As Ban Ki-moon Calls for Belt-Tightening, Confidential Documents Show He’s Been On a Hiring Binge

EXCLUSIVE: United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who has recently issued dire warnings that the organization must rein in its ballooning expenditures, increased the size of his own Secretariat by 38 percent, nearly twice the growth rate of the rest of the U.N. system worldwide during the same one-year period, according to confidential figures obtained by Fox News.

Moreover, those hiring figures do not yet factor in another major boost in U.N. Secretariat spending that has taken place over the past two years.

The employment numbers are likely to be a source of serious contention when Ban meets with the 28 heads of the sprawling, global U.N. system of funds, programs and agencies late next week in Nairobi. The main purpose of the meeting will be to address how the U.N. can deal with what Ban has called an “emergency situation” with its finances at a time when Western nations, led by the U.S., the U.N.’s biggest donor, have been struggling with dramatic financial problems of their own.

So far, Ban’s measures to deal with that crisis have been marginal, at best. Last week, for example, Fox News revealed that Ban had issued a call for suggestions on how to achieve a “painful” 3 percent cut in the Secretariat’s regular budget for the next two years that would, essentially, leave spending exactly where it left off at the end of 2011.

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The confidential hiring numbers obtained by Fox News, which cover the years 2008 and 2009, underline that a 3 percent cut in spending now is very unlikely to do anything significant about the Secretariat’s spending problems, since Ban has been responsible for hiring more than 8 out of 10 new U.N. staffers taken aboard worldwide during 2009.

Other U.N. agencies, including the $6 billion United Nations Development Program and UNICEF, made significant staffing increases of their own. In the case of UNDP, the hike between December 31, 2008 and December 31, 2009, came to about 11 percent; in the case of UNICEF, 7 percent.

Moreover, the hiring statistics, which cover U.N. employees with contracts of one year or more, do not include short-term consultants and contractors who carry out much if not most of its humanitarian and relief work. Nor do they include the massive human resources contributed to U.N. peacekeeping, which currently include more than 82,000 troops and 14,000 police around the world.

The staffing figures come from a confidential report compiled last May for the U.N. system’s high-level committee on management, which reports to the worldwide top executive group that Ban chairs, known as the Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB), the board that Ban will convene next week. The compilation is apparently the most current accounting of its manpower resources that the top chieftains of the U.N. possess; 2010 figures won’t be presented until next year.

Click here for the U.N. 2009 manpower tables.

The comparison figures come from an edition of the same statistics that was published a year earlier.

Click here for the U.N. 2008 tables.

Additional tables in the manpower series to be presented to the CEB also show why the full extent of Ban’s hiring binge has gone widely unremarked, even as the secretary general has declared time and again that his annual budgets have been models of frugality.

According to the tables, less than one-quarter of the U.N.’s manpower, and only 29% of the staffing for U.N. organizations worldwide, is carried on the regular budgets of the U.N. system, which receive the most public scrutiny because they are covered by annual dues.

The U.S. is the U.N.’s biggest dues-payer, at 22 percent of the total; Japan has been the second-biggest, at 12.5 percent. But the bulk of the U.N. system’s budget, and its staffing, is concentrated in an array of so-called “extra-budgetary” funds, which receive far less attention.

These funds are deemed to be “voluntary,” because contributions do not follow a fixed schedule, even though the same affluent and middle-income nations continue to pay most of the bill. The “extra-budgetary” lines on U.N. budgets have, if anything, grown more rapidly in virtually all cases than “regular” budgets. Indeed, in the cases of some of the biggest and most stable U.N. organizations, such as UNDP and UNICEF, the entire budget is deemed to be “voluntary.” In his 2009 hiring binge for the U.N. Secretariat, Ban kept to the same principle: he hired only one staffer on the regular budget for every two he put on the “extra-budgetary” payroll, even while setting records for hiring with both.

The whopping personnel hikes that the internal staffing documents show for the U.N. system are likely just the beginning of a sustained record of bloated staffing records that will be unveiled in subsequent years — if only because even bigger U.N. budgets than the 2008-2009 biennium have already been passed, and most likely spent. In the years 2010 and 2011, for example, Ban’s ostensibly frugal budgets called for nearly $1 billion in additional spending compared to the previous two years, most of it “extra-budgetary.”

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The staffing impact of that budget has not yet been included in the CEB’s manpower figures. And in the two years ahead, Ban has so far planned for “regular” budget spending of $5.2 billion, which is about 13 percent higher than his initial projection for 2010-2011. Ban has not yet revealed his plans for so-called “extra-budgetary” spending.

With Japan staggering from its disastrous trifecta of earthquake, tsunami and damaged nuclear power system; with Western European nations striving to prevent their own financial meltdown; and the U.S. locked in its own heated budget battles, it remains to be seen whether the U.N.’s idea of a painful budgetary emergency is the same as anyone else’s.