Tuesday, April 18, 2017

UN Pension Fund CEO campaigns while thousands suffer and wait in vain, 18 April 2017

 The April newsletter of the UN Joint Staff Pension Fund was circulated by email yesterday to participants and beneficiaries, the first direct email circulation in memory. The Fund's newsletters are normally posted on the UNJSPF website.  

But it’s CEO (Sergio Arvizu) campaign season for renewal of his five-year contract. So the newsletter is sent by email to participants and retirees, using contact information which Arvizu is reported to have steadfastly refused to share for the purpose of elections of participant representatives to the UN Staff Pension Committee. No doubt tens of thousands of glossy copies are on their way by regular mail.

 The newsletter recycles information from past editions, and is much more interesting for what it excludes than for what it includes. It’s also difficult to square its relentless upbeat tone and touting of this and that award with the serious state of affairs concerning the more than 10,000 cases of unreported and unprocessed benefit payment cases detailed in the recent audit by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) -- several thousands related to widows and orphans -- and continuing failure over several years of the real rate of investment return to keep pace with the Fund’s policy benchmark (3.5 per cent).

The very first paragraph of the newsletter includes misstatements that were refuted by the audit of the backlog in pension payments. Concerning “successful implementation of the new IT system” (IPAS), the audit describes in detail (paras. 18-20) the Fund’s failure to assess and act to mitigate risks arising from blackouts and “missing or erroneous” functions in the IT system, such as not matching documents with participant files, contributing to the unprecedented backlog in benefit payments.

Regarding “the significant surge in the number of separations coming mainly from peacekeeping” that the CEO claims as a cause of the backlog, the audit notes t (para. 21) that the total number of retiree and separation cases did not increase from 2013-2015, the major period of accumulation of the backlog.

The audit illustrated with detailed numbers that Arvizu included only a fraction of outstanding cases in his reporting of the backlog. Here again  the newsletter provides information only on outstanding “actionable” cases (547 ready for processing as of 1 April 2017).

What about the 10,000 unprocessed cases reported by the audit as languishing in the Fund, some for years, and the silent suffering of retirees and survivors who continue to wait in vain?

 This blatant omission occurs despite the fact that the audit report notes (para. 52) that the UN Department of Management accepted OIOS’ recommendation to request the Fund to provide “information on all types of outstanding cases on a monthly basis until outstanding cases are processed within a reasonable time.”

There’s also a very interesting discrepancy. This is the last sentence of the recent message from the Fund posted on iSeek last week, and attributed to the Chair of the Assets and Liabilities Monitoring Committee, Pierre Sayour: 

It is also important that the Fund’s participants, retirees and beneficiaries, through their representatives, make sure that the long-established governance mechanisms are properly followed and respected.”

This is the last sentence of the newsletter, also attributed to an "interview" with Sayour: 

“It is also important that the Fund’s participants, retirees and beneficiaries, through its representatives, make sure that the long-established governance mechanisms are properly understood, maintained and respected, and that political considerations or individual campaigns to gain notoriety don’t dislocate the well-established governance practices that have served the Fund so well the past 65 years.”

“Political considerations or individual campaigns to gain notoriety” is a curious g way to describe the effort by the UN staff unions and others to uncover serious managerial deficiencies that have now been documented by reports of the Board of Auditors, the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), General Assembly resolution A/Res/71/265 and OIOS audit report 2017/02.

The name and title of the Fund's purported Senior Communications Officer appears at the end of the newsletter. This is another curiosity given that this post was not approved by the ACABQ.

Here are two questions for Woodyear and his boss:  a) what funds out of our pockets are being used to pay for the function of personal public relations arm for the CEO that should be better used for benefit processing; and b) Is the Chair of the Assets and Liabilities Monitoring Committee aware of the additional words placed in his mouth by the Fund’s propaganda machine?

And a question for the USG/DM: when do you intend to implement your commitment to OIOS to ensure that the outstanding 10,000 unprocessed benefit cases are reported and new Q-gates (benchmarks) established to ensure that they are processed in a timely manner?

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