Case of Common Sense

Case of Common SenseCase of common sense and prudence or case of superiority complex and incompetence?!

UN Admin Tribunal Judgment # 1495 of 23 December 2009 in the case of former United Nations Secretary General Mr. Kofi Annan vs. the ever-powerful law-unto-itself  UNJSPF.

“The actions of a great man are inspiration to others; Whatever he does, becomes a standard for others to follow.” Bhagavad Gita, Chapter III Verse 21.

Summary of the Case:

Mr. Annan was a participant of UNJSPF as a UN staff member from June 1966 until Dec 1996, with a small break in service during 1974/75, until he became the UN Secretary General effective Jan 1997. As the SG is a political top position, he is no longer a UN staff member in the sense of UN Staff Regulations & Rules. Therefore he could not participate in the UNJSPF, but based on some strange or unique advice or queer logic he was informed by UNJSPF top gun, and maybe his own HR guys, that his pension benefits for his contributory service as a UN staff member was to be suspended (not abandoned or canceled) until he leaves the post of SG.

Meanwhile, our most clever UNJSPF Standing Committee decided to forfeit the suspended pension benefit payment based on the so called UNJSPF rule 40 (a) or something because Mr. Annan became the UN Secretary-General and received salary more than USD 22,000 annually while being a UN retiree!!

Finally, after a lot of paper work, with trees being cut, a great legal punditry clarifications, and weeks of deliberations, the UN Admin Tribunal finally and correctly decided to rescind the UNJSPF Standing Committee’s decision and ordered the arrears of pension benefits plus interest of 8% to be calculated and paid to Mr. Annan gracefully and (let me say) with gratitude for his fine contribution to the UN’s dignity and credibility during his service.

Case of Common Sense:

  1. Is it not an educated person’s knowledge that when you become the United Nations Secretary General, you are top gun and not pen-pushing bureaucrat with a letter of appointment (100, 200 or 300 series)?
  2. Even accepting Mr. Annan’s case is very unique, why was it not possible for the UNJSPF to make whatever amendments in the voluminous (never clear) rules to clarify such unique situation all these years ? What were they doing these years?
  3. Since as UN Secretary General, Mr. Annan, is NO LONGER a staff member effective 1 Jan 2007, where is the question of posting the US$22,000 limit on his earnings as a UN staff member?
  4. In fact, if common sense was “normal” at that time, the CEO/UNJSPF or any other HR guy should have advised/explained that Mr. Annan’s pension benefits (deferred or not) have no connection with his being the Secretary General. As he was no longer a staff member, but  the number 1 world citizen, it is up to him to receive his normal pension or defer it as per his wish.
  5. Why this was not done, speaks volumes about the absence of clear thinking and meditative insight into the state of affairs. What about all the legal wizards around?
  6. Thanks to the Internet, there is already some transparency and accountability creeping in. Good for human kind.
  7. All said above is not a rocket science nor does it need a Yogic inner engineering to manifest?
  8. We could have saved lot of frustration, waste of time, resources, agony and BP/cholesterol too if “common sense” were available!

Epilogue:

As a joint appellant of the Common Cause Appeal UNAT 2009-001 (UNJSPF being Respondent), waiting to be considered during the 15 March – 1 April 2010 session of UNAT, that is the new avatar of UN Admin Tribunal, we do not know how much of an idea of justice, fairness and equity will become available and prevail and we pray for serenity and sanity.

Can we hope to expect a “reformed” chastened UNJSPF pension system to think in rational and common sense ways? Let us wait and see. Jai Ho!

V. Muthuswami, Chennai, India.

Joint Appellant of the Common Cause Appeal # UNAT 2009-001.

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