[Ip-health] TWN Info: WIPO: Charges of Improper Practices, Cronyism Levelled at Top-Level Staff

Sangeeta ssangeeta at myjaring.net
Tue Oct 5 02:19:16 PDT 2010

TWN Info Service on Intellectual Property Issues (Oct10/03)
4 October 2010
Third World Network
www.twnside.org.sg <\\\"http://www.twnside.org.sg\\\">
Dear Friends,
Please see below a news story on the statement of WIPO's Staff Association
delivered during the WIPO Assemblies that has charged WIPO's top-level
management of improper practices and cronyism.
Sangeeta Shashikant
Third World Network.
SUNS #7010 Monday 4 October 2010
WIPO: Charges of Improper Practices, Cronyism Levelled at Top-Level Staff
Geneva, 1 Oct (TWN) -- The Staff Association of the World Intellectual
Property Organization (WIPO) has accused the organization's top-level
administration of improper staff practices ranging from "witch-hunting" by
the senior management to favouritism and cronyism in recruitments and
promotions within the organization.
The accusations came in a rather outspoken and unprecedented statement that
was delivered by the Association during the forty-eighth series of meetings
of the WIPO Assemblies, which ended on 29 September.
The statement was delivered by the President of the Staff Council, Mr.
Azzeddine Moncef Kateb, on behalf of the WIPO Staff Association.
The Association's statement, delivered at the WIPO Coordination Committee
(CC) on 27 September, touched upon a range of issues including
"witch-hunting" by the senior management, non-transparent appointments,
favouritism and cronisym in recruitment and promotion practices, and
marginalisation of the Staff Association.
The statement also "regretfully" informed Member States of WIPO that "during
our Staff Assemblies this year, allegations of racism, discrimination,
degrading treatment and obstructions of justice [were] raised against
officials in high places".
Some Members of the Coordination Committee noted that the Association's
allegations were serious but at this stage, unsubstantiated. Others said
that the allegations were many, and since the statement had not been
distributed in advance, it was premature to discuss the allegations
highlighted in the statement.
Member States also pointed to the need for the statement to be distributed,
and for the WIPO Director-General, Mr. Francis Gurry, to have sufficient
time to respond to the allegations, as well as to allow WIPO's internal
processes to deal with many of the allegations. Mr. Gurry of Australia
replaced the previous incumbent, Dr. Kamil Idris of Sudan, in 2008.
Several Member States also stressed that the Association's statement
revealed systemic issues that needed to be addressed in subsequent meetings
of the Committee.
The Committee finally concluded that the statement by the President of the
Staff Association be distributed; that the Secretariat would provide its
written response; that the Committee would give the WIPO management an
opportunity to resolve issues internally; and, if any issues remained
unresolved, there was the possibility of convening a meeting of the
Committee in the first half of 2011.
The WIPO Staff Association currently has 663 members, representing 63% of
WIPO posts of the current financial year. The Staff Council is a statutory
representive body of the Association charged with defending staff interests
in dealings with WIPO's top-level administration, in particular, the
The Association's statement referred to the marginalisation of certain staff
that worked in cooperation with the senior management under the leadership
of former Director-General Dr. Kamil Idris.
The statement recalled that in the second half of 2008, it was solemnly
informed that there would be no "witch hunting and settling of old scores".
Yet, it added that the process of strategic realignments has been conducted
"without any involvements of the Staff Association" and "in a manner which
has favoured certain colleagues and punished and humiliated others for no
justifiable reasons".
It added that "divisions were downgraded to section, sections and units were
closed in an arbitrary and high-handed manner and the incumbents were
assigned to inferior tasks and responsibilities and in one instance, a
successful and useful program was discontinued and, contrary to a decision
of Member States, has not yet been reinstated".
On the recruitment process, post-reclassification and promotions, the
statement said: "Some recent recruitments were carried out disregarding the
most basic rules laid down in job vacancy announcements... This practice of
favouritism and cronyism is unacceptable and is promoting a deep sense of
unease among staff at the current time."
It further said that "Other recruitments are political ones that contravene
the most basic principles of international public service, particularly that
of its independence". It stressed the need for resources not to be misused
or used for personal ends.
It communicated its concern about the creation of new posts, some of which
seem to have been organized without a prior selection process and posts
freed up by moving staff members only to be filled up by other colleagues of
the same grade but without a selection procedure, as well as of
"downgradings", affecting the duties or grades of officials.
The Association's statement also spoke of the "deep sense of humiliation"
and "unjustified harm" to the affected colleagues caused by such practices.
It further said that since November 2009, the "Administration has stopped
distributing information circulars about staff movements and the recruitment
of consultants, as well as the results of the various posts advertised with
a selection procedure". The Administration attributed the change to the fact
that circulars on the sector-by-sector reorganizations were being prepared
and that the usual procedure would soon be resumed, it added.
The statement said that it "disapproves" of the situation, as "it gives free
rein to rumors", and deprives "those wishing to appeal of the opportunity to
launch a procedure on the basis of the announced result". It added that the
lack of communication on the selection process in the professional and
higher categories makes it impossible to monitor statistics about respect
for the principle of equitable geographical distribution by which the
selection procedure is bound.
The statement informed Member States that Post Classification Committee's
work had progressed with no communication about the results of
reclassification measures approved or the decisions to reject the submitted
request, adding that the lack of transparency is "extremely damaging to the
credibility of the procedure followed".
In addition, the statement notes that contrary to the instruction contained
in the Staff Regulations and Rules that "the grading standards, fixing the
level of duties and responsibilities and the requisite qualifications, shall
be brought to the notice of the staff", those standards were never brought
to the notice of staff. It added that this was a violation of the principle
of equal treatment for officials, with which strict compliance is always
reiterated in the judgments handed down by the ILO Administrative Tribunal.
This casts doubt on the credibility of the entire post-reclassification
process, the statement said.
The Statement also expressed concern with regard to the promotion and
reclassification of posts. It said: "The removal of the merit-based
promotion system and the promise to replace it with a scheme based on other
criteria... remain pending, and poses the problem of consistency of
promotions applied following the post reclassification procedures." It
pointed to the lack of a sitting advisory committee and thus as a result, it
was unclear which body has the last word on reclassifications. "There is
currently no Office Instruction on this subject."
The Staff Association's statement revealed that 70 grievances were pending
before the various organs of justice including the ILO Administrative
Tribunal. It said: "This is a very high number and we must all collectively
address the causes of such a high level of dissatisfaction", adding with
regret that during this year's Staff Assemblies, "allegations of racism,
discrimination, degrading treatment and obstructions of justice [were]
raised against officials in high places. The Staff Council is willing to
work hand in hand with the Administration and the member states to uproot
such unfortunate practices".
The statement also expressed concern over the cases of two staff members
that have been suspended for two years but whose files have not yet been
submitted to the Joint Advisory Committee on disciplinary matters. It said:
" ... whatever the nature of the administrative misconduct of which they
stand accused and where relevant, the sanction they might incure, two years
of professional life spent wondering and being on the receiving end of
accusing glances or compassion surely represents the very opposite of the
notion of justice and can be devastating. In the legislation of all member
countries, the key principle of innocence until proven guilty is fully
enshrined, yet here it is clearly [and completely] denied or at least
seriously questioned".
The recent dissemination of the procedural manual for investigations has
raised concerns, the statement said. In particular, there is concern about
the rights and protection of officials who may be investigated and more
particularly their right to benefit from the assistance of a person of their
choice and/or a legal advisor, the obligatory or optional natures of the
manual and its actual date of entry into force. It said that the Staff
Association would soon be forwarding its remarks on this issue to the
Internal Auditor and would keep the Director-General and the Audit Committee
The statement also pointed out that to date the staff had not received any
information with regard to the computer violations suffered by some WIPO
staff in 2008. Similarly, no information had been received about officials
who received defamatory and threatening letters and e-mails during 2008. It
added that it could not understand the causes of the delays surrounding the
investigations. "The situation is aggravated by the fact that many
colleagues have lodged similar complaints with the criminal police and these
were not followed up."
[A WIPO staff member said privately that the computer security of nearly 80
staff members was compromised in 2008. An investigation was carried out with
the help of external consultants, but after two years, there has been no
concrete finding on the incident and many of the complainants received a
communication regarding the closing of the investigation. According to the
source, the closing of an investigation without a proper finding has led to
suspicion that security breaches were carried out under instruction].
The Staff Association statement also raised several issues with regard to
the internal justice mechanisms. It recalled that the post of mediator, one
of the key mechanisms of the internal justice system, was not filled in
accordance with the applicable standards, adding that the post of mediator
should be filled in consultation with the Staff Association. "As this
procedure was not respected, the Association cannot accept having been
excluded from the procedure in force for no reason," the statement said.
The statement then pointed to the Ethics Office that was created within the
Office of the Director-General and said that the head of this office has
been appointed without a selection procedure, although it was a new post.
Besides the fact that the definition of ethics needs to be further
clarified, the Staff Association noted its exclusion from the prior
consultation procedure, and wondered why it is repeatedly marginalised.
Concerns were also raised over the treatment of long-standing temporary
employees. The statement said that they had been doubly penalized since the
promise to regularize their situation has repeatedly been put on hold with
the system of allowances applied to them remaining unfair and inequitable.
It expressed hope that the Organization would sensibly use any opportunities
offered by the freed-up posts (freed up through the Voluntary Separation
Program) to regularize, as a priority, the status of as many long-standing
temporary staff as possible.
The Staff Association also expressed concern over being excluded from the
consultation process relating to the abolition of certain posts, the
assignment of posts by sectors, programs and divisions, and the downgrading
of certain posts to be filled in the context of the implications of the
Voluntary Separation Program.
On the new draft Staff Regulations and Rules, the statement stressed that
the principles of acquired rights and the non-retroactivity of new
provisions (where these are less favourable than the current ones) must be
clearly respected. Transitional provisions should also be introduced,
whenever necessary, so as to respect the status of ongoing contracts and
their associated rights, it added.
It further expressed concern that the draft revised Staff Regulations and
Rules "appears to be leaving too much discretionary power in the hands of
the Director General without adequate check and balances which would
regulate abuse, if any, of those discretionary powers". It also highlighted
that several key amendments to the Staff Rules are proposed to come into
effect without prior approval and scrutiny of the Coordination Committee.
Following the intervention of the President of the Staff Association, the
Chair of the Coordination Committee, Ms Marion Williams of Barbados, asked
the Committee members to discuss the allegations raised by the President of
the Staff Association. She suggested that recommendations be made on general
approaches to deal with some of the issues and avoid finger-pointing.
In response to the Staff Association statement, the Director-General said
that he had not had the advantage of reading the statement. He added that
the Secretariat would be happy to respond to specific questions raised, as
well as to furnish a detailed written reply or explanation.
Following the invitation by the Chair for Member States to voice their
views, Zambia said that the most serious allegation was that about racism or
racist incidences having occurred, as they go against the core values of the
United Nations. It called for an investigation on the matter to ensure that
if there is any iota of truth in the allegations, that the perpetrators are
identified. It also stressed on the need to quickly dispose of the
disciplinary cases that were pending, adding that justice delayed is justice
India said that it did not want to go into the details of the many
allegations. It proposed that issues that are "systemic" in nature and have
an impact on how the institution runs could be grouped in generic terms and
could be listed on the agenda of the forthcoming Coordination Committee
session for a transparent discussion among the Member States, the
Secretariat and the Staff Association.
It underlined that the perception of justice actually being done was equally
important for trust building, confidence building and the smooth functioning
of WIPO. It also pointed out that there was no mechanism by which the Staff
Association could interact with Members and perhaps things would be smoother
if such interaction was established.
Spain said that it was unfair for the Secretariat to have to answer to a
statement read by the President of the Staff Association without having seen
the document, adding that the statement contained issues that were complex.
It advised distributing the statement and allowing time for the Secretariat
to address it, as well as time for the Member States to analyse it. The
discussions on the matter could be postponed to the next Coordination
Committee meeting.
While supporting Spain's statement, the United Kingdom said that it did not
favour a proliferation of working groups or informal meetings, as these were
internal WIPO matters which should be dealt with by the management, adding
that a number of the investigations were subject to criminal proceedings and
were sub-judice. It said that Member States should only intervene once the
matters have gone through the criminal proceedings and the result is known.
It also said that in many organizations, when a serious reform is
undertaken, some staff members feel discontent and that is usually a sign
that the reforms are bearing fruit and that the organizations are being made
much more effective. The presentation of the Staff Association should be
viewed in this light, it added.
The Director-General proposed a delay of two months for preparing a
response, adding that a considerable amount of information would need to be
put together. He also indicated that no session of the Coordination
Committee was scheduled for April next year and the subsequent meeting would
be held in September. However, if the Chair wished to decide to convene a
meeting in April, this was possible. Consultations with the group
coordinators could be undertaken in order to clarify the need for an earlier
meeting, he added.
The Coordination Committee agreed that the statement by the President of the
Staff Association would be distributed; that the Secretariat would provide
its written response; that the Coordination Committee would give the WIPO
management an opportunity to resolve issues internally; and, if any remained
unresolved, there was the possibility of convening a meeting of the
Coordination Committee in Spring next year. +

More information about the Ip-health mailing list