United Nations Must Air Its Dirty Laundry

By Schaefer, Brett | Insight on the News, November 25, 1996 | Go to article overview

United Nations Must Air Its Dirty Laundry


Schaefer, Brett, Insight on the News


Another United Nations' Day recently passed in which we all were expected to bear witness to the great achievements of the United Nations. The organization and its supporters scrambled to hide its misdeeds and dust off its few accomplishments. But they failed to conceal the truth.

The United Nations, despite the claims of reform by U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali and the Clinton administration, remains rife with abuse, waste, fraud and ineffectiveness. Topping the list is wasteful spending on both materials and personnel. In a 1995 article, Money magazine revealed that U.N. employees commonly earn more than twice the pay of comparable positions in New York-based private-sector jobs. In addition to their salaries, the roughly 10,000 U.N. bureaucrats in New York receive an array of perks, including rent allowances and education grants for their children. To top it off, it's all tax free.

These lucrative positions are, for the most part, not even being filled with competent individuals. Vested interests regard U.N. jobs as opportunities for nepotism and high pay for little work. U.N. employees are not held to any realistic standards of employee evaluation. The U.N. bureaucracy is populated by individuals who fail to meet the basic requirements of an effective civil service. The evaluation system is so abysmal that the U.N. leadership has tried to reform it at least five times. Yet the current system, under which 90 percent of U.N. employees received "excellent" ratings in the recent past, continues with only cosmetic changes.

Of course, such employees aren't anxious to have their work habits exposed. In 1995, the United Nations bought a $1 million turnstile security system for its New York headquarters but never used it. The reason: The turnstile internal clocks would have recorded the arrival and departure times of U.N. employees. Heaven forbid they would have to work an entire day.

Unfortunately, the full range of problems remains hidden because until 1995 the world body refused to establish an inspector-generals office to root out waste, corruption and inefficiency.

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