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UN Mismanagement Leaves Retirees UNpaid, Broken UMOJA in Ban's Last Year

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive Series

UNITED NATIONS, February 19 --  Mismanagement at the UN in the final year of Ban Ki-moon's second term as Secretary General has hit a point where those retiring from the UN haven't, they say, been paid their benefits in six months (see below).

Elsewhere in the UN system, staff are told that there's no money in the new-and-improved UNOJA system, only in the old IMIS.

  As to the pension fund, the botched implementation of a new Enterprise Resource Planning system called IPAS has resulted in a situation where newly retiring staff, and this since last April have had to wait an average of isx months to receive their first pension payment. This despite the same retirees still having to pay rent, medical bills and other expenses.

This project comes under the responsibility of Pension Fund CEO Sergio Arvizu, who has still not been cleared by OIOS of the allegations made against him that Inner City Press reported last March and April.

The Pension Fund board chair has so far refused to call for an extraordinary meeting of the fund to resolve this. As with more and more things in the last year of Ban Ki-moon, they seem to just be hoping it will go away.

  This letter has gone to Ban Ki-moon, heads of agencies and the Pension Fund board:

Dear Members of the Board of the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund,

Dear Executive Heads of UN Common System Organizations,

We would like to draw your attention to the now well-known and worrying situation facing thousands of new retirees of the United Nations common system, former staff members of the organizations participating in the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund.

Since the middle of the last year, we, and no doubt you, have been receiving complaints about long delays in the disbursement of retirement benefits following separation. We see a new vulnerable group being created: former staff members deprived of the means of subsistence for many months (in the worst cases, for one year or more), and especially those in the field.

We understand from junior and mid-level staff at the Fund that despite their hard work and lack of support by their senior management, the processing time for a new beneficiary, once their case reaches the Fund from an organization and in the best of cases, is four months. This is on top of the time taken by organizations to process separations.

Many retiring staff live outside their home countries and have diverse and important financial obligations (mortgages, education fees for their children), contracted on the basis of a reasonable expectation of retirement benefits.

We are sure you will agree that the situation facing our former colleagues and constituents cannot be accepted. For many months, they have been deprived of the legitimate income constituted by their own contributions complemented by the contributions of the organizations, for no other reason than managerial inability to process their legitimate claims.

That the United Nations common system cannot honor its obligations towards its former staff in a timely manner weighs heavily on the image of our system and sends the wrong signal to those who have dedicated their lives to the defense of the values, and the achievement of the goals of the United Nations.

We therefore urge you to take resolute action to put an end to the current practice of mismanagement at the Fund and to this end propose a series of measures:

• A faster processing of new claims that allows the elimination of the current backlog as soon as possible, through an adequate staffing and management of the Pension Fund and increased coordination between participating organizations and the Fund, including as regards the compatibility of ERP systems.

• The use of advances for retirees who do not receive their long overdue benefits, paid either by the Fund or the organizations.

• A change to how claims of new retirees are processed so that the Fund disburses the first retirement benefit no later than 30 calendar days after the day of the last salary payment and pays penalties to the retired staff member if this objective is not met.

• An acknowledgement by the Fund’s CEO, Mr. Sergio Arvizu, to staff and retirees that there is a serious problem and steps by the Board to hold the management accountable for the misery it has caused.

To this end we call on the Chair of the Board, Mr. Olusoji Adeniyi, to call for an urgent extraordinary meeting to address the current situation and make sure it never happens again. We regret that to-date he has declined to hold such a meeting.

   We will continue to follow this.


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