Monday, 16 March 2009

Senior Review Group (SRG) contested three times the selection of Haiyan Qian as replacement of Bertucci

The post of Director of DPADM remained vacant for 8 months after its advertisement in June 2008. Following the statutory procedures, on 3 October 2008 DESA submitted to the Secretary-General a detailed comparative evaluation of the six previously short-listed candidates, together with recommendation for appointment of the most qualified and  experienced candidate (Haiyan Qian - Chinese Nationality).

The United Nations staff recruitment process is currently governed by administrative instruction ST/AI/2006/3, “Staff selection system”, promulgated on 15 November 2006, which applies mutatis mutandis to DESA and establishes without ambiguity in its provision 2.3 that selection decisions are made by the head of department/office when the central review body, the Senior Review Group in accordance with provision 3.1, is satisfied that the evaluation criteria have been properly applied and that the applicable procedures were followed. It elaborates by adding that if a list of qualified candidates has been approved, the head of department/office may select any one of those candidates for the advertised vacancy, subject to the provisions contained in section 9.2.

The above is reiterated in provision 9.1, which further clarifies: the selection shall be made by the official having authority to make the decision on behalf of the Secretary-General when the central review body finds that the evaluation criteria were improperly applied and/or that the applicable procedures were not followed, in accordance with the provisions of section 5.6 of ST/SGB/2002/6.

The submission was first considered by the Senior Review Group in early October 2008, who posed lots of technical questions and observations and requested additional clarifications from DESA's management for at least three times (in a period of 4 months). 

Sources familiar to SRG say that the Group contested DESA's decision to go with Haiyan QIan's candidacy and demanded that DESA re-advertise the position. SRG questioned the methodology and pre-approved evaluation criteria used by DESA and as per the sources contested the substantive comparative evaluation done by DESA on the applicants. 

But Sha Zukang was not satisfied with the recommendations from SRG and therefore went to Ban Ki Moon and demanded that he overule the decision of SRG and appoint Haiyan Qian as Director(D2). Meanwhile because of the lengthy process, many female candidates had already droped out, leaving in the race only two reputable public administration experts and Haiyan Qian. 

After submitting its recommendation for appointment, SRG informally learned that the Secretary-General, through an internal memorandum (ST/SGB/2009/2) produced in early morning of 1st January 2009 (when everyone was home in holidays), had modified provisions 2.3 and 9.1 mentioned above for the selection process for posts at the D-2 level by requesting that at least three candidates be proposed, including at least one female candidate. Sources familiar with SRG question not only the fairness of trying to apply a new procedure for selecting DPADM Director without previously consulting it and after the SRG response had been made, but also the legality of changing a procedure on a fundamental question without at least informing the General Assembly and the staff.

On the basis of the above-mentioned internal memorandum (ST/SGB/2009/2), throughout the process it was clear that the Sha Zukang and Ban Ki Moon were attempting to impose a female candidate for the post. 

The SRG, one of the main functions of which is to give assurances to the Member States that their mandates are translated into action by the secretariats, carefully considered this aspect. Preference should be given to female candidates in cases of equal qualifications and experience, which was not the case on this occasion. Moreover, paragraph 3 of annex 2 of ST/AI/2006/3 states that explanation should be provided only when the recommended candidate is a male candidate where an equally qualified female candidate exists and the gender target of the department has not been met. The female candidate ranked fifth in the comparative evaluation in the overall unanimous opinion of the SRG, and therefore an attempt to give priority to her candidature over other, more qualified candidates would be not only a violation of the United Nations policies and procedures governing gender balance, but discrimination against the other candidates.

Moreover, in an unprecedented departure from the provisions of ST/AI/2006/3 and in violation of established procedures, Sha Zukang decided to re-interview the six short-listed candidates so as to propose a different list of candidates to the Secretary-General, without any justification other than its ’ impressions about the candidates’ performance during the interview with respect to “their vision and fresh ideas”. 

Members of SRG are convinced that Sha Zukang is not more knowledgeable about DESA’s needs than the SRG itself, nor better qualified or more competent to determine which candidate could best assist DPADM in carrying out their responsibilities. Many at SRG strongly object to the illegal action of Sha Zukang and deeply regrets that the Secretary-General, as the Chief Administrative Officer of the United Nations, and thus in charge of promoting accountability as a key element for good management, has not yet taken any action to remedy this uncomfortable situation that negatively affects the operations and functioning of the only Public Administration Division of the UN.

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