UN Performance Appraisal
Performance Appraisal 7

UN Performance Appraisal

The United Nations uses several tools to evaluate the performance of its staff, for example, the UN Secretariat uses ePAS (electronic Performance Appraisal System) while UNFPA uses PAD (Performance Appraisal and Development). However, it seems that these tools, especially the PAD system, are just a facade and charade used to promote cronies and to destroy the careers of other staff for various reasons mostly due to the ability of the UN bosses to abuse their authority without accountability. This post shows such alleged abuse of authority and corruption by the UNFPA Executive Director, Ms. Thoraya Obaid, and the UNFPA Human Resources Director, Mr. Sean Hand. The following excerpts from legal documents on a PAD Rebuttal represent a case in point. These definitions are useful in understanding the case: Appellant is the UN staff member who filed this complaint, MRG is the Management Review Group (UNFPA top management), SLWFP is Special Leave With Full Pay and JAB is the UN Joint Appeals Board.

The Case

"First:  UNFPA continues its irregularities and violations:
1. UNFPA elected to send the Rebuttal Panel Report to the JAB first, then almost two hours later UNFPA sent the report to me. UNFPA also elected to send the Report through […] UNFPA Legal Advisor, who by forwarding the Report to the JAB, contradicts what he stated yesterday, when insisted in our meeting with the JAB yesterday that: "the rebuttal process is a management tool not a legal tool."
2. In our last meeting with UNFPA Rebuttal Panel, on 19 October 2007, the Rebuttal Panel Chairman, […] promised that I will see the Rebuttal Panel Report before it is finalized and that I will have the opportunity to comment on it before it is finalized; unfortunately, I received the Report through the JAB on the last day of the contract, without any opportunity for the Rebuttal Panel to consider my comments.

Second:  The Rebuttal Report contains numerous factual errors.
Factual Error (1)   The Report stated: "The Panel did not consider the 26 Aug. 2007 email received from the staff member as a formal rebuttal as it was submitted to the MRG meeting and their discussion of his PAD."
In fact, the email was an official request for MRG review and Rebuttal, sent in one email to expedite the process. The email was sent on 26 August 2007 to the UNFPA Executive Director, Ms. Thoraya Obaid, and the UNFPA Human Resources Director, Mr. Sean Hand. In the email I stated: "I kindly request an MRG review to upgrade my ratings to at least Fully Achieved and Fully Proficient throughout all outputs and all competencies. If such review to upgrade my ratings is not possible; then I kindly request the rebuttal panel to consider this case. In order to expedite this process, I am attaching my statement of rebuttal and its annexes." […] In fact, it is clear from the Rebuttal Report that UNFPA delayed the rebuttal process from 26 August 2006 to 20 September 2007 when the Rebuttal Panel finally received the Request for Rebuttal; even then, the Rebuttal Panel received my request with only some of its 22 annexes.
Factual Error (2)  The Report stated: "none of the designated raters would be aware their ratings were required unless informed by the staff member."
In fact, PAD raters were blocked by UNFPA from entering their feedback, as stated by one designated rater "I have tried many times to complete your PAD as requested. The system would not let me 'submit' my changes for several times. I get a blank page. The latest I have tried was Friday night when, for the first time, I could not log in the system. For the record, I would like to complete the document even if it goes nowhere. Can you possibly send me the form in an attachment? I can then fill it and send it back. Many thanks and apologies for this inconvenience, I have really tried."
Factual Error (3)  The Report stated: "She also mentions this in an email specifically addressed to the staff member on 13 Feb. 2006. The staff member therefore, bears primary responsibility for not completing his PAD on time and the organization, specifically his supervisor, is also responsible for not enforcing this requirement."
In fact, the Report fails to mention that on the same day I received that email from the UNFPA Executive Director, I wrote to my supervisor requesting to meet with him to discuss my PAD, however, my supervisor was not available.
Contrary to the Rebuttal Panel Report, it is clearly stated in the UNFPA PAD Guide Book that the PAD is the responsibility of the supervisor not the staff member: "It is the supervisors' responsibility to apply the system in a timely manner and to follow the procedures outlined in this Guide Book."

Third:  The Rebuttal Panel Report stated in its findings that:
'There are significant irregularities in the staff member's performance appraisal process:
a. The PAD was done post facto, thus defeating the purpose for which it was primarily intended and hampering online feedback.
b. There is a risk that external factors could have influenced the ratings of the supervisor and staff member, thus decreasing their objectivity.
c. Work plan outputs and one competency rating were revised downwards by the supervisor and after discussion with the staff member had been completed. Though within the prerogative of the supervisor, this does compromise transparency.'
In Fact:
1. The Report fails to state that PAD stands for Performance Appraisal and Development not just performance appraisal.
2. The Report acknowledges the significant irregularities and it acknowledges that the PAD was done post facto; however, it fails to attribute it to unwillingness to meet with me to discuss my PAD as it is documented my email to in February 2006 requesting to meet with him and his lack of response.
3. The Report stated that completing the PAD post facto lead to hampering online feedback, however the report fails to indicate that designated multi-raters were blocked and prevented from entering their feedback.
4. The Report acknowledges that external factors could have influenced the ratings; however, it fails to indicate what these factors might be, and leaves it unclear whether it meant to indicate that was somehow pressured to downgrade the ratings.
5. The Report acknowledges that ratings were revised downwards unilaterally by the supervisor, however; it fails to correct these ratings.
6. The Report seems to indicate that it is the "prerogative of the supervisor" to change the ratings unilaterally, without justification, without documentation, and without discussion with the staff member. That is clearly in violation of the letter and the spirit of the UNFPA PAD Guide Book.

Fourth:  The Rebuttal Panel found the MRG comments to be incorrect "too strong" and lacking any support "in order for the MRG to support their statement, evidence should have been provided." However, the Rebuttal Panel fails to correct these comments accurately and it fails to reflect the many successes that took place in the Division in 2006. Moreover, I checked my PAD online; unfortunately, it still includes the original unsubstantiated negative comments of the MRG.

Fifth:  The Report stated that the "Staff member was not notified of poor performance until the end of 2006 and not given the opportunity to improve."
In fact, I was never informed of any performance issues by my supervisor at any time in 2006. My supervisor mentioned some issues for the first time when my supervisor and I started to complete my 2006 PAD by in mid 2007.

Sixth:  The Rebuttal Panel failed to interview most of the [12] designated multi-raters; […] my immediate supervisor in 2006 was also not interviewed.
In fact, the Rebuttal Panel interviewed staff members that do not have first-hand knowledge of my performance in 2006, for example […] joined UNFPA on 21 May 2007 more than a month after I was placed on SLWFP on 11 April 2006. Another example, the Rebuttal Panel interviewed […] and […] both of them did not report to me. They reported to the former Deputy Director […] who is a biased staff member that contributed to many of the problems […] by his poor performance, he was also interviewed by the Rebuttal Panel. Also, the Panel interviewed […] who has a long history of problems with his staff and who had an agreement with the UNFPA Executive Director to leave UNFPA. In total, the Panel interviewed the three members of the MRG, who have shown, by their comments, that they are not reliable or knowledgeable; these are: Ms. Thoraya Obaid, […, and […]  In addition, out of the 16 interviewees only two staff members are from the […] region which is a deliberate misrepresentation of the sub-region with the largest programmes in the Division […]

"Appellant received the UNFPA Rebuttal Panel report on the last day of his contract, evidently in a somewhat crude attempt by UNFPA to deprive him of any possibility of submitting his comments on the report before a decision could be made based on that report. However, as soon as the report was received, Appellant sent his comments to the JAB secretariat, highlighting the serious factual errors and deficiencies contained in it.."

"During the PAD rebuttal process, both the UNFPA Executive Director and Human Resources Director continued their pattern of abusing authority and acting in bad faith in order to delay and manipulate the rebuttal process. For example, on 21 September 2007, Appellant sent an email to the UNFPA Human Resources Director informing him that Appellant had reviewed the names of the Rebuttal Panel members and advising that Appellant had strong objections to 3 of the rebuttal panel's 8 members, adding that Appellant would like to replace them with 3 other staff members whom Appellant could select. [3 out of 8] The UNFPA Human Resource Director refused Appellant's request, however, simply stating without further explanation, 'there is no provision for a staff member to replace the panel members.'" Appellant confirms that UNFPA single handedly selected all the members of the Rebuttal Panel.

End of case quotation.

The outcome of such a flawed and biased process can only be gross injustice as it creates complete lack of accountability for UN bosses abusing their authority.

M. Alaadin A. Morsy

The UN Postunpost.net • Copyright © 2009 • All Rights Reserved

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Milan Moravec

Rx for Performance Appraisals at the UN. It's amazing that such dinosaurs (performance review systems, not the people) are still around. They must be, however, since a book has been published called "Get Rid of Performance Reviews'. Yet despite the outcry against reviews, there's nothing wrong with them that can't be fixed by getting managers off of center stage. Top management can fix the basic problems the review system faces.
Critics argue that performance reviews not only don't accomplish what they're supposed to do – that is, improve performance, enhance employee skills and achieve planned outcomes – they have unintended negative consequences. In many cases, unfortunately, that's true. But it doesn't have to be that way. What companies need to abolish is not performance review itself, but the idea that it's a "management tool. Here are some practiced paradigms that must be discarded:
Performance Review is designed, as the name suggests, in support of managers. If you believe this, your management is one of the roadblocks to exceptional performance. The most useful performance review support work relationships between employees (managers too are employees). Both parties need to address the question of how to best serve the goals and outcomes and align their work efforts.
Performance review is a management tool. Managers are not necessarily the best qualified to assess their staff's accomplishments. In fact, they may have a very limited or biased view. A more complete and accurate picture results when employees and managers seek feedback from a variety of customers, team leaders, professional peers, and others inside or from outside the unit.
Performance reviews include judgments from a "higher authority". Judgments produce compliant workers – people who are told what to do – not innovative ones. People hate performance reviews because most of them are fault-finding. How much better to ask, "What did we learn from this? What can we each do different the next time?"
The manager is responsible for obtaining input from the employees. 21st century employees can't assume a passive role in performance review, providing "tough-minded" self-assessments and valuable insights only on request. They must take the initiative, soliciting feedback from their managers and others. No risk taking to solicit the complete picture and no learning means no improvements.
Managers should be trained in performance reviews, then prepare their employees for the process. If performance review is to be a productive partnership with employees taking the active role and both parties committed to exchanging knowledge and ideas, managers and employee need to be trained together.


It  is rather disheartening to see that even after 60+ years of existence, with so many changes and modifications (often spoken as improvements) the performance appraisal system (PAS) still remains as handicapped, defective or contentious as it was many years ago. It seems difficult to see any qualitative periodic analysis as to why a particular unit, section, division, department or office performed the way it did and how things can be remedied/rectified or improved upon. Now and then the whole exercise is seen as organisational reform etc. and then business as usual.

Seeing the grievance cases thru the tribunals it seems that the PAS is still being used more as a tool to condemn and get rid off people un-liked for reasons not necessarily anything to do only with actual performance delivery. In the corporate world, the system is somewhat honest and clear – viz. actual delivery of agreed deliverables/services (mostly quantitatively and sometimes qualitatively in the case of service sectors). In the UN world it is not just individual doing or not doing, but how the whole section or office performed in an integrated and collaborative fashion that enable it to fulfill the agreed mission goals in the context of external factors (some may be uncontrollable or otherwise).  In that environment wouldn't it be appropriate to adopt different norms and rules of the game for the PAS area – more transparent, more periodic discussion-review-based on progress, less secretive  and possibility of mid-course correction, and evaluation of attributes – personal or performance related – that are grounded on proof of actual occurrences, critical incidents impacting the achievement of agreed results/deliverables or lack thereof.

Is it possible to pay greater attention as to candidates' true suitability at the time of bringing in people into the organisation and emphasis on good orientation, training and mentoring to help improve overall better performance?

It is understood that in the imperfect human world we live, with all mental, psychological and emotional baggages we carry, the politics, conflicts and "politicking" may not get fully eliminated.  But better "human relationship management" practices right from the beginning when a staff enters the UN portal would probably help build trust and confidence in the system and would prove cost-effective in the long term.

It is already time to stop thinking of the Human Resources as if they are commodities in the Chicago Commodities Trading Exchange, but they are the likes of Nelson Mandela or Mahatma Gandhi who can bring change for the better.   

Garnet Necklace


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Of the 35+ yrs of UN Service, I acted as supervisor/team leader/section/division head for over 25 yrs. I realized that the true performance appraisal was the one to be done by those who worked with me and worked for me in achieving our common goals. I did such an evaluation every 2/3 years (in a normal five year tour of duty in a duty station) and found the exercise was a great learning experience. With important lessons learnt in the management of human relationships, it became so easy, enjoyable and fulfilling to work for an organisation whose "mission goals" are justice and fairness to all.   


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