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Pot, meet Kettle: Obama administration hits UN for failing to cut costs

The Obama administration is criticizing the United Nations for high personnel costs and is calling for a “line-by-line” review of the international body’s budget.

At a Thursday speech before the U.N.’s administrative and budgetary committee, the U.S. ambassador for U.N. management and reform, Joseph M. Torsella, questioned how the U.N. could keep costs under control when the $5.2 billion budgeted for the next two years only eliminated 44 jobs — a 0.4 percent reduction — and the 2012-13 budget will increase by more than 2 percent to $5.5 billion, Bloomberg News reported.

“That is not a break from ‘business as usual’ but a continuation of it,” Torsella said. “How does management intend to bring these numbers and costs back in line?”

According to the administration, the U.N. has cut too few of its 10,307 employees and, with an average annual salary of $119,000, the cost is quite large. According to Torsellla, personnel expenses are the “largest and most important driver of long-term costs.” In the last ten years, the money spent on salaries has risen $1 billion to a current total of $2.4 billion.

The high U.N. expenses have implications for an already cash-strapped America, which shoulders 22 percent of the international body’s budget and 27 percent of its peacekeeping budget. According to Bloomberg, last year the U.S. ponied up $3.35 billion to the U.N., $2.67 billion of which went to peacekeeping missions.

“It is our obligation to our taxpayers to do more with less in Washington and here at the U.N.,” Torsella said, adding that the administration is calling “for a comprehensive, department-by-department, line-by-line review of this budget” and a new budget approval process. (RELATED: UN to buy NYC playground for new building, US taxpayers could foot bill)

The administration’s tough talk will be welcome news to critics of the U.N. and the amount of taxpayer money it receives.

In late August, Florida Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, introduced the “United Nations Transparency, Accountability, and Reform Act,” which would place conditions on American funding of the U.N.

“We need a U.N. which will advance the noble goals for which it was founded,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “Unfortunately, the current U.N. continues to be plagued by scandal, mismanagement, and inaction, and its agenda is frequently hijacked by rogue regimes which protect each other while targeting free democracies like the U.S. and Israel. This bill is about making the U.N. work again.”

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