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UN Pension Fund Management Accused of Fraud by Staff, UN Decay

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 29 -- Irregularities at the UN Joint Staff Pension Fund, which Inner City Press has previously exclusively covered, for example here, have grown worse, according to whistleblower communications received by Inner City Press from multiple sources:

-Attempts by the fund CEO, Sergio Arvizú, to recruit a new CFO, subsequent  found to be unsuitable for the post.

- A consultancy services contract worth $520,000, divided into two, so as to avoid scrutiny by the Headquarters Committee on Contracts, a committee that only reviews procurement requests above $500,000.

- Attempts by the CEO to approve return air tickets from Mexico to New York for four individuals with no relationship, contractual or otherwise, to the fund.

- Irregular modification of a vacancy announcement in order to favor a particular candidate to the post of D-1 Chief of Legal Services.

- Attempts by the CEO to give a short-term contract to a 90 year-old referee on his CV.

  We'll have more on this early this coming week.

  The UN Pension Fund, which has resisted not only Press coverage but also accountability to its own pensioneers, is said to be poised to implement a major reduction in staff rights, according to a communication a whistleblower directed to Inner City Press on April 2, 2014 and which Inner City Press published on April 3, here.

   Inner City Press immediately began investigating the complaint, including a draft Secretary General's Bulletin said to be pushed by Pension Fund CEO Sergio Arvizu Trevino. From April 3 through the UN noon briefing on April 14, Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokespeople three times for a response, including to staff unions' letters of protest.

  Finally on April 14 came this response from Ban's spokesman:

Subject: Your question on the Joint Staff Pension Fund
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at] org
Date: Mon, Apr 14, 2014 at 4:21 PM
To: Matthew.Lee [at]
Cc: Stephane Dujarric [at] org

The UN Joint Staff Pension Fund (UNJSPF) is not a Secretariat entity but composed of many member organizations. The matter of formalizing delegation of certain authorities in human resources matters to the CEO of the UNJSPF follows discussions at the Board and the General Assembly. The General Assembly requested a review of the policies governing the recruitment, promotion and retention of the staff of the Fund and measures to find suitable candidates for certain Fund positions that were difficult to fill. The review found that the currently applicable memorandum of understanding between the Office of Human Resources Management and the UNJSPF no longer fully meets the needs of the Fund as a inter-agency entity with a unique mandate.

  This despite extensive protest from impacted staff, for example this received by Inner City Press:

"There is no way they accept 'No" for an answer to this mandate even though they say we are here to listen to your concerns, unless you stand united and firm with details clearly expressed and drafted sitting with the staff and their representatives. This divide and rule must stop and an inclusive conversation guaranteeing staff rights for grievances and eliminating this mess until the IPAS goes live and works as necessary. Sending you the complete documents we have received so far, thanks to those who contributed some documents attached here that are taken from the various communications and found at printers (special thanks to those high level people). Will send more as they become available.

 And so there will be more - watch this site. Tellingly, UN Management has engaged in what many view as censorship, click here for that.

   In the interim the old Staff Union has gotten involved, stating that it is "confident that the draft is real and is currently under consideration" --

In case this draft is approved the CEO of the fund will be able to:

remove the UN contracts of over 230 pension fund staff;

appoint, promote and terminate pension board staff at will;

make exceptions to the staff rules; and much more.

Worryingly, it was the Pension Board that was supposed to formulate proposals on HR issues and present them to the General Assembly. We understand that the CEO is now pressuring the Secretary-General to sign this off before the Pension Board even meets, thus making it a fait accompli. This would contradict the wishes of the General Assembly.

The staff of the fund manage $45 billion - your $45 billion. They rightly work in a diligent and independent manner, which is essential - it's your retirement income at stake.

We are aware of strange management practices at the Pension Fund for a while. Staff members there work under one of two types of contracts: a regular UN contract or a contract limited to service in the Pension Fund. If this draft goes forward, the Fund's CEO will have absolute power over his staff and we will have very little oversight on the way our pension fund is managed.

  The whistleblower's summary points at CEO Sergio Arvizu Trevino and his deputy Paul Dooley. Back in July 2013 when the UN Pension Fund was poised to designate a new deputy director, sources told Inner City Press that first among the three finalists was an individual previously recommended for discipline by the Office of Internal Oversight Service, Paul Dooley.

   Inner City Press, contacted by whistleblowers inside the Pension Fund, previously dug into a lack of accountability there. It obtained and reported on OIOS' "Investigation of conflict of interest, favoritism and mismanagement at the UN Joint Staff Pension Fund" describing how 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.

  Recommendations 1 and 2 of the OIOS investigative report directed that "appropriate action be taken” regarding Dooley as well as Dulcie Bull.

Previous chief Bernard G. Cocheme refused to implement the recommendation for discipline. Farhan Haq, then as now a UN spokesperson, confirmed to Inner City Press Cocheme's decision not to discipline:

Subj: Your question on OIOS and the Pension Fund
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.

That was one thing. But to now promote the individual to deputy chief? As one Pension Fund source put it to Inner City Press, there is less and less accountability in the UN, the more and more they talk about it elsewhere.

  Back then, the UN fought back against Inner City Press' reports by a spurious Security complaint how Inner City Press went to the Pension Fund to cover a meeting. This was repeated last year when Inner City Press covered meetings of Herve Ladsous' Senior Advisory Group on Peacekeeping Operations including a Sri Lankan military figure depicted in the UN's own reports as engaged in war crimes.

In 2013, the UN threatened to suspend or withdraw Inner City Press' accreditation for merely hanging a sign of the new Free UN Coalition for Access, which it co-founded to oppose the earlier type of attacks, against any journalist. Labor rights, free press without favoritism or censorship - what is Ban's UN coming to? Watch this site.


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