15 MARCH 2016

by Loraine Ricard-Martin

The Pension Fund saga continues. Just around this time in 2015, a group of concerned UN retirees initiated a petition to the UN Secretary-General, urging him not to accept a revised MOU pushed by the Fund CEO and to stop plans (reported in the media) by the Representative of the Secretary-General for Investments (RSG) for increased Fund investments in hedge funds, both of which posed potential risks to the health of the 65-year-old Fund.

In total, thirteen thousand Fund participants and beneficiaries signed two petitions and in July 2015 the USG for Management, Yukio Takasu placed the revised MOU on hold.

In addition there were accusations of fraud against the Fund CEO accompanied by strenuous denials. Throughout the saga, the AFICS/FAFICS President has stalwartly protected the CEO's rear guard, or 'had his back', as the saying goes, as well as dismissed retiree concerns about possible riskier investments.

All the recent news has been about serious and protracted delays in processing pension payments for new retirees. Snippets of information have come from various sources. From the Fund website, the problems are caused by delays in integrating technology and by inadequate documentation submitted by retirees or by their HR directors in the various agencies. The AFICS/FAFICS leadership strenuously concurs, and says she's doing everything to resolve the problem with the CEO.

Where do things stand now? Has the CEO given up on a new MOU? What is the status of staff/management relations in the Fund, and their impact on client servicing including the current serious processing delays? Why, as noted in the Fund's last report to the Fifth Committee was there an under-expenditure in the 2014-2015 biennium of almost $2 million on staff and equipment and what impact has that had on the current inefficiencies in the Fund? What is the status with riskier investments? Does the fact that there are no further media reports mean those plans are on ice (along with the MOU)?

Yesterday, a shaft of light cracked through the fog of misinformation floated on the Fund's website, with support from the CEO's BFFs (Best Friends Forever!) at AFICS. The heads of CCISUA, FICSA, and UNISERVE addressed a letter to the Members of the Pension Board and to the Executive Heads of the UN Common System Organizations clearly identifying the root of the current servicing delays as Fund mismanagement, plain and simple. The letter's clear and unambiguous message is summed up as follows: "The leadership of the Fund's management and its Board owe it to the thousands of suffering retirees to step out of their state of denial, the latest communication from the Fund being a case in point."

Word is that UN HR directors, irritated that the CEO has attemted to deflect responsibility for Fund inefficiencies by his claims that late and inadequate document submissions from their offices are partly to blame, are drafting their own letter.

Fund CEO mismanagement and denial. Pension Board Chair's foot-dragging, and denial. AFICS/FAFICS complicity. Our staff representative bodies rise to the challenge, noting in their letter that "That the UN common system cannot honour its obligations to its former staff in a timely manner weighs heavily on the image of our system and sends the wrong signal to those who have dedicated their lives to the defense of the values, and to the achievement of the goals of the United Nations."

It's not over 'til it's over. Some of these issues may be on temporary hiatus but they haven't disappeared. They need all the concerted vigilance we can muster. Kudos to our representatives for taking this united stand to protect the rights of all former and current UN staff against forces that appear to be determined to move in directions counter to the values and principles on which the UN stands.
(Circulated by Karen Albert)