mr. Sach said that some had circulated copies of this memo with the bottom notation removed.

            Inner City Press has obtained copies of emails from the time at issue, which tell a different story. After a decision was made to "liquidate" a small capitalization fund managed for the Pension Fund by Lombard, Odier, Darier and Hentsch (LODH), an internal debate ensued whether the liquidation contact could be given without bidding to the Northern Trust bank, which was already the global Custodian of the Fund. Despite the questions raised, by July 5 Northern Trust's Vice President Robert Ernst wrote to two individuals at the UN that the liquidation was finished, "would you like sales proceeds to remain in the LODH portfolio, or transferred out to your own cash accounts?"

            Before this liquidation, there was a June 13, 2006 email to Ms. Okuda stating that:

"Chieko: I do have a problem with your memo. The memo needs to state the complete additional services to be performed other than NT [Northern Trust] act as the Master Record Keeper. Recently, a number of changes and additional services outside the original scope have been requested to be undertaken by Northern Trust. All this has been undertaken in a non-competitive environment.... The organization is now open for criticism if we continue to expand the scope of NT, which was not originally envisaged. This can lead to other banks suggesting that we have not been open and transparent..."

            But it is now not only "other banks" who are complaining about a lack of transparency. The majority of questions directed to Mr. Sach on February 5 were critical in nature, asking "why fix it if it isn't broken" and why hand money to an outside firm. Later the question was asked, can we see the Request for Proposals, and know what firms are on the short list? No such information was provided, until press access to the bid-opening was allowed at the last minute, after repeated request, most of which met with no response. It shouldn't be like this. Nor should the recruitment and employment practices of the Pension Fund. Watch this site.    

Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service.

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