Tuesday, April 3, 2012

UNJUSTICE.ORG: A Serbian retaliated for blowing the whistle at UN Habitat - Justice denied at United Nations.



3 April 2012

UNJustice is gravely concerned with the information received regarding the situation of Vesna Dzuverovic, 62, of the Republic of Serbia, a fully qualified former UN-Habitat professional staffer whose contract was not renewed only five months short of qualifying for a UN pension, purportedly in retaliation for reporting a case of suspected misconduct.

In particular, UNJustice is concerned with the decision to transfer the woman the week immediately after she reported wrongdoings in recruitment and procurement within her Unit to the Office of Internal Oversight Service (OIOS). The transfers continued each year for four years until Ms. Dzuverovic's contract expired and they appear to have been decided by the same manager who is responsible for the non-renewal of her contract.

UNJustice is disturbed by the fact that the Chief of the Investigations Section at OIOS finally dismissed Ms. Dzuverovic's report on the irregularities in her Unit, citing arguments which strain credibility and logic, such as "financial restraints and limited resources".

UNJustice is also alarmed that, since her contract expired in 1999, Ms. Dzuverovic, who has more then ten years of experience working with the United Nations, has been trying for years to find another post with the Organization. However, she has been unable to obtain any work in a UN position, including posts in hardship places or posts for which she is over-qualified.

During her time working at UN-Habitat, Ms. Dzuverovic doubled the delivery rate of her Unit. A native speaker of Serbo-Croat, she has passed the UN Language Proficiency Examinations in Arabic, English, French, Russian and Spanish. Prior to joining the Organization as a UN staffer, she worked as an economist, journalist, diplomat and as a UN Volunteer for about five years.

As a UN official has warned Ms. Dzuverovic, she may have been illegally "blacklisted" in the UN System for reporting the misconduct and for exercising her right to bring her grievance before the formal system of administration of justice of the United Nations.

UNJustice deeply regrets learning that the strong ethical elements of Ms. Dzuverovic's case have also repeatedly been brought to the attention of the Panel on Discrimination and Other Grievances, the Staff Committee, the Ombudsman's Office, the Ethics Office, Office of Staff Legal Assistance, the Management Evaluation Unit and the Administrative Tribunal of the United Nations. However, they have been unable to ensure that Ms. Dzuverovic obtains any meaningful redress and the case is now pending before the UN Dispute Tribunal.

Unfortunately, an appeal in favour of Ms. Dzuverovic, sent by the Government Accountability Project (GAP) to the UN Administration in May 2011, also seems to have gone unheard.

The improper treatment of Ms. Dzuverovic's case has put her health at risk, destroyed her career and damaged her livelihood, pushing her into a struggle for survival with the Organization.

"The wrongdoings in my office were serious, like granting subcontracts to some anonymous firms without the bidding procedure and then asking me to approve it with my signature, or buying the most expensive air-ticket (instead of the most economical one) for a consultant because he thought it would be great to combine a mission with a visit to his wife who lived in a neighbouring country.... and then asking me to sign for it.

However, the worst part of this whole ordeal, as far as I am concerned personally, regarded my father. He was with me at the duty station in Kenya. He had a stroke and was in a wheelchair; he was 82. Because of my conflict with my boss, who turned my two-year contract into countless one-month contracts, my father could not be treated as my dependant although he was completely dependent on me. When I lost my UN job, I could not take him home to Belgrade because of bombardments there and the war; the airports were closed. I had to stay in Nairobi where I was, and nobody wanted to give me any UN job whatsoever; everybody was afraid of my opponent, he was so powerful. Can one highly-positioned manager overrule the recommendations of a panel on discrimination, gender unit, staff association...?

A woman who lost her employment with the UN in her fifties and is trying to find a new one in the UN in her sixties as an external candidate, with the reputation of a whistleblower - could never find a new post in the UN without the assistance of an internal ombudsman or some other body in charge. Such a person in that age group cannot get any employment anywhere; hence the UN's obligation to take responsibility for the fate of such a former staff member if it was the UN to put that person in that difficult situation, as in my case.

This is an old story which I cannot let go of because I feel that the UN owes me something and because my future depends on it. However, I truly believe that it is the UN that has a bigger problem here than I have. I wish somebody at the UN would analyse this case and draw the conclusions.... ", says Vesna Dzuverovic.

We can't but note that this case raises serious issues about effective whistleblowing protection at the United Nations, with very complex and far-reaching legal and humanitarian implications. No-one with a modicum of sensitivity can remain indifferent to Ms. Dzuverovic's situation and we hope that the UN Administration will treat this case, and other similar cases, with the fairness they deserve.

Please take action to demand justice and effective protection for whistleblowers at the United Nations.

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Related information:

Chief, Investigations Section, OIOS, to Ms.Vesna Dzuverovic -letter, 28 August 1996-

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