Press Esc to close
Thursday 18 September 2014
News updated at 2:47 AM IST
Weather
Max: 29.7°C
Min : 20.2°C
In Bangalore
Sunny day

US asks UN to avoid business class travel

United Nations, Mar 18 (AFP)
Fuile Photo

The United States is taking aim at "excessive" business class air travel by UN staff as it presses a campaign to restrain the global body's multi-billion dollar budget.

Complaints by the United States and other cash-strapped western nations have been bolstered by revelations that nearly three quarters of the money spent on air fares at UN headquarters goes on business class.

That is "clearly unjustifiable," said Joseph Torsella, the US envoy who since 2011 has been leading a US war on "waste" at the UN.


Rules on business class travel are "out of whack" and the failure to enact "common sense and overdue reforms is creating a system that is ripe for abuse," the US envoy for UN management and reform told AFP.

The United Nations spent at least USD 769 million of its general budget of more than USD 5 billion in 2010-11 on moving officials and staff around the world, according to UN figures. The peacekeeping department, which has its own budget, spent another USD 200 million.

Some USD 54 million of the USD 74 million of air tickets bought at the main headquarters in New York and Geneva were business class. Diplomats say the figure is probably much higher as no clear figures have been given.

"There are are a series of loopholes that are just on the face of it crazy," Torsella said.
Most UN staff travel under a 1990 system where a lump sum of 75 percent of the full economy class fare can be given. UN auditors estimate that this now costs 83 percent more than current regular fares.

The UN has about 30 different outside travel agencies and so does not get economies of scale and hardly uses online booking, Torsella said.

UN staff can claim business class for any trip of nine hours, even if they arrange a stopover to make it longer. The US government only allows business class for 14 hours in the air. Torsella also questions giving UN staff a daily living allowance for time spent flying.

"When you look at these things, the business class use, the lump sum, the daily subsistence allowance, these loopholes, the conclusion seems inescapable that taxpayers are not getting value for their dollars and neither is the UN," said the US official.

UN leader Ban Ki-moon last year recommended just "encouraging" greater use of teleconferences, that anyone going to a training course should fly economy and ending the daily allowance for time in the air.

These ideas have "languished" because of wider political battles between the 193 members states on the UN General Assembly's budget committee which sets the rules and is meeting again this month, said Torsella.

He points out that taking 10 per cent off the travel bill could buy 15.4 million anti-malaria nets.
"Pick your continent and pick your issue and ask is the UN doing absolutely everything that needs to be done, the answer is surely going to be no," he said.

"This is as clear an example as you can get of a place where most member states should be able to make common cause, where the UN ought to be able to save money and improve service and where notably it is the General Assembly not letting the secretary general do the right thing."
Since Torsella started his job, the global body has frozen salaries for its 10,000 New York staff. This month he called for drunken diplomats to be banned from the UN's hard-fought, fiercely political budget talks.

Go to Top

Photo Gallery
BJP MP from Mathura Hema Malini at a function on women empowerment...

BJP MP from Mathura Hema Malini at a function on women empowerment...

Differently-abled children wear masks of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to celebrate his birthday...

Differently-abled children wear masks of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to celebrate his birthday...

Villagers perform worship of elephants on the occasion of Biswakarma Puja...

Villagers perform worship of elephants on the occasion of Biswakarma Puja...

Devotees take part in a procession on the occasion of Sri Krishna Janmashtami celebrations...

Devotees take part in a procession on the occasion of Sri Krishna Janmashtami celebrations...

Younga Yoo, shoots past India's Umapatidevi Thokchom at women's first round group A soccer match...

Younga Yoo, shoots past India's Umapatidevi Thokchom at women's first round group A soccer match...

A man pulls an inflatable raft with his son, through the flood water...

A man pulls an inflatable raft with his son, through the flood water...

Cars submerged in flood water after the Jammu and Kashmir floods...

Cars submerged in flood water after the Jammu and Kashmir floods...

Sonam Kapoor and Kirron Kher during a promotional event for their upcoming film Khoobsurat...

Sonam Kapoor and Kirron Kher during a promotional event for their upcoming film Khoobsurat...

Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping, holding umbrella watch a cultural performance...

Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping, holding umbrella watch a cultural performance...

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping on a traditional swing...

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping on a traditional swing...

Copyright 2014, The Printers (Mysore) Private Ltd., 75, M.G Road, Post Box 5331, Bangalore - 560001
Tel: +91 (80) 25880000 Fax No. +91 (80) 25880523