UNheadlines

 

AN UNCHECKED EMPIRE. A STAFF OPINION. BY MICHAEL SARSAR.

1 August 2004

Regardless of good intentions, every civil service, and even any major corporation, has to have a watchdog to safeguard against corruption, nepotism or deviation from the course for which it was established. The same is true and is no different here at the U.N. The U.N. always had internal auditors, external auditors, and of course the Controller. In the early 1990s, there was a prevailing opinion among the major contributors that the U.N. was bloated, redundant and wasteful. The host country insisted on the establishment of the Office of Internal Oversight Services. To address this matter, OIOS was created in 1994 by a resolution of the General Assembly.

A tool of OIOS is its investigative arm, the functions of which are basically performed by former government investigators. The practices of these investigators have been rejected by decisions of the Administrative Tribunal. In addition, the Staff Council adopted a resolution last year to synchronize the OIOS Rules with those of the Staff Rules and Regulations. In 2003, I personally met with the former Legal Counseil, Mr. Hans Corell, and appealed to him to address the concerns of the staff versus those of OIOS as part of his legacy to the Organization before his retirement at the end of March 2004. Mr. Corell, speaking in generalities, told me that, "It is the classic case of who investigates the investigators; unfortunately, it was a blunder of the Fifth Committee, which did not institute checks and balances to the functions and broad authorities of OIOS."

Some current and former members of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) have informed me that the head of OIOS keeps coming to them with requests for additional posts at the higher professional levels. In their opinion, he is in the process of "establishing his own empire."

It may be counterproductive to take the head of OIOS to task for his well-known appointment and promotion practices. The author of this article would rather, for the good of the Organization, appeal to the Fifth Committee, the Secretary General, ACABQ and the newly appointed Legal Counseil, Mr. Nicolas Michel, to take action with a view to bringing the rules and authority of OIOS in line with the Staff Rules and Regulations. Unless checks are established, the OIOS empire will continue to expand and operate as it sees fit by the wishes of one person, its chief.