Sunday, November 27, 2016

Questions for the Senior Communications Officer, UN Pension Fund, November 17, 2016

November 17, 2016

Dear Mr. Woodyear,
This is in reference to your almost 1,500-word (1,493) post on FCUNS yesterday. Perhaps you could, as Senior Communications Officer of the UNJSPF, and as part of your job to “promote clear, easy to understand information to participants and beneficiaries of the Fund” provide answers to the following questions, most, if not all, related to issues you raise in your statement.
Backlog in pension payments
1. A recent iSeek report noted that as of 1 October 2016, there are 674 ‘actionable’ cases of new initial separations pending processing by the Fund. How many other cases are awaiting processing, i.e., "pending receipt of additional information from organizations and/or the separated staff members, as well as a number of deferred pensions (through choice), special cases (such as survivor benefits, child benefits), recalculation cases"?

2. Has the Fund ever reported the numbers of these non-actionable cases in its figures on the extent and status of the backlog? If not, why not?
3. The Fund has reported 90 per cent of the backlog eliminated by 31 May 2016. CCISUA says that published figures indicate that only 50 per cent of the backlog has been eliminated. Do non-actionable cases account for this discrepancy?
4. Why does the Fund reportedly maintain a high vacancy rate of posts, some for as long as four years, including posts “crucial for payment of benefits and client services” (see comment on your newsletter post on FCUNS) while pushing for reclassification and additional senior posts?
5. The Fund reportedly receives $10 million every two years from the General Assembly to be used by the Fund to ensure that participant organizations provide required documentation to the Fund. The Board of Auditors report (para. 11) states that there are 3000 cases of missing documentation. Why is this task not being adequately performed by the Fund?
6. Who initiated an OIOS audit of the backlog in pension payments and why was this necessary if the Fund has been providing (as it contends) full and accurate information on the extent and status of the backlog?
7. Was Arvizu aware, or did he initiate, the (leaked) email that AFICS/NY wrote to OIOS on 1 June 2016 listing reasons why, in its view, the audit should not be done, and did this email delay the conduct of the audit in any way?
8. Has OIOS acceded to AFICS/NY inappropriate request contained in the leaked email: “When it [the report] is ready we would appreciate being apprised as it may bring to mind further comment”?
9. Is the draft OIOS audit report on the backlog in payments currently with the Fund for comment? When may it be expected to be finalized and published?
10. What image does the Fund convey when long-suffering retirees are able to get their cases attended to by posting on FCUNS Facebook (your exchanges yesterday) while experiencing delays through communicating with the Fund?
Staff management flexibilities, low morale, and reported retaliation
11. Para. 360 of the Pension Board report states:. “The CEO noted that OHRM had granted certain HR flexibilities to the Fund which would hopefully help the Fund to speed up recruitment.” What is the actual date of the memorandum from OHRM to the CEO (leaked copy states 17 May 2015) granting him HR flexibilities?
12. If the actual date of the memorandum was 17 May 2015, did OHRM provide HR flexibilities to the CEO six weeks before the revised MOU (containing those flexibilities) was placed on hold by the USG DM, on 1 July 2015?
13. Since staff in any organization are not inherently opposed to staff management flexibilities what accounts for the opposition of some Fund staff to HR flexibilities and their reported low morale?
14. As you note, these HR flexibilities “bypass some Secretariat rules” including, no doubt, rules that protect staff rights. Why would Fund staff who say that the CEO practices favoritism and retaliation not resist being moved out from under the protection of the UN staff rules and regulations?
15. Why did Arvizu select (leaked email dated 3 June 2016 broadcast to UNJSPF staff) an OIOS staff member who (according to the email) “has been associated with UNJSFP since 2007” for a senior (D1) Fund in the Fund? Has he no concern for perception of conflict of interest? Reportedly action on this selection was suspended. What is the current status of this case?
16. Why is Arvizu reportedly attempting to terminate the permanent contract of a Fund Secretariat staff representative, ostensibly because the project on which she is working has terminated, while there are vacant posts in the UNJSPF for which she is qualified?
Financial rules and regulations
17. (Para. 245 of the Pension Board report) “The [Financial] Rules provide, specifically, that for procurement activities and other administrative services, the Fund continues to use the United Nations "machinery" under United Nations Financial Regulations and Rules.” For what activities does the Fund not use the UN financial ‘machinery’?
Mr. Arvizu’s performance and renewal of his contract
18. Why did some members of the Pension Board push for Arvizu’s contract to be renewed a year in advance (it ends on 31 December 2017) if not to circumvent the participation of new participant representatives (elections are due) on the Board in the decision at the 2017 Board meeting?
19. The UN staff union federations point out that Arvizu has failed in his primary mission as CEO: to pay pensions on time. As CEO of the Fund Secretariat, why did he receive a positive evaluation from the Pension Board? Isn’t he ultimately accountable for this management failure?
OIOS investigations of the Fund
20. Paragraph 348 of the Pension Board report states that OIOS has “not issued any report on the results of its investigations” into alleged fraud by Arvizu. Yet you continue to state that a report exists. Several months ago you said publicly on FCUNS (Facebook) that links to the report exist on the OIOS website. Are you able to produce the report?
21. Why was no disciplinary action taken as recommended by OIOS in its investigation of conflict of interest, favoritism and mismanagement in the Fund (ID Case No. 0543/05 , dated 28 March 2006) involving senior Fund staff? Is there truth to reports that Arvizu was Deputy CEO at the time and reportedly ensured that no disciplinary action was taken against one of those senior staff (currently the Deputy CEO)?
22. OIOS Assignment No. AS2007/800/06, 4 June 2008 found several weaknesses in the Fund’s procurement process including recurrent use of direct procurement outside of established provisions and consultancy services used to discharge core functions. What has the Fund done to address these deficiencies?
23. What assurances exist that the findings of the current OIOS audit report will not be watered down before it is finalized, or suppressed once it is finalized?
24. Since you raised the issue of an email, dated 3 September 2016, published by Inner City Press, and titled “A new scandal in our Pension Fund” and containing allegations of abuse of benefits by a a senior Fund staff member , has there been an investigation into these allegations, and if so, what were the findings?
Pension Board
25. How much did Arvizu spend on consultant reports (including Price Waterhouse Coopers) for presentation to the 2016 Pension Board meeting?
26. Why are Fund stakeholders (participant and beneficiaries) not allowed access to documents provided to the Board members for consideration?
27. Why were Board members including participant representatives reportedly made to sign confidentiality agreements that prohibit them from sharing information with stakeholders, including participants and beneficiaries?
28. Why were staff federation representatives, who hold observer status and are normally allowed to make a statement attached to the Pension Board report, "muzzled" at the 2016 Pension Board meeting?
29. Why are massive amounts of documentation reportedly sent by the Fund to Board participants only a week in advance of the Board meeting in the expectation that they will be digested and ready to make policy decisions at the Board meeting a few days later?
Fund priorities
30. How does one justify the funds and human resources spent on your salary (Senior Communications Officer, P5), on Member Self-Service, on i-Seek notices, newsletters, town hall meetings, outreach material, new logo, info-graphisc, “white board videos”, a You Tube page, and even a new UNJSPF website, as noted in your statement, when new retirees and survivors continue to experience serious hardship while waiting in some cases up to a year for their payments?
31. A similar number of serious questions could be asked about the investment side of the Fund. However, you’ve stated that you’re the spokesperson for the CEO only, not the RSG, head of the Investment Management Division. Why did you state publicly that the Fund has no investments in arms and tobacco, when it fact it does, as documented in the Pension Board report (paras. 111 and 137)? In fact, why did you speak on behalf of the IMD for which you are not spokesperson?
I fully appreciate that some of these issues precede your brief (four month) tenure with the Fund. You will surely derive great benefit and enrichment from delving into aspects of the Fund's historical background with which you are clearly unacquainted, and perhaps even a greater understanding and appreciation of some of our varied perspectives, especially those of our hardworking staff union federation representatives.
I look forward to your shedding light on the issues raised above, which are by no means exhaustive.
Loraine Rickard-Martin

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