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Grand Riddle of the UN's Swelling Salaries

It's a mystery. Following a rash of UN scandals some years ago, such as Oil-for-Food and an extravaganza of graft in UN peacekeeping procurement, the U.S. Congress began requiring from the president's Office of Management and Budget an annual accounting of all U.S. contributions to the UN -- summed across all U.S. government departments and agencies. But, as Russell notes in his article on the mysteries of UN pay and perks, the U.S. government has stopped releasing these figures. The congressional requirement for this information expired in 2011, when the last of these OMB reports tallied U.S. total contributions to the UN as $7.69 billion for Fiscal Year 2010. For the past three years, there have been no more OMB reports on this matter.

In sum, the UN has a problem with swelling salaries and staff perquisites, but can't come up with a real total for its universe of pay packages, and its total review of this scene is actually less than total. Among the UN's 193 member states, the U.S. contributes the biggest share, but the Obama administration no longer releases total numbers for how many billions that really entails. The GAO in its recent report recommends that the State Department should "work with other UN member states to ensure that the costs of key elements of total UN compensation are reviewed to address rising staff costs and sustainability."

It all sounds like a recipe for spending even more money to review the mystery of how the money is being spent -- the real problem being that neither the UN nor the Obama administration seems terribly interested in solving either the riddle of U.S. funding or the enigma of UN spending. All we really know for sure is -- yes -- those are your tax dollars at work.

(Artwork created using multiple Shutterstock.com images.)