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As Achim Steiner Hunts UNDP Whistleblowers Survey Reveals Little Confidence in Faux Ethics Mechanism

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive, Photo

UNITED NATIONS GATE, February 23 – With the UN Office of South South Cooperation so recently exposed as a bribery vehicle in the Ng Lap Seng - President of the UN General Assembly John Ashe corruption prosecution, the vacuous media coverage to date of the upcoming OSSC conference in Argentina has been particularly revealing of the flabby propaganda in which today's UN drapes itself. But now Inner City Press has revealed the scam of Argentina not fulfilling its responsibility with regard to the travel of interpreters, and the UN quietly passing the cost on to all member states, see below. There there's this corruption, UNDP-wide: UNDP, the organization that proclaims its commitment to the sustainable development goals especially goal 16 which promises to build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions, shows hypocrisy by its inability to clean its own house. While the problems in the organizations are not new, the direction the organization takes to resolve them continues to reinforce the fact that it is anything but committed to improving these issues. On the surface, UNDP professes to encourage staff engagement by providing a mechanism to gauge issues via the biannual global staff survey. The survey is thus designed to assess the organization’s performance in 10 workplace quality categories, including ‘Ethics and Ethical Behavior’, ‘Openness and Trust’, ‘Diversity and Inclusion’, etc. But a key problem with the survey itself is that it is only available to certain categories of employees. While this particular survey pays lip service of inclusiveness, most consultants, who make up half of the UNDP workforce, and tend to experience the bulk of abuse, were ineligible to participate. The survey, for this reason, does not paint an accurate representation of the reality in the organization. Moreover, in an email to staff about the survey outcome, UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner expressed the fact that he felt “encouraged” by the trust in senior leadership. This too, contrast the reality indicated by the actual survey data.    Overall as an organization, the UNDP general trend shows that among these 10 categories, only 4 categories received a favorable rating by 70% of employees, while 6 categories were ranked favorably by less than 70% of employees. On the other hand, ‘Leadership’ experiences declined scores across all but one subcategory, compared to the 2016 survey results. This speaks volumes about Achim Steiner’s management two years into his tenure at UNDP. Equally alarming, when segregating the scores by gender, all 10 categories show lower rating by female employees while all 10 categories show higher rating by male employees in relation to the UNDP average. These dismal numbers contradict the reality of an organization that outwardly prides itself with promoting and advocating gender equality.   Data from some offices indicate a downward trend. For example, this year’s outcome for the Office of Human Resources (OHR) reveals overall poor results across all 10 categories, with only one category, ‘Client Focus’ receiving a favorable rating by 61% of employees, while 3 categories received were rated favorably by less than 50% employees, and 6 categories ranked favorably by only 30% or 20% of employees. The OHR, whose Deputy Director is Diego Ruiz who himself received a low 33% approval rating has seen a considerable decline across most areas surveyed. The low ratings support the fact that it is an office brimming with problems including personnel abusing benefits, gross mismanagement, abuse of power and favoritism created an environment which facilitated the double dipping of benefits by staff and sham recruitments scandals. Based on the results under the section on ‘Ethics and Ethical Behavior’ category, it’s clear the problems have exacerbated showing that employees have almost no confidence or trust in the organization’s recourse mechanisms to report misconduct or unethical behavior. Under the ‘Performance Management’ category, 92% and 91% employees ranked unfavorably when rating whether “all employees are held accountable for results” and “appropriate action is taken if there is a performance issue”.   Almost a year after OHR’s director David Bearfield has taken the helm, there has been no improvement in management and conduct. In fact, it recently came to light that he has expressed the intention of pursuing and penalizing whistleblowers who bravely disclose the double dipping of benefits by staff. Mr. Bearfield and UNDP management ought to consider the possibility of whistleblowers testifying in US Congress on the state of whistleblower protection at UNDP. Moreover, how can this Office be trusted to execute accountable and transparent recruitment processes when its own staff believe any processes that take place there are more or less a sham?  Incidentally, among all offices/bureaus under UNDP, three offices were missing results due to unavailable data: The Ethics Office, Ombudsman, and Office for South-South Cooperation -- OSSC for obvious reasons of corruption, see photo and below. The missing survey data for these troubled offices are not by accident, considering Ethics Office and Ombudsman are tasked with addressing issues of misconduct and unethical behavior, the effectiveness of which were viewed negatively by most UNDP employees surveyed. As for the South-South Office, Inner City Press has over the past months revealed mountains of problems and violations that border on crisis level.   Reporting such waste of taxpayer dollars does not come easy. As the above data on ethics shows, OHR staff feel low confidence in the relevant authorities to remedy the fraud and abuse of power. The ethics mechanism inside the organization is as weak as ever. Indeed, those offices seemingly work to embolden crooks by penalizing whistleblowers. UNDP management has instructed to identify and ‘resolve’ the ‘problem’ of key witnesses reporting on issues, while protecting and promoting cronies. Like a broken ship that sinks when incorrect remedies are applied to multiple damaged areas, so too, UNDP management must understand that suppressing hundreds of its discontent employees, who are key witnesses in how it closes its eyes to and even emboldens thieving staff in violation to its commitment to member states who fund the leaking ship that is UNDP will lead to its eventual demise.   UNDP, which is funded by taxpayer dollars doesn't inspire much confidence in staff  to report misuse of funds. Unless this is addressed staff will not feel safe to disclose abuse and hard earned taxpayer dollars will continue to go into the coffers of corrupt UN staff.  Time will tell if Achim Steiner and Co. wise up to the reality that repressing the voices of witnesses who tell the truth and have raw data to back up their statements will not serve him well. So will he continue to hunt truth tellers or smarten up and hunt the real crooks in the system? Then again, a fish rots and continues to rot from the head....

 Argentina is in a financial crisis and so some months ago informed UN Under Secretary General Catherine Pollard that it would not be able to meet its obligation to pay to fly the UN interpreters to the conference in business class.

  USG Pollard assured Argentina that should could get "her" interpreters to waive their UN right to business class on a trip of this length. But Pollard is not as persuasive as she thought. There was push back, and a secondary crisis loomed.

  Lo and behold, a classic UN solution. Pollard said she could get interpreters to "volunteer" to fly economy - by threatening those who refused with retribution. This Guterres gambit appears to have worked; Pollard brags that enough have volunteers, some cajoled with the promise of a compensated day of rest that all member states, rather than conference host Argentina, will pay for.

  But Catherine Polland, of course, will not herself deign to fly economy. No, she will fly business class as always - as corrupt as the boss of today's UN, the censor, Antonio Guterres, whose spokesman Stephane Dujarric refuses to answer any Press questions on these topics. A fish rots, and continues to rot more and more, from the head. Watch this site.

Background: the Office of South South Cooperation can’t seem to escape the legacy of the John Ashe scandal. When he took the helm in the aftermath, Jorge Chediek promised to completely reform the Office by ordering what ultimately proved to be an unsuccessful audit, catapulting the Office into even more pervasive corruption. Instead of working on agency mandated development work, Mr. Chediek plays tin pot dictator, his staff tell Inner City Press, having formed a sizeable patronage network, which he uses to advance his personal agenda. As a result, an environment of mediocrity and abuse of power prevails in the Office. Over the past year, Mr. Chediek has engaged the services of friends from Latin America, in seeming violation of UNDP regulations.   Since 2017  Chediek has been engaging the services of Bernardo Kliksberg, an Argentinian economist, who according to the Office website is listed as Strategic Advisor for South South Cooperation occasionally writing short news articles for the Office’s website to which Mr. Chediek attaches his name. (In the span of 14 months, Mr. Kliksberg has written 8 articles). This is a seemingly wasteful engagement in line with the general waste of UN resources, as there is already a strategic communications advisor in addition to other senior advisors on Mr. Chediek’s payroll. While rank and file candidates must follow a rigorous UN recruitment process, friends of Mr. Chediek get to jump the line for positions, thanks to his utter disregard for UNDP policy.      According to a Facebook post from April 2018 an MoU was signed between the Office for South South Cooperation and the University of Buenos Aires to establish a chairship of a South South programme at theUniversity, which also happens to be Mr. Chediek’s alma mater. Both Mr. Chediek and Mr. Kliksberg now serve as co-chairs of this programme in the University where Mr. Kliksberg has close ties, having served as chair of several other academic programmes. The chairship, against thecontext of Mr. Chediek already having engaged the professional services of Mr. Kliksberg, is a blatant conflict of interest in violation of UN Staff Rule 1.2 which governs the conditions for outside employment, regardless of whether there is remuneration for the particular engagement. Moreover, appointments like this one violate the UN terms on retention of service, particularly section 3, which outlines the conditions for the contracting of services.      And while Mr. Chediek uses UNDP resources for the services of prolific economists to elevate his stature, the Government of Argentina, recently bailed out by the IMF, plans to drop a few million on an Office of South South Cooperation conference, BAPA+40 this March. Macri’s government may have to answer to the scores of angry Argentinians already fed up with harsh austerity measures as to why it is prioritizing the funding of a conference by a historically corrupt UN office. Mr. Chediek has been using the preparation for this conference to justify the continued retention of his close friends. BAPA+40, which aims to bring international actors together to solve development issues, in reality, is simply a front for Mr. Chediek’s personal ambitions....


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