There’s a new controversy brewing at the UN, and it has nothing to do with politics. The controversy is surrounding the CEO of the $54 billion United Nations pension fund, as union officials and employees fight governance reform with accusations that the CEO has been involved in “massive fraud.”
UN staff and union reps laid out their allegations against senior fund management in a meeting on March 31st. The charges include tampering with documents, undisclosed conflicts of interest, dividing a contract to avoid oversight and allowing some employees to work well past the mandatory retirement age.
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More on UN pension fund fraud allegations
According to CIO, the executive office of the fund brought the allegations to the UN’s Office of Internal Oversight Services earlier in March. Ibrahima Faye, a former journalist and project manager with Senegal’s Ministry of Finance and Economy and employee rep to the UN pension fund, and his associates met with the oversight division’s audit director shortly before the meeting.
CEO Sergio Arvizú said the accusations were “a malicious campaign” in a letter to participants sent at the end of March. “I want to assure you that all accusations floating [around] are unfounded and that the fund continues to be in a very sound financial position.”
Of note, the pension fund did not respond to CIO’s request to discuss the claims or make a comment for the record. The alleged instances of fraud are not verifiable as are internal and not discussed in public documents.
The meeting invitation focused on the fraud claims, but around half the document discussed ongoing efforts to centralize the pension fund’s complex governance structure.
The pension’ funds administrative and investment branches operate independently right now. The CEO oversees benefits and operations, while the investment division is supervised by a representative of the UN Secretary General.
Statement from employee representative to the UN Joint Staff Pension Fund
“These are not already-investigated cases, but allegations of fraud” made by whistleblowers, Faye noted at the meeting. “There are four categories: Human resource irregularities, pertaining to promotion and vacancy management; procurement-related irregularities, project management, and cases of conflict of interest.”
One notable issue was CEO Arvizú’s alleged effort to create a short-term job at the pension fund for “person who is almost 100 years of age,” (and, concidentally, who had been a professional reference for Arvizú when he was hired by the UN). The fund’s mandatory retirement age is 62. “That person was so old,” Faye said, “we are asking ourselves, ‘What kind of work would he be doing?’”