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UN Retaliation Extends To UN Refugee Agency Blacklisting Which OIOS Swanson Helps Cover Up

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive CJR PFT

UNITED NATIONS GATE, July 31 – The UN is rotting not only in New York but in Geneva. From the UN High Commissioner for Refugees agency and the UN Dispute Tribunal Inner City Press has this story of retaliation and blacklisting, in which a recent UNDT ruling show that a former staff member of UNHCR was secretly blacklisted by the former Director of Human Resources, currently the Inspector General, and the Deputy Director of Human Resources.

 A note asking human resources and administrative staff of UNHCR to consult with human resources at headquarters before any possible rehire was secretly inserted as the most prominent item in the former staff member’s personnel file. The note was inserted after the staff member had appealed the outcome of two selection processes as well as the non-extension of his appointment.    

The Deputy High Commissioner, Ms. Kelly Clements, blacklisted the former staff member for a second time when he appealed to her to remove the note. As the internal appeals figurehead in UNHCR, the Deputy High Commissioner was ostensibly required to review the note for its lawfulness. Instead Ms Clements reinserted a modified note into the file. The modified note referred human resources and admin staff to the Deputy Director of Human Resources for consultation before taking any administrative action. As the Deputy Director was the same person who had implemented the first blacklisting, the Deputy High Commissioner de facto blacklisted the former staff member for a second time. As with Antonio Guterres' and his Global Censor Alison Smale's no due process, no appeal banning of the Press from the UN in New York - and elsewhere - it is Kakfa-esque. To this has Guterres reduced the UN.

  And the internal justice system of the UN is so corrupt that high officials cannot meaningfully be held to account. Although the abuse of authority, harassment and retaliation for seeking justice by the three top officials of UNHCR is evident from the facts of the case, the UNDT judge surprisingly only declared the note as unlawful and ordered its removal. She neither ordered the payment of compensation as a remedy for the violation of the rights of the former staff member, nor did she order a referral to the Secretary-General for accountability enforcement. Fat chance.

 It is noteworthy that the judge’s term ended on the same day the judgement was issued. The General Assembly had not extended her term. A question, put diplomatically for now: was she afraid to point the finger at the manifest misconduct of senior officials of the United Nations because she wants to work for the United Nations again in the future? The judgement therefore raises serious questions about the neutrality of judges and the functioning of the current system of administration of justice in the United Nations.
Will the UN Appeals Tribunal will correct this injustice and order the Secretary-General to hold the three top officials of UNHCR accountable? Again, fat chance.   

  This case also displays the prevailing lack of accountability in the United Nations in harassment cases. Despite a clear obligation to investigate possible misconduct of members of the Executive Office of UNHCR under a Memorandum of Understanding between OIOS and UNHCR, OIOS refuses to investigate the manifest abuse of authority, harassment and retaliation. The Director of the Investigations Division of OIOS – Mr. Ben Swanson, see below – told the former staff member in an email that “it is not a good idea” for OIOS to investigate while an appeal against the harassing decision is pending at the UNDT.

  By not investigating, the United Nations automatically sides with the perpetrator and lets the victim fight for him/herself. Because there is no fact-finding investigation, the victim has the burden of proof at the UNDT that he or she has been harassed. This is convenient for the organization as no additional evidence is uncovered through an investigation and the organization can thus more easily fight off the appeal. In the meantime the perpetrators of harassment are de facto granted impunity from disciplinary procedures as the UNDT currently has a backlog of three years. By not investigating, the United Nations fails to uphold the highest standard of ethical conduct as enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations.    

The case also raises serious questions about the ethical standards of the High Commissioner of UNHCR – Mr. Filippo Grandi. Although the High Commissioner has personally known about the allegations for more than six months, he has until today not taken any serious actions to address the manifest misconduct of his direct reports. He has in particular held on to his Inspector General – the most senior official in UNHCR meant to investigate misconduct of staff (!) - despite the fact that she manifestly abused her authority by initiating the blacklisting when she was the Director of Human Resources. The High Commissioner conveniently accepts the refusal of OIOS not to investigate and thereby protects and covers up for his direct reports. This is unacceptable conduct for an executive head of a UN organization. By not ensuring the manifest misconduct is investigated, the High Commissioner fails to uphold the highest standard of ethical conduct in UNHCR and thus violates the Charter of the United Nations. If the High Commissioner does not even ensure an investigation is conducted into evident misconduct of his direct reports, how can he deal with the massive allegations of fraud and corruption that UNHCR is facing in Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda? Inner City Press will have more on this.

Meanwhile in UNHQ in New York run by former UNHCR boss Antonio Guterres, a senior UN staff member who even UN judges described as trying to clean up the corruption in the Organization had his office raided and computer search and seized by what has become the retaliation team of Guterres.

 Inner City Press has obtained leaked video of Guterres' "investigator" Ben Swanson, who never acted on Guterres' blatant CEFC China Energy conflict of interest nor on UN Security Ronald E. Dobbins roughing up the Press that asked about it.

  In the video, here, Swanson refers to UN Budget official Anthony Wilson as "a litigious complaining staff member of a type we see quite a lot of" - before the seizure of Wilson's computer. This is Guterres' UN: beyond roughing up and banning the investigative Press, now more than a year at 372 days, if UN staff "of a type we see quite a lot of" go to to the UN's bogus internal court to defend their rights or to report corruption/fraud that makes Guterres look bad, they can expect for Guterres to  send his retaliation squad to do a raid of their office and a witch hunt investigation.

  Here is more information on this, all the more outrageous: thanks to the Inner City Press leaked video, we know that Swanson has been talking about Wilson in a very prejudicial manner, suggesting they have already decided he was guilty of something. Swanson now NEEDS to find Wilson guilty of misconduct because that is the only way he can try to excuse himself for the way he spoke on the video.  This even gets worse. UNDT Order No. 276 (NY/2016, here) shows that Wilson went to the UNDT on 2016 after the Pension Fund was desperate to appoint a less qualified candidate and was playing fast and loose with the rules in order to do so. 

There was a credible (but anonymous) tip-off in that matter, quoted in paragraph 19 of that order, suggesting that the candidate the Pension Fund wanted an OIOS auditor (Dino Cataldo) and they wanted him because he had been “supportive” of the Pension Director's misgivings about OIOS audits. 

If an audit turned up the slightest suspicion of anything improper in the pension fund, global taxpayers would expect OIOS to jump all over it. They clearly didn't do so. This is Guterres' UN: wasting public money, retaliating against staff and the Press which report it. #DumpGuterres. There's yet more detail:

Here is the OIOS auditor's profile who was selected by the UNJSPF first in June 2016 and then again in December 2016, both actions were suspended by the UNDT.  "Before joining the UNJSPF, Mr. Dell’Accio served as Chief of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Audit in the Office of Internal Oversight Services, and Information Security Officer in the ICT Service Division of the United Nations Secretariat."

The selection decision was suspended for the first time at the UNDT June 2016 when Wilson submitted a request for suspension of action.  The MEU actually rescinded the selection decision and forced the pension fund to go back and do full evaluations and interviews.  The night before the interview, Wilson received an email from an anonymous email address stating that he had no chance (one can read about it in paragraphs19-23 of UNDT order 276). And yes, they selected Mr, Cataldo again in December 2016. 

 The selection decision was suspended by the UNDT for the second time in December 2016 when Mr. Wilson again submitted a request for suspension of action.    On this occasion, the MEU upheld the selection decision and Mr. Cataldo was appointed to the pension fund position in January 2017. 

 Notably, Pension Fund spokesman Mr. Lee Woodyear speaking officially on behalf of the Pension Fund decided to publicly slander Mr. Wilson, stating that "In this particular case, a disgruntled candidate from a roster decided to dispute the selection made by the Fund of another rostered candidate. These sour grapes ended up adding six months to the recruitment time, thus leaving an important vacancy at the Fund (not to mention defeating the purpose of the “roster” system). Those who were concerned about the smooth functioning of the Pension Fund, especially at a time when it was processing more separation cases and serving more people than ever before in its history, were understandably perplexed. The case was an anomaly and Secretary-General Guterres supported the CEO and the highly qualified rostered candidate took up his position. Today the secretariat of the Fund is operating as efficiently as it ever has and has a five percent vacancy rate, which in the UN system is a commendable statistic."

  This Mr. Woodyear was officially the CEO's spokesperson and therefore the comments made by Mr. Woodyear represented the official position of the senior management of the pension fund.  Woodyear left the pension fund when Mr Arvizu's went on disability. 

Following his appointment to the pension fund, Mr. Cataldo was appointed (while supposedly working full time for the Pension fund) by the Vatican to "advise the Vatican Secretariat for Communications" but the article still referred to him being appointed as an OIOS auditor. Read it here: "Dino Cataldo Dell’Accio, an expert in information and communications technology and security, and chief ICT auditor of the United Nations, New York headquarters."

Cataldo spends time when he should be working in New York for the UN pension fund in Rome on the lecture circuit while in Rome doing Vatican work.  So Guterres while raiding some staff and banning the Press which asks allows open violation of UN Staff Rule 1.2 (o) and (p): "Outside employment and activities              (o)      Staff members shall not engage in any outside occupation or employment, whether remunerated or not, without the approval of the Secretary-General;            (p)      The Secretary-General may authorize staff members to engage in an outside occupation or employment, whether remunerated or not, if:            (i)       The outside occupation or employment does not conflict with the staff member’s official functions or the status of an international civil servant;            (ii)      The outside occupation or employment is not against the interest of the United Nations; and            (iii)     The outside occupation or employment is permitted by local law at the duty station or where the occupation or employment occurs."

On March 2019, the UNDT issued a judgment on merits of the selection case, partially upholding Wilson's application: "As stated in Valentine UNDT/2017/004, often in a case “there is not a single fact, but rather an accumulation of facts that leads the Tribunal to infer that the selection process for the contested post was not conducted with the required level of impartiality” (see para. 26). With reference to the above considerations, the Tribunal therefore finds it is regrettable that, given the history of this matter, having served as hiring manager in the first round at which he made a selection recommendation, the Deputy CEO, who knew both the Applicant and the selected candidate, was, once again, appointed as the hiring manager and also participated in the panel as a voting member, as this only served to create a perceived, if not actual, conflict of interest. Coupled with all the other circumstantial factors highlighted in this judgment, this gives rise to a reasonable impression of partiality or bias, and at the very least to a finding that the selection exercise was flawed, and that the Applicant therefore did not receive full and fair consideration." The case has been appealed. Watch this site. 

  This is a project for the Free UN Coalition for Access, @FUNCA_info. Watch these sites and feeds.


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