Friday, July 23, 2010

UNder Fire, Ban's Hiring Staff Spin, Decline Myanmar Comment, Doss No Action

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 22 -- In purported rebuttal of criticism of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for lack of leadership on Myanmar, Darfur, Afghanistan and other issues, the UN on July 22 presented on camera two officials, neither with any political responsibility.

Angela Kane, the Under Secretary General for Management, told Inner City Press that she could not rebut outgoing official Inga Britt Ahlenius' criticism regarding Myanmar, where Ban allowed dictator Than Shwe to take part of UN aid in foreign exchange manipulation, because “in my current perch” as USG for Management it would be “inappropriate to comment on the political situation in one country.” Video here, from Minute 18:19.

Even as to human resources questions, Assistant SG Catherine Pollard evaded most of the questions, in essence blaming Ahlenius for not have set up her own Senior Review Panel to obtain the independence to which she and the Office of Internal Oversight Services are entitled.

Ban's Spokesman Martin Nesirky had begun by saying that for all UN posts at the D-2 level, there must be three candidates and at least one must be a woman. But as Inner City Press reported earlier this week, Horst Heitmann was removed from his Security Council Affairs post and parked atop the Middle East and Western Asia unit of the Department of Political Affairs, without any three candidates or woman.

Ms. Pollard said this was an exception, a lateral hire, but that the post Heitmann was removed from will be advertised and filled in the usual way. The usual pre-selected way? Sources say that Karina Gurlach, a favorite of DPA chief Lynn Pascoe, will get the post under a Temporary Vacancy Announcement, and then permanently.

Under the rubric of accountability, Inner City Press asked about the case of Alan Doss, who after initially being exposed by Inner City Press for pushing UNDP to show him “leeway” and hire his daughter, was the subject of a report of impropriety by OIOS that Ban let languish on his desk until Doss retired.

Pollard said that “G-2s and USGs are subject to the same rules” -- this despite Doss being allowed to bring his wife and children to “non-family” posts in West Africa and the Congo, as UN Volunteers -- and that the OIOS report “as presented” justified the “action” taken.

What action, Inner City Press asked. Ban's Assistant Spokesman Farhan Haq had said the Doss report was still being considered, and that the outcome would be announced.

No disciplinary action was deemed warranted, Pollard said. So: lack of accountability, and total lack of transparency, as to when and why this decision was taken.

UN's Ban and Kane, Compact only on intra-net, but SRSGs too now

Here is more on the issue of hiring rules to which the UN has sought to confine the story -- we present this without forgetting that Ms. Ahlenius herself tried improperly to get her friend Danielle Coolen hired, refused to answer questions about it, nor why she and Robert Appleton never investigated the UN's $250 million sole source contract with Lockheed Martin for Darfur “super camps” that were never built. Nevertheless:

Catherine Pollard cited an obscure Secretariat document called ST/AI/401 and claimed that Ahlenius never created the necessary "appointment panel" which would have allowed her to select her preferred candidate to head OIOS' Investigations Division.

When it was pointed out to her that it is actually the responsibility of the Secretary-General to create the panel, she dodged the question, saying maybe this will happen in the future.

According to ST/AI/2003/4, issued 21 March 2003, "the Secretary-General, in consultation with the Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services, shall establish an OIOS Review Body to advise the Under-Secretary-General on the appointment, promotion and termination of all staff members up to and including the D-2 level.

When questioned about the actual provisions of relevant UN rules, Pollard deflected the question with mumbo-jumbo about an ongoing review of all Administrative Instructions.

ST/AI/401, titled "Personnel Arrangements for the Office of Internal Oversight Services", says that the Head of OIOS shall exercise "latitude and control" over personnel and resources of OIOS, and "shall have powers of appointment, promotion and termination similar to those delegated by the Secretary-General to the heads of programmes, funds or subsidiary organs enjoying special status in these matters."

Pollard was not able to adequately explain why the appointments within OIOS are thus not treated the same as the appointments within UNDP, where the SG does not exercise veto rights over the hiring of D-2. Helen Clark can hire whoever she wants, without her selections going to Ban's Senior Review Group for vetting and approval.

Also unanswered by Kane was the obvious conflict of interest inherent in Team Ban having in effect veto power over Ahlenius' personnel selection process. These would be the subject of future reviews by the Fifth Committee, ACABQ, and Internal Audit Committee, in a properly functioning organization.

Another document, ST/SGB/2002/7, titled "Organization of the Office of Internal Oversight Services", quite clearly establishes that "The Under-Secretary-General is responsible for all the activities of the Office of Internal Oversight Services, as well as its administration." Team Ban didn't adequately explain this inconsistency.

The same document says that the OIOS executive office is responsible for "submitting OIOS appointment and promotion cases endorsed by the Panel to the Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services for his or her approval on behalf of the Secretary-General."

So there is a clear indication that the head of OIOS is responsible for approving appointments "on behalf of the Secretary-General". Both of these documents -- ST/AI/401 and ST/SGB/2002/7 -- were prepared and issued by the Department of Management.

And so it seems that Team Ban did not have the authority to reject Ahlenius' proposed selection for the D-2 position in her Investigations Division. What story will they try to spin now? Another “senior UN official” is scheduled to appear later on July 22. Watch this site.

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