Beasley to use "9 out of 10" Bertini WFP savings wheezes

David Beasley speaking at prayer breakfast in Kenya

ROME — WFP Executive Director David Beasley has told his predecessor Catherine Bertini he expects to follow “all but one” of 10 recommendations she made for cost savings and management streamlining of the UN agency including a more subdued personal expenditure style of leadership, Ms Bertini disclosed Tuesday. The former WFP ED from 1992 to 2002 and first American to head the agency made the revelation as WFP Chief of Staff James Harvey became the first senior executive to be ousted under Mr Beasley’s leadership though other top managers have been reassured they will not be replaced.

 “Before he started his job, he thanked me and said he expected to follow all but one,” Ms Bertini told the Italian Insider when asked which of her recommendations she believes would be implemented. “He would have to advise which.”

 Ms Bertini published in an influential blog the following list in March of recommendations for the new ED of the Rome-based agency, including ‘not going home on the company’s dime’ and ‘do not take the housing allowance.’ Former WFP ED Ertharin Cousin sparked controversy when she travelled home to Chicago for Thanksgiving at WFP  expense while former IFAD president Kanayo Nwanze set off a furore when the Italian Insider disclosed his palatial villa on the Appian Way was costing donors as much as 300,000 euros a year.

 Ms Bertini’s ten ‘DAY ONE’ recommendations were: 

 — “Do not fill all five of the next level “assistant secretary general ASG” positions in the organization. Comparable organizations (UNHCR and UNICEF) operate similarly large, complex programs with three and four posts respectively at the assistant secretary general level (ASG). The WFP Executive Director can immediately save money and streamline his/her organizational structure by limiting the organization to three of the authorized positions.

 — “Appoint only one of your ASGs as your deputy. Management lines are simpler and more efficient with one deputy. Every single time an executive director has appointed multiple deputies, the organization has wasted time and money with little rivalries that build up.

 — Choose the deputy from another region of the world with vast management experience and operational knowledge and in whom you have great confidence. That person needs to manage the organization as much if not more so than you do.

 — Make sure the person who runs your immediate office comes from inside the organization. You have a big enough learning curve as it is; learn faster by having an experienced professional next to you. It also helps to bring one colleague who knows YOU, for a posting elsewhere in your office.

 — Commit to your staff to run an efficient, transparent, and fair human resources system worldwide.

 — Reestablish a system of competitive hiring of entry-level international staff, thus limiting the “you have to know someone” process of hiring and ensuring equity and stability for staff.

 — Follow the UN rules on limited hiring of retirees who already receive pensions.

 — Rotate staff through dangerous duty stations; staying too long impedes a person’s effectiveness, health and safety. Redeploy as many headquarters staff as possible to the immense challenges in the field.

 — Carefully monitor your own and others’ travel; do not go home on the company’s dime.

 — Do not take the housing allowance. Your peers who are based in New York City, including the head of UNICEF, receive little if any housing allowances, even though the cost of living is much higher there than in Rome.”

 “However, for the last 15 years, the WFP Executive Director has received thousands of dollars per month for housing, in addition to a salary like that of a cabinet secretary (and tax-free), an entertainment allowance, and transportation for all business matters in Rome. The leader of an organization designated to feed the poorest, hungriest people on earth does not also need housing provided,” Ms Bertini said.

 Ms Bertini is a Lugar Center Affiliated Expert and served as the Executive Director of the World Food Program from 1992-2002.

 Against this background Mr Beasley has indicated he will retain most top executives in place at WFP with the evident exception of Chief of Staff James Harvey, a Briton who like many senior UN food agency executives with a diplomatic background used his position as British Ambassador to the UN food agencies in Rome from 2007 to 2012 as a trampoline to obtain a well-paid position in one of the agencies whose performance he was monitoring. Mr Harvey is due to move on from the end of this month, WFP sources say.

 Mr Harvey, believed to be close to retirement in any case, became ambassador after a long career at the UK Department for International Development and an honors degree in agriculture. He had his post at WFP upgraded by Ms Cousin in 2015 to Assistant Secretary General in 2015.

 It is not yet known who will replace him as chief of staff though his departure could fulfill the Bertini suggestion of having fewer ASGs, WFP watchers say.


Catherine Bertini with former UN SG Kofi Annan
WFP Chief of staff Jim Harvey