Petition to replace the CEO of the UN Pension Fund

Link to the petition: http://chn.ge/1QKuXp8

Press coverage: http://www.tdg.ch/news/standard/retraites-onu-retrouvent-sou/story/28712143

Staff retiring from UN organizations must now wait six months before receiving their first pension payment, putting thousands in financial penury. This is largely due to the calamitous implementation of a new IT system at the UN joint staff pension fund.

Its CEO, Sergio Arvizu has since last summer refused to acknowledge the severity of the problem nor propose adequate steps to deal with it. He has variously blamed other organizations and his own staff for the delays, without taking any responsibility for the suffering of retirees. He also ignored advice that could have prevented the crisis in the first place. 

These problems compound and likely also result in part from:

  • an already existing low morale among pension fund staff;
  • two hard-fought but fortunately unsuccessful campaigns by the CEO, played out in the public sphere, to circumvent UN hiring and procurement rules; and
  • serious lobby efforts by the CEO to prevent an investigation into allegations of mis-management made against him by a number of his staff.

It is now clear that the CEO is not the right person to solve the problems at the pension fund, nor provide inspired leadership to his staff. The fund needs a new CEO with the skills to fix the problems at the fund and restore staff morale.

We call on Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to:

  • terminate CEO Arvizu's contract;
  • push for an urgent meeting of the pension fund's board to resolve the crisis;
  • start the search for a new, competent CEO; and
  • pay interest on late pension payments.

As a staff member or retiree, your participation in this petition will make a difference. Ban Ki-moon has terminated senior staff for much less.

BACKGROUND

In May 2015, the UN pension fund put in place a new IT system for processing and paying pension benefits, called IPAS. Without checking that IPAS worked, the old system was switched off.

The new system didn't start functioning until September 2015, and since then only partially. The still slow performance of IPAS means that despite working nights and weekends, pension fund staff are struggling with the backlog. Newly retiring staff from UN organizations must wait 6 months on average before receiving their first pension payment, despite having rent, food bills, school fees and other expenses to cover. Calls by newly retired staff to the pension fund go unanswered while their files lie in floor-to-ceiling piles at pension fund headquarters in New York.

Implementing IPAS at the same time as the UN changed its administrative system to Umoja did not help. The two systems have struggled to communicate resulting in average delays of two months before the file of a newly retiring staff member reaches the pension fund. Therefore for certain cases, the UN administration is responsible for part of the delay. However, it has acknowledged this problem and explained how it intends to resolve it.

In the year leading up to the implementation of the IPAS, pension fund staff and their union representatives made repeated calls for more staff and resources to be made available to cope with problems that might occur with the introduction of a new IT system. They also warned about implementing IPAS at the same time as Umoja. These calls and warnings were ignored.

Instead the CEO and his team twice engaged in futile efforts to secure more autonomy for the fund from the UN so that they could circumvent UN recruitment and procurement rules. While their efforts were blocked thanks to a campaign led by staff unions and petitions signed by 16,000 staff and retirees, this constituted a huge and unnecessary distraction for the CEO and diverted his attention from the key priority of ensuring the proper implementation of iPAS.

At the same time the CEO wasted further energy lobbying against efforts by staff unions to request that serious allegations of mismanagement by him be investigated by the UN's Office of Internal Oversight Services.

Since IPAS was implemented, staff unions and UN organizations have on several occasions contacted Arvizu about the delays. Each time he has either refused to acknowledge the severity of the issue, his latest communication (see link at bottom) being a case in point, or has proceeded to publicly blame his own staff. At no point has he accepted responsibility for what has occurred. At the same time the Chair of the pension fund's board, Olusoji Adeniyi, has declined calls for it to convene an emergency meeting to resolve the crisis.

It is now clear that the CEO is not the right person to solve the problems at the pension fund, nor provide inspired leadership to his staff. The fund needs a new CEO.

USEFUL LINKS

The CEO's futile campaign to gain greater autonomy for the pension fund:

http://staffcoordinatingcouncil.org/attachments/article/281/CCISUA%20-%20Situation%20of%20the%20pension%20fund.pdf

Earlier petitions by staff and retirees that prevented the pension fund gaining greater autonomy:

https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/UN_SecretaryGeneral_Ban_Kimoon_Protect_our_pension_fund/?pv=51

https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/Mr_Ban_Kimoon_SecretaryGeneral_of_the_United_Nations_Maintain_financial_and_structural_integrity_of_UN_Pension_Fund/?pv=27

Allegations made against the CEO of mismanagement, as reported by the press:

http://www.ai-cio.com/channel/regulation,-legal/un-pension-accused-of--massive-fraud-/

Letter from staff unions requesting action on pension payment delays:

http://staffcoordinatingcouncil.org/attachments/article/324/LetterPensionFundDelays.pdf

Latest communication by the CEO on the delays: 

http://www.unjspf.org/UNJSPF_Web/WebEmail/imp/IPASwebsite12Feb2016.pdf

Letter from the Chairman of the Board to staff federations declining holding a new board meeting

http://staffcoordinatingcouncil.org/attachments/article/327/Letter%20from%20PB62%20Chairman%20to%20SU%20presidents%20Feb%202016%20FNL.pdf