The United Nations (UN) pension fund chief has denied all allegations of “massive fraud”, calling accusations of mismanagement by staff and union representatives “totally unfounded” and “fabricated to damage the fund.”
In a letter to members of the UN pension board and staff pension committees, Sergio Arvizú defended the proposal for policy changes that would shift major financial and management practices from the secretary general to his office—a move characterized by staff unions as a power grab.
“It is incomprehensible why the staff union and the fund’s staff representatives oppose and vilify the efforts of the fund’s governing bodies and management to improve the financial control environment of the fund.” —Sergio Arvizú
These policy reforms, he said, aim to fortify the $54 billion pension fund’s internal controls, establishing a regulatory framework for its core financial functions. The changes to administrative services—including internal staffing and service procurement—would only improve the staff’s career progression, according to Arvizú.
“It is incomprehensible why the staff union and the fund’s staff representatives oppose and vilify the efforts of the fund’s governing bodies and management to improve the financial control environment of the fund,” he wrote.
The CEO also emphasized that these efforts were not only recommended by the pension board, but also supported by the General Assembly. There were rigorous oversight, monitoring, and checks and balances in place to review the draft for changes before implementation, Arvizú added.
Furthermore, the pension chief argued as part of a “smear campaign,” employee and union representatives rejected the policy changes “without even looking at the content or the merits.” They had spent just 18 minutes reviewing the material, the CEO claimed.
Arvizú also said no short-term contracts were given to 90-year-olds and claimed that allegations of “improper selection” of a CFO was entirely baseless. He additionally denied there were invalid requests for travel tickets to Mexico for people not associated with the fund.
“Most regrettably, the authors of this malicious campaign decided it would be useful for their purposes to cause concern to the fund’s participants, retirees, and other beneficiaries,” Arvizú wrote. “This is, needless to say, most troubling.”
In a March 31 meeting, UN staff and union representatives accused the pension head of “human resource irregularities, pertaining to promotion and vacancy management; procurement-related irregularities, project management, and cases of conflict of interest.”
According to the meeting notice, union representatives accused Arvizú of nepotism, tampering with documents, and splitting a consultancy contract in two to avoid oversight.
“The new policy and rules would attempt to concentrate power in the hands of one man: the CEO,” Michelle Rockcliffe, a staff representative to the union, said at the meeting. “The rules decrease oversight and dangerously increase flexibility in financial areas.”