International Organization Raises Questions About Governance, Oversight of UN Pension Fund

United Nations

Last week, the Coordinating Committee of International Staff Unions and Associations (CCISUA) raised concerns to the UN General Assembly about governance problems at the UN pension fund.

The remarks were delivered by Ian Richards, President of CCISUA, a group composed of UN system staff unions and associations.

Concerns included the weakening of the methods by which pension staff can report fraud and abuses, the possible harassment of whistleblowers and other managerial issues.

The remarks from Ian Richards:

Let me end with a common system issue of great concern to us, the management of the pension fund, an item you are also considering today.

We welcome the decision of the fund’s board that it should continue to be administered by the UN Secretariat, ensuring that the necessary management controls can be maintained.

But we are concerned that the management team at the Fund is actively seeking waivers to four important elements of the staff regulations. If approved, we foresee reduced opportunities for qualified pensions experts in your countries to work at the Fund and a weakened ability of OHRM to check abuses of authority.

Firstly, management has requested exemption from the UN mobility policy as its functions are specialized. Yet, as you are aware, having passed the mobility policy in April, mobility already exempts specialized posts; this matter is moot.

Secondly, management wants discretionary authority to keep some staff beyond retirement, citing an IT project. Such discretion will remove incentives for workforce and succession planning and does not make strategic sense. The Fund’s new IT system will need to be implemented by staff who can stay on for years to come in order to manage and maintain it.

Thirdly, management wants to promote certain colleagues from the G to P categories without passing through the exam, an issue on which you may well have an opinion.

Finally, management has asked for the right to laterally assign staff in contravention of your own instructions, reiterated on many occasions, that all vacancies be advertised externally.

Distinguished delegates, all this is taking place in a UN department whose management recently issued a directive forbidding staff from reporting fraud to OIOS. We have also received reports of alleged threats against suspected whistleblowers. With $51 billion at stake, this is alarming. As Member States, ultimately responsible for the fund’s finances. I therefore trust that you will seriously examine these risks to the Fund.

The full remarks, which include a discussion of retirement age, can be read here.

They can also be seen starting at around the 31:30 mark of the following video:

 

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