15 NOVEMBER 2014


A growing number of concerned U.N. retired staff and those who are about to retire are observing recent appointments by the Secretary-General in the financial area very carefully. Those familiar with early attempts to divert the Staff Pension Fund are putting one and two together to wonder whether a tighter grip is being gradually built around the decision-making process of dealing with the prized Fund.

A new Controller appointed by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Ms. Bettina Tucci Bartsiotas, has impeccable credentials. The only question raised was about the extent to which the new Budget Director, appointed at the Assistant Secretary-General level, will have to do with the issues relating to the U.N. Staff Pension Fund. By now, there is so much suspicion among retired staff that any move in that domain, especially in the Office of Programme Planning Budget Accounts would -- perhaps in an exaggerated form -- raise questions. Most retirees, if not all, are completely dependent on their pension fund for sheer survival. Ms. Tucci Bartsiotas, who was born in Uruguay, is a United States national who replaced Maria Eugenia Casar, who was moved to an Associate Administrator post in the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP). There is no doubt about Ms. Bettina Tucci Bartsiotas' credentials. She had served as Director of Budget and Chief Financial Officer at the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, and before that in the Division of Financial and Administrative Management of UNICEF. She also worked at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, DC, where she met her future husband, George Bartsiotas, who by the way, happens to be an effective member of the U.N. Joint Inspection Unit, ably representing the United States. By co-incidence, the name of Mr. Bartsiotas, was subjected to an unrelated digital ploy when it was used in April, 2014 in a fake circulated scam using his name under the title: "Good News, You Can Now Receive Your Abandoned Funds". It used his title, adding that he was" auditor-general "to various U.N. organizations. The scam continues, saying "During my investigation I discovered funds that have been received by past directors, but due to my new position now as the new Director I have discovered and confirmed that it will be released to you now, because this is the best time to accomplish this transaction. The funds can be released to you anywhere of your choice in the world." Of course like other scams, it sought to obtain "your name, an official document from an affiliated office. If you receive this fund, do not hesitate to contact my office. The fund is genuinely risk-free because I am here to guide and help you as I help many people. I will also give you information on the people that I have helped in different places." In fact, Mr. Bartsiotas, is a highly regarded civil servant in his field who worked in several operations, both in Washington D.C., Vienna and elsewhere, handling issues related to Kosovo and the Balkans.

Still, the concern raised by some retired staff, particularly prompted by the designation of Ms. Boykin as Special Advisor on the Pension Fund, requires attention. Some sort of assurance by the Secretary-General and his new financial team that no new drastic risky changes will be applied to the Fund, which will remain as safe, protected and productive as always, could clear the air.

Sometimes one word of assurance is worth a thousand words of controversy later.