Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A story of corruption and deception at UNDP leads to the NR#2 Rebeca Grynspan

Four years ago, on 1st April 2008, UNDP WATCH published this story:

Today, the Governance Accountability Office, thanks a whistleblower inside the IDB and UNDP has published this:

by Bea Edwards on January 31, 2012 ( The Whistleblogger )


Inter-American Development Bank

Anonymous whistleblowers report that the management of theFramework General Fund for Spanish Cooperation (FGE) at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) is weakened by a conflict of interest. The whistleblowers produced evidence, some of which was published in the Spanish press four months ago, that Carmen Albertos, the IDB staff member who administers the fund, also serves on the Executive Committee of the Socialist Party of Spain (PSOE) in Washington.

The IDB Code of Ethics is clear on this point:

[T]o preserve the independence and impartiality of their status as international civil servants and to avoid interference and conflict with their duties, they {IDB staff members] may not participate in partisan political activities that imply candidacy, acceptance of or appointment to public office or to a political party position. Accordingly, they must resign their position in the Bank prior to participating in such activities or accepting such offices, or becoming candidates for such positions (III.B.2).

Despite the fact that the details of the conflict of interest appeared in the newspaper ABC on October 2, 2011, IDB management has not addressed the issue. Moreover, the sweeping authority granted to Ms. Albertos, as trust fund manager, aggravates the problem: she alone can approve technical cooperation projects valued at up to €100,000.

Oversight of the fund is also compromised by the fact that the Spanish Ministry official responsible for supervising the Trust Fund lacks independence: she reports to the manager of the trust fund herself. Internal controls, therefore, are very weak. Finally, the whistleblowers show that the annual reports for2008 and 2009 for the FGE lack any assessment of the effectiveness and impact of the projects financed. After 2009, FGE stopped releasing the reports, even internally at the IDB, and this lapse raises additional questions.

In separate letters to IDB President Luís Moreno and Executive Board member for Spain María Pérez-Ribes, GAP requested the release of the 2010 Annual Report for the Fund, but the request has not been acknowledged.

Over the course of the four months since ABC first reported the ethics problems associated with FGE, documents have surfaced showing that the Fund Manager has in fact approved two technical cooperation projects (RG T1712; ATN/FG 11046-CH) managed by another IDB staff member who serves with her on the Executive Committee of the PSOE: Juan José Llisterri. So the conflict of interest is not only apparent; it is real.

The conflict of interest is a matter that IDB management and the Government of Spain ought to take more seriously than they have done thus far. Non-reimbursable technical assistance funds of this kind are scarce, and must be monitored with strict controls. The Government of Spain has become, in fact, a veryimportant donor of these funds, contributing more than twice as much than any other single IDB donor.

Apparently, the Spanish Government is somewhat careless when it comes to the management of the funds it establishes with inter-governmental organizations. The Spanish Trust Fund at the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) is now managed by Bernardo Kliksberg, who grossly mismanagedthe IDB’s Inter-American Initiative of Ethics and Social Capital funded by the Government of Norway. Kliksberg’s business conduct was improper and irregular to such a degree that the IDB repaid the Norwegian Trust Fund for the amount he misdirected.

If trust funds at inter-governmental organizations funded by governments for earmarked initiatives are to be effective conduits of development financing, the management of them should be de-politicized and subjected to rigorous ethical standards. Otherwise these funds can easily be converted to slush funds, used by unscrupulous actors with privileged access to public money.

Bea Edwards is Executive Director and International Director for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.

Monday, January 30, 2012

FoxNews: Internal study shows UN's payroll system adds to dysfunction that defines Ban Ki-Moon tenure


Published January 30, 2012

| FoxNews.com

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2012/01/30/internal-study-shows-uns-payroll-system-adds-to-dysfunction-that-defines-tenure/#ixzz1kyQvU7tQ

Add another morass to the administrative swamps at the United Nations: its vast, disorganized and dysfunctional payroll system, which handles much of the money that passes through the nearly $18 billion New York-based Secretariat, and much more besides.

According to a confidential study by the U.N.’s own internal watchdogs, known as the Office of Internal Oversight Services, how the U.N. Secretariat keeps track of its employees and its payroll is a chaotic exception to the normal world of accounting, where books balance, who works where is known, and big, inexplicable variations in payroll records get fast attention -- or else.

But not, apparently, at the U.N., where, among other things, the watchdogs’ report:

  • U.N. personnel records include thousands of employees who are listed at the New York Secretariat but are paid elsewhere;
  • About 1,000 employees from other U.N. organizations are on the Secretariat payroll even though they do not appear in the Secretariat system as personnel. The discrepancy in the accounts is papered over as a monthly “receivable”;
  • Consequently, the report relates, “It was not possible to match” the number of U.N. workers on the organizations staffing rolls with the number being paid on a roster that tallied earnings and deductions, and no attempt has been made to do it -- partially, the report implies, because neither the payroll nor human resources departments had been specifically made responsible for doing it;
  • When the watchdogs themselves tried to perform that matching function they turned up differences worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in a single month, or nearly $5 million on an annualized basis;
  • new employees who work on the antiquated personnel system have not been given training at their positions for at least the past five years, while a spate of retirements has gnawed away at the number of veterans who actually know how the system works, meaning a growing risk that the staff will be less able to avoid errors or spot them when they occur;
  • Help desk procedures in the personnel department have not been updated since 1996 -- several lifetimes ago in computer software terms. An executive summary attached to the report, and presumably intended to be the main thing read by top managers, amended that date to 2002;
  • Even though many payroll reports available to top management were no longer used in the payroll processing system, they were still going to top U.N. managers where, the watchdogs delicately put it, “users in the Executive Offices could make incorrect assumptions on the basis of this information."

One possible implication: budget projections and other reports to the nations that pay the U.N.’s bills and oversee its operations could potentially be off-base.


All in all, said a forensic accounting expert asked by Fox News to examine the OIOS report, "all of the things identified point to a situation ripe for error and potentially for fraud. How do you get any assurance that your calculations are correct?"

"You would not think a multibillion-dollar organization would have this level of discrepancy" in its bookkeeping, he added.

According to the U.N. itself, however, the issues raised in the watchdog report no longer exist.

Queried by Fox News about the report's diplomatically phrased recommendations that the Secretariat "update its help desk procedures" and "ensure that all personnel assigned to payroll-related activities receive adequate training," Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesman, Martin Nesirky, declared on behalf of the U.N.’s Department of Management that the concerns had been taken care of.

"The project to update help desk procedures was actually finished by Dec. 31, 2011," he declared. Likewise, he said, "the reports used to assess the accuracy of the payroll results were found to be accurate by OIOS. The minor variances identified during the audit process were related to minor bugs in a very limited number of accounting reports."

"The fixing of those bugs," he added, "will be done no later than the second semester of 2012." In other words, five months from now.

In fact, the management response contained in the audit report itself says something different. Due to budget constraints, that section of the report says, only one human resources professional and two administrative helpers had been assigned the training task, and were working only on the areas where the most mistakes were made. They had only been given funding for six months to complete the assignment (which was only slated to begin on Dec. 31, the report says.)

"Additional updates to desk procedures and further training would not be feasible unless the project is extended or more resources are made available," the report says.

The outside accounting expert who examined the OIOS report at Fox News’ request found the management rejoinder "very lackadaisical." Simply put, he said, "they are not going to invest in people doing it right."

The OIOS report notes that the five-year neglect of payroll training came about because the U.N.’s staffing managers expected their old and wheezing payroll system to be replaced by something new: a sophisticated, computer and software platform known as Umoja, and consequently decided they didn't have to spend money on keeping people updated on how to run the old system.

The problem is that it didn't work out that way.

Umoja was supposed to "renew completely the way the United Nations manages human, financial and material resources, bringing the Organization up to accepted common standards commensurate with the size and nature of its operations,” Secretary General Ban declared in a 2009 report. It was supposed to be completed by the end of this year, at a cost of $312 million.

Instead, Umoja has become a high-tech symbol of Ban’s inability to sweep aside the U.N.’s bureaucratic sclerosis during his first, five-year term. Umoja is now slated for completion in 2015, three years behind its original schedule, and its $312 million price tag is based on some questionable assumptions, notably a lack of provision for unforeseen contingencies.

Ban himself was slammed by a U.N. oversight committee last month for his slack management of the Umoja project, failure to act decisively in the face of the growing fiasco, and overall bad planning for the entire exercise.

Moreover, it is not yet clear that the U.N. can hire enough highly trained technicians to complete the project even on its new schedule.

And even when the revolutionary new "enterprise planning" system is completed, it will still be connected to at least 300 old systems that Ban himself has characterized in a report as “at the breaking point, and woefully inadequate for carrying out the increasingly complex, far-reaching operations of the Organization.”

Ban’s dramatic characterization of the mess raises another important question. If the technology at the U.N.’s disposal is in such dire shape -- including, it now appears, the high-tech solution to all the previous problems of age and neglect -- how can anyone be sure that the payroll chaos outlined in the U.N.’s latest watchdog report has been cleaned up anywhere near as well as the U.N.’s top managers now claim?

George Russell is executive editor of Fox News and can be found at Twitter@GeorgeRussell

Click here for more stories by George Russell.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2012/01/30/internal-study-shows-uns-payroll-system-adds-to-dysfunction-that-defines-tenure/#ixzz1kyQvU7tQ

Friday, January 27, 2012

USUN's Joe (Torsella) want help on Twitter to identify solutions & savings at the UN

Believe or not even an Ambassador of the country who pays 22.7% of U.N. bills (as in Billions) wants to find solutions for UN - not by asking Ban Ki-moon or his political-reform guru Bob Orr (an American) - but by going on Twitter...

Joe Torsella
Can we find ways for top managers to incentivize crowd-sourcing solutions & savings at the UN from the UN's rank-and-file?

UK Mission to the U.N. claims to have a position on #UNreform

when will you guys even care about reforming ? Is ur fit 4 job? What's his stand on ?

Management reform and finance

UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras

General Assembly Approves $5.16 Billion UN Budget, 24 December 2009

The 5th (Administrative and Budgetary) Committee of the General Assembly deals with the management and budgets of the UN. Details of the major issues are set out below.

UN regular budget for the 2010-11 biennium

The UN's Regular Budget is set every two calendar years. It funds UN core activities, including staffing costs, in eight headquarter locations. These headquarters are in New York (USA), Geneva (Switzerland), Vienna (Austria), and Nairobi (Kenya), as well as the HQs of the Regional Economic Commissions for Africa (in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia), for Europe (also in Geneva), for Western Asia (in Beirut, Lebanon), for Asia and the Pacific (in Bangkok, Thailand) and for Latin America (in Santiago, Chile). UN activities financed by the Regular Budget include holding conferences, economic development activity, UN public information work and human rights promotion. The UN Regular Budget also pays for special UN missions in countries such as Afghanistan, Sudan and Iraq.

In December '09 the Fifth Committee agreed upon a Regular Budget of US$5.156 billion for 2010-11, up from US$4.865 billion in 2008-09.

The Scale of Assessments

The Scale of Assessments is the system which sets out what percentage share of the UN’s budgets are charged to each Member State. The present system is based on a complex formula which takes into account the population of the country and its Gross National Income (GNI). The share of the budget that each Member State is charged is known as its assessed contribution. The Regular Budget scale is negotiated every 3 years; the Peacekeeping scale, however, had not been negotiated since 2000: both were on the agenda of the Fifth Committee in the autumn of 2009. The methodology for the next three years was agreed on 23 December 2009 with the understanding that it needs to be carefully reviewed and updated to reflect changing economic circumstances. The UK is the fourth largest contributor to the Regular budget with a contribution of 6.604%. Because the five Permanent Members of the Security Council (UK, US, France, Russia, China) pay a premium on peacekeeping activity on top of their regular assessments, the UK is the third largest contributor to the UN Peacekeeping budget with an annual contribution of 8.15%.

Top 10 Contributors to the Regular Budget Scale of Assessments 2010-12

UN management reform

The last few years have seen some important steps taken to modernise the management of the United Nations: the establishment of an Ethics Office, establishment of an Independent Audit Advisory Committee, strengthening of Peacekeeping and preventive diplomacy capacity, modernisation of Information and Communications Technology, agreement to adopt International Public Sector Accounting Standards, and the achievement of major Human Resources reforms relating to streamlining contracts as well as an internal justice system. Much remains to be done. There is still insufficient flexibility for the Secretariat to respond to the greater demands and responsibilities placed on the UN. Despite having some limited autonomy to do so, the Secretariat is unable to shift staff and financial resources within the organisation to ensure priorities are delivered. There are also gaps in the level of controls and the degree to which Member States are genuinely able to hold the Secretariat accountable for the delivery of priorities. The priorities for the sixty-fourth session of the UN General Assembly are:

• Improving the Budget process and enhancing the Secretary-General's ability to deploy resources in line with priorities;
• Ongoing reforms of Human Resource Management to ensure the establishment of a motivated, mobile, cadre of staff with the right contracts and conditions of service.
• Improve the management of UN Procurement and ensure an efficient and accountable system which really means best value for money from across the world.
• Continue to examine the role and functions of UN internal oversight to improve the effectiveness and accountability of the organisation;
• Modernisation of the delivery of support to Peacekeeping Missions.

Refurbishment of the UN HQ

The Capital Master Plan is the $1.9 billion project to renovate UN Headquarters complex in New York to bring it into compliance with building and fire safety codes and modern standards for security, energy efficiency, sustainability and accessibility. Building began in 2008 with the construction of temporary conferencing facilities on the North Lawn of the UN complex and the renovation is now well underway. The project is scheduled for completion in 2013. The UK will continue to work to ensure the project remains on schedule and within budget.