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At the UN, Staff Council Opposes Outsourcing of Pensions and CEO Cocheme's Coup

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

UNITED NATIONS, July 10 -- The UN Staff Council, $11 billion of whose pensions are slated for outsourcing, on Monday unanimously passed a resolution opposing both the outsourcing and the CEO of the Pension Fund, Bernard Cocheme.

            Cocheme has recently traveled to Europe to lobby staff representatives to support what's being called a coup under which he would get seize the power of the representative to the Fund of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. The Pension Board is meeting this week to consider this proposal, along with Cocheme's proposal to create 43 new jobs in the Pension Fund, and double his travel budget.

            The UN Staff Council's now-passed resolution calls

"on the Pension Board members and the General Assembly to reject any proposal which would give the Chief Executive Officer of the Pension Fund increased authority over the operations of the Fund and would thereby put our pensions at risk by reducing the necessary checks and balances to ensure accountability."

            Among those voting in favor was the representative from the Pension Fund staff. Currently, although Cocheme has near total freedom to hire and fire Pension Fund contract employees, and to refuse to impose discipline as calls for in an audit by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services for irregularities in procurement, he does not fully control the investment side of the Fund. UN Controller Warren Sach has an oversight role, for now. At Cocheme's request, staff representatives from the UN's European offices recently wrote to Ban Ki-moon to criticize Sach's counter-lobbing trip across the Atlantic.

Ban Ki-moon, USG Barcena and members of the UN Staff Council, June 15, 2007

            On Monday, the first day of the Pension Board's meetings, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's deputy spokesperson for the Secretary-General's views. From the transcript:

Inner City Press: ...beginning today, thereís the meeting of the Pension Board, the Pension Fund.  There's a request by the CEO of the Pension Fund, Mr. Cocheme, to end the Secretary-Generalís representation on the Pension Board, i.e., Warren Sach's role as sort of a co-overseer of it.  So I'm wondering, there have been letters, there was a letter to the Secretary-General from the WIPO participants' representative in June supporting that.  What position is the Secretary-General taking on that proposal to eliminate his role in the Pension Board?
Deputy Spokesperson:  I'll look into that for you as well.

            Despite a second request, there has still be no response from the Spokesperson's Office. We can report, however, that when Cocheme sought to have his "governance" proposal -- otherwise known as his coup -- considered Tuesday by the Pension Board, the administration's representatives said it could not be considered without hearing from the Secretary-General's representative, from whom Cocheme would be taking power. Accordingly, the coup proposal was not considered on Tuesday.

            Among the administration participants at the Pension Board meeting is Ms. Jan Beagle, who the record shows played a role in giving Cocheme free reign over employment practices at the Pension Fund. Among the "Pension Fund Secretariat" participants is Mr. Paul Dooley, whose granting of information technology contracts to his ex-boss resulted in a still-unacted on recommendation in the OIOS audit.

   Not listed as present was another individual as to whom action was called for in the audit, Ms. Dulcie Bull. Nevertheless, under Cocheme's 43 new post proposal, she stands to be upgraded, as does Mr. A. Blythe, who is listed as participating in the Pension Board meetings.  Strikingly, while Cocheme proposes 43 new posts, the UN's Office of the Special Advisor for Africa faces extinction or merger, in order to cut back on 16 posts.  Developing.

Click here for Inner City Press' coverage of the UN Security Council's July 10 press statement on Guinea-Bissau

Feedback: Editorial [at] innercitypress.com

UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

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UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540