Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Pension Fund backlog: Queuing at the Q-gate and doing the math, 10 May 2016

It’s 21 days to “E” day, i.e., “Elimination” day. Remember? The UN Pension Fund CEO has given the Department of Management his "personal assurances" that the backlog in pension payments “would be eliminated” by 31 May 2016.

The agreed Q-Gates (fancy name for performance indicators) are 35% by 31 March; 70% by 30 April; and 100% of the backlog by 31 May (1 March DM iSeek message).

We like the ring of certainty in “would be eliminated”, as in long-suffering UN retirees who’ve been waiting -- many for more than six months --for their first pension payment will be able to do things they used to do: you know, pay rent or mortgage, buy food, that sort of thing.

We also recall the 14 April DM iSeek update message.  Do we detect a creeping tentativeness in “every effort will be made to eliminate the backlog by end May 2016?" We know when we say "every effort", what we really mean is "you might want to start thinking about a plan B."   

But, there’s some good news in the message. A dedicated task force has accelerated processing and upped the end-March Q-gate from 35% to 39%!  Four whole percentage points. More news: “a number of special cases not included in the backlog were also processed” in March.

Wait a second. “Special cases”?  “Not included in the backlog”? Recall the Fund's former Chief of Entitlements’ open letter of 9 April 2016 where he describes backlog reporting as ‘deceptive, incomplete, and selective’, calls for an independent investigation into the real extent of the backlog and related mismanagement, and payment of interest and damages for hardship to those waiting for months for their first pension payment (posted on the blog).

 Time for CCISUA President Ian Richards to do the math. Factoring in the cases of new retirees, some 1000 per month he estimates, plus cases not logged into the reported backlog, he figures that the reduction by end March was 7.1%, not the 39% reported by the CEO and that “It will take 14 months to clear the backlog on current trends”  -- “E” day won’t be 31 May 2016, but some time in mid 2017! (See iSeek and blog post dated 14 April). Is that the sound of  Q-Gates wobbling? 

Yesterday’s (9 May 2016) iSeek message (see below) repeats the  CEO’s “personal assurances” and “every effort” to eliminate the backlog by 31 May 2016.  There's no more mention of “acceleration”; still, we’re at 69% processed by 30 April. That’s only one percentage point off the 70% target!

Again, Richards crunches the new numbers: (just posted on FCUNS Facebook): "In two months, 2,382 cases were processed out of a reported starting backlog of 3,436. In the same period 2,369 new cases entered the fund, of which 853 were treated, leaving 1,516 to add to the backlog. The overall backlog has therefore been reduced by 866 cases in two months. As a proportion of the original backlog, this is 25 percent. So on current trends, it will now take 8 months from 1 March 2016 to reduce the backlog compared to the promised 3 months." 

And while neither DM nor the CEO has yet backed away from the promised 31 May "E" day, there's a new note of concern creeping into the narrative:

 “However, the UN and the Pension Fund Management are concerned with the number of new cases received in the Fund during this last period where they have been systematically addressing the previously reported backlog.”

Hello, CEO. However, what? New cases, you say?”
Yes, 1775 new cases for March and April. “
“Did you think staff would stop retiring while you caught up?"
“Come on. It’s a 'major increase' in new cases. It isn’t fair! Just when we were 'systematically addressing the previously reported backlog' and all.”
“Previously reported backlog? Surely there isn’t another backlog on the way -- is there? “
“Well, there's the old backlog; you know, the one we previously reported; where we didn’t include the “special cases”, or the new cases each month. But we’re good! We’re 25% more productive with IPAS.”
“What exactly does that mean for retirees Q-ing up at the gate for their first pension payment, many for six months?" 
“Obviously. the 'cases not processed in the current month will be promptly processed once the backlog is eliminated at the end of May'."
“So you're saying that once the previous backlog is eliminated at the end of May, you’ll report the new backlog, which will include all the “special” and “other” cases not included in the previous backlog, and all the new cases you seem to have forgotten about, and there'll be new  Q gates and “personal assurances” and “every effort”…….
No, no. We’ll 'simplify'  and 'streamline' and 'expedite' and 'review the end-to-end process' . . .”
“So the lines will keep getting longer as new retirees join the queue at the Q-gates?”
“You know what, we’ll all just need to “cope”. Everyone in the Q-gate queue will get their “timely” payment…some time…Enough already with this retiring in “increased volumes”, please......” 

"The Department of Management has been closely monitoring the progress of the Pension Fund in eliminating the remaining backlog in the payment of pension benefits and outstanding issues related to the separation process.
Under-Secretary-General for Management, Yukio Takasu has met with CEO Sergio Arvizu and his management team several times and agreed on corrective actions to eliminate the total backlog of 3,436 cases accumulated as of 1 March 2016; 1,706 cases for the UN Secretariat and 1,730 for other UN Agencies.
Three quality checkpoints were agreed, with the goal of reducing the backlog by 35% as of 31 March 2016, by 70% as of 30 April 2016, and by 100% by 31 May 2016.
Following the first quality checkpoint progress featured in an iSeek article on 14 April 2016, the Pension Fund has now reported to UN Management that in line with the target set for Q-Gate 2, two thirds of the backlog has been processed, as a result of concerted efforts by the task force.
A total of 2,382 cases of the backlog (69%) were processed as of 30 April; 1,148 cases for the UN Secretariat and 1,234 cases for other UN Agencies.
Mr. Arvizu has made personal assurances that every effort will be made to eliminate the remaining backlog and achieve the final quality checkpoint target by 31 May 2016.
However, the UN and the Pension Fund Management are concerned with the number of new cases received in the Fund during this last period where they have been systematically addressing the previously reported backlog.
As reported by the Fund, the number of new cases related to the UN Secretariat received in March and April is a major increase from the average monthly intake.
Nevertheless, the Fund reported that during the months of March and April, in addition to processing cases from the backlog, the Fund processed 629 (35%) of 1,775 new cases for the UN Secretariat and 224 (38%) of 594 new cases for other UN Agencies.
Furthermore, the Fund has noted that the new IPAS system is providing for a 25% higher productivity rate, and the new cases not processed in the current month will be promptly processed once the backlog is eliminated at the end of May.
UN Management and the Pension Fund are reviewing the end-to-end process to see where it can be simplified and streamlined in order to expedite the timely payment of pension benefits, and are looking at alternative measures to cope with the increased volumes."

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