Thursday, May 26, 2016

Breaching the divide: Revised MOU on hold, but the CEO gets his 'flexibilities', 26 May 2016

So, the revised Memorandum of Understanding between the UN Pension Fund and the Office of Human Resources Management is still safely on hold, we thought, where it was placed by USG DM Takasu on 10 July 2015. You will recall his iSeek message stating that “ we believe more work is needed in sensitizing staff and retirees alike to the purpose of the proposed MOU and to disavow any remaining misconceptions. In this regard, we have consulted with the UNJSPF management and have agreed that it is important to make further efforts and dialogue with concerned parties in order to ensure a clear understanding on the initiative before finalizing the revised MOU.”

However, we have information today that at the time of Mr. Takasu’s message, the staff management ‘flexibilities’ pushed for by the Fund CEO had already been in force for almost two months. The UN Staff Union President circulated a broadcast today to UN staff, of which we received a copy, about the ‘strong powers’ given to the Fund CEO by UN Human Resources in a memo dated 17 May 2015 to the Fund CEO, attached to her broadcast. (See the 17 May memo below). 

Note that the ASG HR’s  memo to the Fund CEO states that the “existing MOU of June 2000 continues to apply” and that “in line with the current MOU and following consultations with representatives of the Fund Secretariat” flexibilities are approved with regard to staff selection, promotion, mobility, retention and classification.

But the new powers for the CEO enshrined in the memo are much more than mere 'flexibilities'. In fact, they go far beyond any provision contained in the current 2000 MOU and gives the CEO absolute authority over staff of the Fund (i.e., delegation of the Secretary-General's authority). 

Note also that the stated purpose of placing the MOU on hold last year was to allow time to "sensitize staff and retirees alike". We're not aware of any such consultations, albeit post facto. Note too that the HR memo to the CEO states that consultations have taken place with the ‘Fund Secretariat’, not the RSG/Investment Management Division (who was to be one of the signatories of a revised MOU), and that presumably these ‘flexibilities’ apply to staff of the entire Fund. This raises the  issue of fundamental concern (subject of the petitions to the SG signed by 16,000 beneficiaries and participants of the Fund in 2014 and 2015) of a potential breach of the strict separation between the Fund Secretariat and the IMD, as one of pillars of the system of checks and balances that has kept our Fund healthy when others have failed.

As background to this development, with the target date of 31 May 2016 looming for elimination of the backlog in delayed payments to retirees and survivors, there are serious questions about whether the CEO has fully reported the extent of the backlog, clear indication of his role in creating and exacerbating the crisis because of mismanagement and his single-minded focus on increasing this power and reach, including across the divide between the Fund Secretariat and the IMD.

Recall as well the petition to the Secretary-General, initiated by CCISUA, which has to date garnered 3,600 signatures, citing mismanagement on the part of the CEO as the primary cause of the current protracted delays in paying pensions to retirees; low staff morale in the Fund; his efforts to “circumvent UN hiring and procurement rules” (his push for a revised MOU); and his efforts to prevent investigation of allegations of mismanagement made by a number of Fund Secretariat staff. The petition asks the Secretary-General to replace the CEO with someone “with the skills to fix the problems at the fund and restore staff morale.”

The extent of the CEO's authority over the staff of the Fund is crucial to understanding the potential risks of his new powers.  How far does his new 'reach' go? What is the role of the RSG regarding staff management decisions in the IMD? Will the independence of the IMD staff be affected by the CEO's authority over them? What measures does DM intend to take to mitigate the potential risks? 

What are the implications for Fund staff of the CEO's new powers in terms of protection under UN staff rules and regulations as enjoyed by the UN staff at large, particularly for staff who are not in favor, and unlikely to benefit from such flexibilities.   How do staff conditions of service and morale in the Fund affect staff performance and well-being and by extrapolation, services to beneficiaries and survivors, and the ongoing health of our Fund? 

Staff management issues were only part of the powers that the Fund CEO was pushing to acquire. Now, even with the revised MOU on hold, he’s got what he wanted. What other flexibilities of concern has he acquired, or expects to acquire through other means including revised financial rules and regulations, for example?  Our pensions are at stake. We have a right to answers to these questions of concern.


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