Thursday, July 22, 2010

Leaked Memo Criticizes Ban's Leadership of the United Nations

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today stressed the value of constructive criticism in the wake of a leaked report by a former senior staff member that attacks his leadership of the United Nations, while pledging to set the record straight on a number of inaccuracies in the document.

In a confidential end-of-assignment report, the former head of the UN’s Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) reportedly accused Mr. Ban of, among other issues, undercutting the independence of her office, thwarting efforts to hire her own staff, and trying to set up a competing internal investigations unit.  Mr. Ban told a meeting of his senior advisers today that the report by Inga-Britt Ahlenius – a former Auditor-General of Sweden who took the reins of the UN’s internal watchdog in 2005 – is supposed to be a management tool and that it was regrettable it had been leaked to the press.

“It is meant to allow all senior advisers to learn from the frank thinking and advice of a departing senior manager,” the Secretary-General’s spokesperson, Martin Nesirky, told reporters.  “The Secretary-General said he believed in collective leadership. Leadership comes from teamwork. He said he did not expect his senior advisers would always agree with him.   “He had always welcomed constructive criticism. But as public servants, there are rules and procedures.  In this case, a trust, a bond, had been broken.”

Mr. Ban and his team are currently reviewing the report, Mr. Nesirky added. “Where there is room for improvement we will take action. Where there are inaccuracies – and there are significant inaccuracies – we will set the record straight.”   The spokesperson said that the Secretary-General made clear that he had always told Ms. Ahlenius that she had full independence. “But operational independence does not mean being above the rules that apply to all of us.”

Among the reported accusations in the report is that Mr. Ban blocked efforts by Ms. Ahlenius to appoint a former United States prosecutor, Robert Appleton, to a D-2 director level post to head up her investigations division, on the grounds that female candidates had not been properly considered.  Mr. Nesirky noted that the Secretary-General has stated that in every senior appointment – in every UN department and agency – there should be at least three candidates for a post, at least one of whom should be a woman.   As for the UN’s hiring practices, Catherine Pollard, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources Management, told reporters that “all staff hired in the Organization are subject to the staff regulations and rules and the policies and procedures which the Secretary-General lays down.  “There is delegation of authority to the head of OIOS to recruit staff,” she noted, but added that there is no scope for creating a senior review body to review staff selections above the D-1 director level just for OIOS owing to the fact that there are only a limited number of senior positions in the Office.  Therefore, to select staff at the D-2 director level, the standard review group has been used to review all OIOS appointments, she said. In fact, she added, another senior post was recently filled based on Ms. Ahlenius’ submission to the Secretary-General, which was reviewed by the senior review group with three candidates, all of whom were female. The person selected was the person recommended by Ms. Ahlenius and then endorsed by the Secretary-General.

Responding to another accusation in the report, Angela Kane, Under-Secretary-General for Management, stated that Mr. Ban has been very supportive of OIOS and its investigative capacity.  “It is not correct to say that the Secretary-General was attempting to set up another investigative capacity,” she stated, reiterating that the report contains “a number of inaccuracies.”

(From a UN Press Release)

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