15 October 2004

It was almost farcical for the head of the U.N. Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) to celebrate its tenth anniversary with a conference on "Governance, Leadership and Accountability." Let's forget for a moment recent accusations against Mr. Dileep Nair and focus on one particular case -- that of promoting Patricia Azarias four levels upwards overnight from P-4 to D-2. How did Ms. Azarias achieve during a weekend what most dedicated qualified staffers hardly attain during a lifetime?

First, the facts. Personnel documents show that Ms. P.L. Azarias, index number 180487, had a fixed term contract under the 100 series (Limited) from 12 October 2003 to 11 April 2004 against post number 22939 at the P-4 LEVEL in the Monitoring, Evaluation and Consulting Division of OIOS. Another personnel action document indicates her separation on Tuesday 7 March 2004 but indicated that "staff member to be reappointed on 8 March 2004." Interestingly, the request is dated 18 March, that is 10 days after the required action. More glaring was the level of her return -- at the Director's level. It takes normally 2 - 5 years for a qualified staff member to move from P-4 to P-5 and an average of 5 years to go to D-1 and a lifetime to reach the D-2 level, if at all -- most people don't. However, Dileep Nair, the head of that "Oversight" office was "pleased to announce" in a message dated Monday 8 March at 12:50pm that the Secretary General has approved his recommendation to appoint Ms. Patricia Azarias to the post of Director, Internal Audit Division I "effective immediately." Patricia, Mr. Nair presses on, "is no stranger to the U.N. systems" having worked as Assistant Resident Representative of UNDP in Zimbabwe and for FAO in Rome as an Evaluation Specialist. Anyone familiar with the U.N. system knows full well that these are not enough qualifications for a sudden leapfrog. Also, Nair avoided any reference to Mr. Azarias' immediate previous service as an average level staffer in his same office.

Clearly Mr. Nair has the authority to take that action; otherwise it would not have been implemented. It is not a question of whether it is illegal, but whether it gives the proper perception about an office that is designed to oversee proper action. Someone with institutional memory recalled an almost similar incident in the mid-eighties when an Under Secretary General of Administration and Management sought to spring up the promotion of a female staff member from a junior level to the post of Director. However, that senior official was blocked -- by the THEN decisive chief of Personnel: Kofi Annan.