Is the U.S. picking up the tab for overly handsome United Nations salaries?
posted at 2:41 pm on May 31, 2013 by Erika Johnsen
My knee-jerk reaction to the headlining question would usually be an emphatic “yes,” but the Obama administration called out the United Nations on Friday for possibly dishing out salaries that are too high, by their own standards. They just released on audit on the oh-so-august international body calling for “greater clarification” on how they determine employee salaries that are significantly higher than the ones paid out by the U.S. federal government so that member states can better “provide oversight” of their budget management. The Hill reports:
The comments come in response to a U.S. audit that faulted the U.N. for allegedly failing to “clearly state” how it calculates the salaries for the more than 12,000 professional-level employees of the U.N. Secretariat, which is headquartered in New York. The member states have agreed to pay staffers between 110 percent and 120 percent of U.S. federal salaries, but the Government Accountability Office raised concerns with the U.N.’s assumptions. …
The report found that U.N. salaries officially increased from 113.3 percent of U.S. federal salaries in 2010 to 116.9 percent in 2012, still below the 120 percent threshold that could trigger a salary freeze; however, using different assumptions – such as taking into account cost-of-labor adjustments that the federal government uses when comparing New York to Washington, D.C. — the GAO came up with a figure of 126.7 percent.
“Our recommendation is that State and the U.S. Mission to the U.N. should work with other member states to make sure that they can get the information they need for effective oversight of ICSC’s process,” the GAO report concluded.
The U.N. defends its practice of paying its employees more than federal workers by pointing to a lack of job security and limited options for promotion at the U.N., as well as the increased costs of living incurred by people who work in a foreign country. In its response to the GAO audit, the U.N. defended the transparency of its process and ruled out shifting to cost-of-labor instead of cost-of-living adjustments when calculating U.N. salaries.
Is the Obama administration, albeit gently, actually suggesting that a sprawling globalist-progressive bureaucracy might be getting a little generous with its salaries when its no skin off of their nose not to do so? Who’s ever heard of such a thing! The United Nations would obviously find plenty of reasons to justify what look like flouting their own stated standards with potentially bloated salaries, but you’ll remember that the United States provides the biggest share of the UN’s funding by a long shot. I’d say we’re hardly overstepping ourselves asking for a few more details, no?
But, lest I allow you to get too excited about the Obama administration’s handling of the United Nations, Brett Schaefer at NRO reports that even figuring out exactly how much we spend on the United Nations is a pretty difficult task, and that the oversight on that issue in and of itself isn’t doing too hot, either:
Although most U.S. contributions come from the State Department, hundreds of millions of dollars also flow from other parts of the federal government. Thus, relying on State Department data fails to capture the full picture. …
That 2006 report was an eye-opener. The OMB calculated that U.S. contributions totaled $4.115 billion in 2004 and $5.327 billion in 2005. By comparison, the State Department had estimated 2004 contributions at “well over $3 billion” — far short of the actual amount reported by the OMB.
Five years later, the OMB reported that FY 2010 contributions the U.N. system exceeded $7.691 billion — more than $1.3 billion higher than the previous record, set the year before. Indeed, 2010 marked the third consecutive year in which U.S. contributions had reached a new high.
So, the amount we contribute to the United Nations regularly increases, but we are no longer required to keep a record of said contributions? I call shenanigans, and a couple of Republican Congresspeople have introduced legislation to try and fix that glaring problem, thank goodness.