10 November 2004
Budget Committee Takes up Newly Developed Strategy Framework For 2006-2007
NEW YORK, 9 November (UN Headquarters) -- The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this afternoon took up a newly developed strategic framework for 2006-2007, which has been prepared in an effort to streamline the complex and costly process of planning and budgeting at the United Nations. Constituting the Organizations principal policy directive, it consists of a plan outline, reflecting longer-term objectives, and a two-year programme plan.
By the terms of General Assembly resolution 58/269, it has been prepared on a trial basis, to replace the current four-year plan, which is to end in 2005. A final decision on the matter is to be made at the Assemblys sixty-second session, following a review of experiences gained.
In developing the strategic framework for the coming biennium, the Committee for Programme and Coordination (CPC) had been expected to chart the waters, Nonye Udo, Chairperson of that body said, introducing the finished product in a report before the Committee. The latest session of the Committee had been a landmark session, when the CPC had crossed the threshold in the move from the familiar four-year, medium-term plan to a new concept, the two-year budget, and its strategic frameworks.
While commending the Committees work in preparing the strategic framework draft -- a first attempt to formulate the goals and tasks of the United Nations in the shorter term -- the representative of the Russian Federation stressed the importance of seeking optimum planning paradigms and results-based performance. His delegation had problems with the Secretariats concept of shared responsibility between MemberStates and the Secretariat in achieving the goals set out in the programme plan. In some cases, responsibility for reaching programme objectives lay with the Secretariat, which should fully answer for its actions. The Secretariat should, in the future, more thoroughly and carefully think through what is being done in a particular programme, and how the upcoming two years would compare with the previous biennium.
Comparing the 2006-2007 plan with the current four-year medium-term plan, several speakers remarked on the similarities between the two texts. The United States representative expressed disappointment that the CPC had introduced mainly editorial changes to the programmes, saying that the Committee needed to take a more proactive approach to gain the confidence of Member States as a value-added intergovernmental body. The representative of the Netherlands (on behalf of the European Union and associated States) agreed that the report contained familiar and repetitive language for modifying objectives, accomplishments, and indicators of achievement -- in many cases, simply churning out the previously used text.
The United States representative also expected disappointment that the CPC could not agree on the programme priorities for the 2006-2007 biennium, and reiterated its position that the biennial programme insufficiently addressed efforts to combat terrorism, which should be addressed as a separate priority to reflect the significant impact of that multi-dimensional threat. Further, the CPC had not been able to agree on the programmes for disarmament, human rights, trade and development, internal oversight, jointly financed activities, and public information. Despite having ample time to negotiate those programmes, the CPC had deferred them to the substantive Committees without providing any strategic input, diminishing the role of the CPC, she said.
Also this afternoon, as the Committee continued its debate on the reports of the Office of Internal Oversight Services, the representative of South Africa expressed concern over the Offices findings that pointed towards instances of sexual abuse and exploitation, poor management controls, inadequate staffing of units in peacekeeping operations, weaknesses in administrative oversight, unreliable accounting practices, and alleged fraudulent activities, among other things. She reiterated that remedial action should be taken to ensure that such incidents did not hinder the effective functioning of the Organization at Headquarters and in the field.
Statements were also made today by representatives of Japan, Oman and Cuba.
Reports were introduced by the Assistant Secretary-General for Programme Planning, Budget and Accounts and United Nations Controller, Jean-Pierre Halbwachs; and the Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services, Dileep Nair. A response to questions from delegations was provided by the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources Management, Rosemary McCreery.
The Committee will continue its debate on programme planning at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, 11 November.
The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this afternoon was expected to begin its consideration of issues related to programme planning, and continue its debate on the activities of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) (for summaries of the OIOS reports, see Press Release GA/AB/3642 of 1 November).
On programme planning, the Committee had before it this year's report of the Committee for Programme and Coordination (CPC) -- a subsidiary organ of the Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly for planning, programming and coordination? which plays a key role in the adoption of the programme budget by the Assembly (document A/59/16). The CPC reviews the programmes of the United Nations and assists the Economic and Social Council in its coordination functions.
Reporting on the outcome of its latest session, the CPC recalls that in an effort to streamline the complex and costly process of planning and budgeting, the General Assembly, in its resolution 58/269, requested the Secretary-General to prepare, on a trial basis, for submission to the Assembly, through CPC, at its fifty-ninth session, a strategic framework to replace the current four-year plan, which is to end in 2005.
Thus, following consideration by the CPC, the Committee had before it a strategic framework for 2006-2007, which would serve as the basis for the Organizations programme planning, budgeting, monitoring and evaluation (document A/59/6). The document translates legislative mandates into programmes and subprogrammes and constitutes the principal policy directive of the United Nations. It contains two parts:
Part One: A plan outline, reflecting the longer-term objectives of the Organization as required by resolution 58/269, discusses the overall challenges facing the Organization, taking due account of the internationally agreed development goals, including those contained in the United Nations Millennium Declaration and the outcome of the major United Nations conferences and international agreements since 1992. Also included in Part I are the priorities proposed for the biennium 2006-2007.
Part Two: A biennial programme plan replaces the current four-year medium-term plan and covers 26 programmes, which, for the most part, are structured in the same way as those in the medium-term plan for the period 2002-2005. Each programme corresponds to the work carried out by an organizational entity, usually at the departmental level (congruent with the relevant section of the programme budget), and is subdivided into a number of subprogrammes, each of which, in turn, corresponds to an organizational entity, generally at the level of a division. The international drug control programme and the crime prevention and criminal justice programme have been combined and now constitute the international drug control, crime prevention and criminal justice programme (new programme 11).
In order to meet the Assemblys request that the programme narrative of the budget fascicles be identical to the biennial programme plan, modifications have been made to programme 24, Management and support services, to include in greater depth the work being carried out at offices away from United Nations Headquarters, namely, Geneva, Vienna and Nairobi. Furthermore, a new programme, Jointly financed activities (programme 26), has also been included in the strategic framework to reflect the work carried out by the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC), the Joint Inspection Unit JIU), the Chief Executives Board for Coordination, and the Office of the United Nations Security Coordinator.
The framework also contains the Secretary-Generals proposed designation of priorities for 2006-2007: maintenance of international peace and security; promotion of sustained economic growth and development; development of Africa; promotion of human rights; coordination of humanitarian assistance efforts; promotion of justice and international law; disarmament; drug control, crime prevention and combating international terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.
The Secretary-Generals report on priority-setting (document A/59/87) describes the experience with priority-setting since the introduction of programme planning and budgeting in 1974 and discusses issues of definition, criteria used for designating priorities, political considerations, governance mechanisms, level of activity, unforeseen events and limited resources. According to the document, priority-setting has been linked over the years to the structure of the medium-term plan and the programme budget. While different criteria have been applied over the years, the fundamental problem was not how to implement the designated priorities, but how actually to identify, agree upon and designate priorities. The designation of priorities is basically a political one, the document states.
While the designation of priorities is intended to guide the allocation of budgetary and extrabudgetary resources, the link between priorities and the level of resources is not always obvious. For example, the programme budget may show an increase in resources for a subprogramme resulting from the full provision for new posts approved and partially funded in the previous biennium -- not because that particular programme or subprogramme was being accorded a higher priority. In other cases, there may be net reductions for a programme within a high-priority designation because of one-time costs in the previous biennium.
According to the document, the intention of the proposal to replace the four-year plan by a two-year strategic framework was to link the plan clearly with resource allocation for decision-making by the General Assembly prior to preparation by the Secretary-General of the biennial programme budget. The Secretary-General suggests that the Assembly, taking into account the most recent changes to the planning and budgeting process, may wish to decide on the following:
a) priorities reflecting general trends of a broad sectoral nature will continue to be established for the strategic framework, on the recommendation of the CPC;
(b) priorities contained in the budget outline will be in conformity with the priorities in the strategic framework;
(c) the strategic framework and the budget outline, once approved, will serve as the basis for the Secretary-Generals proposed programme budget.
Also before the Committee was the report on programme performance of the Organization for 2002-2003 (document A/59/69) - the first such document to be presented in a results-based format and issued in both printed and electronic versions, with electronic links to supporting documents. Under the new format, the emphasis has shifted from reporting on outputs to reporting on results achieved. In addition to reporting on the implementation of 33,131 quantifiable outputs, each programme reported electronically on the results achieved for the biennium at the level of the expected accomplishment for each subprogramme through the Integrated Monitoring and Documentation Information System. In 2002-2003, this also included those sections that had formerly reported only workload statistics.
The implementation rate for this biennium was 84 per cent. Part one of the report provides an overview of the results accomplished by the Secretariat as a whole. Part two covers programme performance by section of the biennial programme budget. As explained in the preface to part two, the narrative there is dedicated entirely to results; hyperlinks in the electronic document provide easy access to all necessary reference documents and to more detailed information.
By his note contained in document A/59/79, the Secretary-General transmits a report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services on strengthening the role of evaluation findings in programme design, delivery and policy directives. The extensive review of reporting on accomplishments conducted by the OIOS demonstrated that the concept had taken hold, although to varying degrees, across the Organization. The document contains a review of evaluation practice in the Secretariat in 2002-2003 and summarizes actions to be undertaken in the context of the Secretary-Generals agenda for further change, which identified the need to strengthen the system of monitoring and evaluation to better measure the impact of the Organizations work.
The report concludes with proposals for consideration by the CPC to enhance the review of documentation produced within the programme planning, budgeting, monitoring and evaluation cycle, and presents a choice of topics for future in-depth evaluation. The overall conclusion of the OIOS is that evaluation capacity in the Secretariat is sustained by reasonably sound institutional arrangements and evaluation practices, which can support further short-term improvements. In accordance with resolution 58/269, these improvements should focus on a clearer allocation of resources in all sections of the programme budget for 2006-2007 to enable improved performance of monitoring and evaluation activities. Managers need to assess monitoring and evaluation needs, clarify arrangements covering such activities in their programmes, and allocate appropriate resources and time for these activities.
Furthermore, attention needs to be paid to systematic planning of both in-depth and self-evaluation. Clarification of evaluation terminology will also ensure more uniform use. The report describes five specific actions that are under way in the Secretariat to define roles and responsibilities for monitoring and evaluation, and develop a stronger evaluation capacity within the programmes of the Secretariat. Proposals are also made for modernizing the central evaluation function, so that it can act as a repository and disseminator of sound evaluation practices and lessons learned.
In his statement of programme budget implications of the CPC recommendations (document A/C.5/59/13), the Secretary-General recalls that under the terms of paragraphs 347, 348 and 349 of its report (document A/59/16), on programme 24, Management and support services, of the proposed strategic framework for 2006-2007 (document A/59/6 (Prog. 24)), the CPC recommended that the Secretary-General be requested to:
(a) Report to the Assembly at its sixtieth session, and biennially thereafter, on the contribution made by the Department of Management to the improvement of management practices, including measures to increase efficiency and productivity, in the Secretariat;
(b) Develop a time-bound plan for the reduction of duplication, complexity and bureaucracy in United Nations administrative procedures, which should include a Secretariat-wide approach to streamline and automate those processes;
(c) Develop improved tools for identifying the cost of activities and outputs and to report to the Assembly at its sixtieth session on options for applying cost-accounting techniques drawing on best international practices.
While several reports recommended by the CPC could be prepared within existing resources, the recommendation to develop improved cost-identification tools would call for a feasibility study to be undertaken by the Secretariat in 2005. This would require the employment of a consulting firm that specializes in cost accounting. The scope of the study also implies potential adaptation of the Integrated Management Information System (IMIS), the Integrated Monitoring and Documentation Information System, and other existing systems for the provision of sustainable data. Related resource requirements for the study are estimated to amount to $500,000, to represent a charge against the contingency fund.
And finally, the Committee had before it a letter from the Chairman of the Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee) dated 2 November 2004 transmitting the results of the review by the Committee of programme 23 (Public information) of the proposed strategic framework for the period 2006-2007 (document A/C.5/59/14).
Introduction of Documents
Introducing the report of the Committee for Programme and Coordination, NONYE UDO, Chairperson of that body, said that the forty-fourth session of the Committee had taken place in the context of the ongoing reform of the United Nations, including reform of the budgetary process. The budget cycle, perceived as cumbersome, was to be reformed and any duplication in intergovernmental review eliminated. By resolution 58/269, the Assembly had assigned additional responsibilities to the CPC. In particular, it was to consider a strategic framework to replace the four-year medium-term plan. When the Assembly had taken that decision, no one, including the Secretariat, had a clear concept of what the framework or the plan outline would look like.
The CPC was expected to chart the waters, she continued. The new two-year budget process delinked resources from programmes. The strategic frameworks had been submitted with no benchmarks that the Committee could use as guidelines, thus, making the work of the CPC even more difficult.
Regarding the strategic framework being presented to the Committee, she said that out of the 26 programmes, the CPC had made recommendations on 21 programmes. It decided to recommend that the Assembly allocate five programmes to the relevant Main Committees for their review and action. Programme 3, Disarmament, was to be reviewed by the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security), for example. The consideration of Programme 10, Trade and Development, whose consideration had been delayed to allow the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) to conclude its meeting and comment on the proposed framework, was to be considered by the Second Committee (Economic and Financial), while the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) had received Programme 19, Human rights, for its action.
The Fourth Committee was to review Programme 23, Public Information. The Committee on Information had concluded its session a few days prior to the meeting of the CPC, but the Assembly had not had the opportunity to consider its report. It was expected that the Fourth Committee should review Programme 23, with the benefit of the outcome of that report. To avoid duplication, the CPC had decided that the Assembly should entrust the Fifth Committee to consider Programme 25, Internal Oversight, in the context of its scheduled five-year review of the work of the OIOS. It was also expected that, after action by the Main Committees, they would forward the programmes allocated to the Fifth Committee for its consideration in the context of the overall strategic framework for the period 2006-2007.
The CPC had also recommended that the General Assembly review Part One, plan outline, at the current session. After extensive discussion, the CPC had decided that there was a need for the Assembly to devote more time to that matter and that the Secretariat should provide greater details to facilitate its consideration. The CPC had also decided that it would continue its consideration of the priority setting at its forty-fifth session and recommended that the Assembly postpone its consideration of that report to the sixtieth session. Given the fact that it was the first biennial programme plan exercise, the CPC had done its best to carry out a very detailed review of all the 21 programmes considered in the time available. The Assembly would, at its sixty-second session, have the opportunity to review the format, content and duration of the strategic framework in the light of experience gained and with a view to taking a final decision on the matter.
Regarding programme performance for 2002-2003, she said that the CPC had commended the report on the matter, which had been presented in the results-based format. The Committee had recommended that the Assembly request the Secretary-General to continue to provide overall support and guidance to all departments in managing for results, including through the issuance of guidelines, handbooks and manuals for monitoring and evaluation of the work undertaken to determine its continuing relevance and effectiveness.
On the issue of strengthening the role of evaluation findings in programme design, delivery and policy directives, the CPC had decided to select the theme of Political Affairs for its in-depth evaluation in 2006. The theme Linkages between Headquarters and field activities: a review of best practices for poverty eradication in the framework of the United Nations Millennium Declaration had been selected for a pilot thematic evaluation, which the OIOS would undertake for the CPCs forty-fifth session.
JEAN-PIERRE HALBWACHS, Assistant Secretary-General for Programme Planning, Budget and Accounts and United Nations Controller, introduced the Secretary-Generals report on the proposed strategic framework for 2006-2007. He said serious strides had been made in recent years in many areas, including those of maintenance of international peace and security, development and provision of humanitarian assistance. However, much work remained to be done, and the new framework had been designed not only to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Organization, but also to make it stronger.
DILEEP NAIR, Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services, presented the OIOS report on programme performance of the United Nations for the biennium 2002-2003 and the report on the strengthening of evaluation findings in programme design, delivery and policy directives. He said that the biennial report on programme performance was the thirteenth such document since the first one had been produced for the biennium 1978-1979. The reports content was based on the results-based paradigm approved by the Assembly. The reports presentation was in dual format, printed and electronic. The document focused on results, while providing the reader with access to additional information related to programme performance by different budget sections.
The past biennium had witnessed a wide variety of outcomes of the Organizations activities, he said. Those include facilitating new international agreements in all priority areas and setting up reliable mechanisms for monitoring their implementation and enhancing national and regional capacities to translate commitments into reality. The United Nations had also been involved in developing stronger peacemaking, peace-building and peacekeeping capacities; providing humanitarian assistance to tens of millions people in need; assisting in the development of economic and social policies; building capacity; and advising on policy choices to support sustainable development and protect the environment. Those were just some of the key results highlighted in the report.
The implementation rate of 33,141 quantifiable outputs included in the 2002-2003 budget was 84 per cent, he continued. That was one percentage point higher than in the previous biennium. In the course of the biennium, 4,894 outputs had been added to the programme of work either by intergovernmental bodies or the Secretariat. Some 643, or 1.9 per cent, of the total number of outputs had been postponed, compared to 2.3 per cent in the previous biennium. Another 4,324 outputs, or 13 per cent of the total, had been terminated in 2002-2003, compared to 14.7 per cent in the previous biennium.
Regarding the report on evaluation findings in programme design, delivery and policy, he said that in terms of the evaluation capacity of the Secretariat, the conclusion of the OIOS was that there were reasonably sound institutional arrangements and evaluation practices in place, which could support further improvements in the short term. However, there were a number of areas that required improvement if any strengthening of evaluation was to occur. There was a need for clearer allocation of resources for monitoring and evaluation in all sections of the budget, as called for by resolution 58/269.
He also informed the Committee that programme budget instructions, issued in September, followed up on the proposals made in the report. Programme managers were now required to provide a record of self-evaluation activities undertaken in the last biennium and submit evaluation plans together with a clearer identification of resources to be used for evaluation as part of their budget submissions for 2006-2007.
A second proposal related to the formulation of a comprehensive glossary of evaluation terminology to help ensure that the practice was more uniform and standard throughout the Secretariat, he continued. The OIOS had already taken action on that proposal, and an on-line glossary of evaluation terms would be available this month. Plans were also under way to produce and update evaluation manual by January 2005.
RONALD ELKHUIZEN (Netherlands), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, noted that the issue of programme planning was of key importance.
The European Union welcomed the new format of the strategic framework, which provided a helpful medium- to long-term descriptions of the challenges facing the United Nations, he said. Noting that the CPC recommended that the General Assembly consider the plan outline, and that the outline represented the Secretary-Generals own perspective on key issues, he recommended that the Committee confine its discussions on reaffirming the priorities identified in pervious medium-term plans.
He said the Union was satisfied with the first results of the biennial programme plan. The majority of programmes were constructed to a level of detail that was appropriate for a two-year plan, especially considering that those plans would not become operational until 2006. The Union would look for more specific and quantifiable indicators, targets, and baselines when those were added to the fascicles next year during the preparation of the programme budget proposals for 2006-2007. The Union was pleased to note that a number of senior programme managers commented favourably on the new two-year time frame as being more logical and workable than a four-year one.
While standing ready to endorse the report of the CPC, the Union felt let down by the Committees final product. General Assembly resolution 58/269 should have marked a new beginning for the CPC in terms of establishing itself as a vital and constructive body in the budgetary process. Instead, the report contained familiar and repetitive language for modifying objectives, accomplishments, and indicators of achievement -- in many cases, simply churning out previously used text. They had expected to see some helpful, creative analysis or guidance to programme managers for how to go about structuring their programmes, rather than referring all the more difficult issues to the General Assembly for action.
More disturbing was the fact that the Committee ignored the General Assemblys instruction in resolution 58/269 to improve its own working methods, he said. The Committee simply concluded that it should take up that subject again next year as a matter of priority. He believed that urgent corrective action was required if the CPC was to be a worthwhile body and actively contribute to efficient programme planning. To that end, he would propose some ideas for CPCs reform during the informal consultations. Their aim was to free the CPC from restrictive interpretations of its mandate and to encourage more open, substantive debate on programmatic issues and evaluation.
Finally, he found the report of the Secretary-General on priority-setting to be helpful in highlighting the difficulties of designating priorities other than those that reflected general trends of a broad sectoral nature. That report also clearly reflected the fact that resource allocation as a very crude instrument with which to measure relative priorities devoted to particular programmes. Recognizing the limitations under which intergovernmental bodies operated in attempting to order priorities at the level of programmes and subprogrammes, he proposed that the General Assembly conclude consideration of that issue by taking note of the Secretary-Generals report.
ANDREY V. KOVALENKO (Russian Federation) commended the work of the CPC in preparing the draft for the strategic framework for the Organization in 2006-2007, which was a first attempt to formulate the goals and tasks of the United Nations in the shorter term. He noted that process of format review and determining the content of the programme plan of action was very complex and many-sided. His delegation attributed great importance to seeking optimum planning paradigms and on results-based performance, which would ensure that the Organization could respond to new challenges and changing priorities, while providing for greater accountability in the Secretariat.
Unfortunately, he continued, the draft of the strategic framework seemed to indicate a gap between the formulation of the goals of the Organization and the outputs expected from the Secretariat. The goals should be formulated more clearly and in a more concrete fashion, so that Member States could evaluate how they were being carried out by the Secretariat.
He had problems with the Secretariats concept of shared responsibility between MemberStates and the Secretariat in achieving the goals set out in the programme plan. In some cases, he said, responsibility for reaching programme objectives lay with the Secretariat, and they should fully answer for their actions. The Secretariat should, in the future, more thoroughly and carefully think through what was being done in a particular programme, and how the upcoming two years would compare with the previous two years.
Comparing the 2006-2007 plan with the current plan, he said it appeared that strategies for programme performance were practically the same as before, yet the expected accomplishments had changed. How was it possible to achieve new results with old measures? he asked. He concluded that the Secretariat and the Member States faced a large and difficult task in improving the planning format of the Organization. It was important for the CPC to find its own niche in that process, enhancing the efficiency of its work and providing greater output for Member States. The CPC was at a definite crossroads, but could make a real contribution by providing clear, well thought-out recommendations.
CANDICE EBBESEN-ROSS (United States) generally endorsed the recommendations contained in the report of the CPC, of which the United States was a member, but expressed deep disappointment that the Committee did not fulfil its mandate as required by General Assembly resolution 58/269 to improve its working methods. As in previous years, the CPC did not allocate proper time or attention to that item, and some delegations were not willing even to consider minor changes to the working methods. Further, her delegation was dismayed that the CPC did not provide strategic analysis or guidance to the Secretariat on the new strategic framework focusing on long- and short-term goals of the Organization. To the contrary, the CPC, as in past years, focused its analysis on the micro-level - recommending only editorial changes in the text. The United States believed that the CPC would need to take a different and more proactive approach, if it was to gain the confidence of Member States as a value-added intergovernmental body.
Her delegation was also disappointed that the Committee could not agree on the programme priorities for the 2006-2007 biennium. The United States reiterated its position that the biennial programme plan insufficiently addressed efforts to combat terrorism. That critical topic should be addressed as a separate priority to reflect the significant impact that multidimensional threat had on the international community. Grouping it with drugs and crime diminished the significant role the United Nations played in combating terrorism.
With regard to priority-setting, her delegation fully agreed with the Secretary-General in his report that macro-level priorities must be set by the Member States. However, it was neither desirable nor practical for Member States to attempt to set priorities at the subprogram level. That was a role for programme managers, using the guidance of the General Assembly, their own expertise, and available resources.
The United States welcomed changes in the format of the programme performance report for 2002-2003, which focused on results achieved rather than delivery of outputs, and applauded the Secretariat for providing the report on CD-ROM and including electronic links to supporting documentation. The reports utility, however, was limited, due to its length and lack of baseline data to measure programme performance. Her delegation recommended that the Secretary-General continue to explore ways to streamline and modernize the report to further reduce its size, and stressed that future reports should include baseline data for all indicators of achievement.
Regarding the OIOS report on strengthening the role of evaluation findings in programme design, delivery, and policy directives, the United States commended the Office for its thorough review of the Secretariats monitoring and evaluation capacities, despite a lack of cooperation from some departments. They very much agreed with the CPC that evaluation and monitoring were essential to building a results-oriented Organization.
The United States also fully agreed with the OIOS that each department should assess its current evaluation capacities, develop evaluation plans simultaneously with programme budget proposals, and allocate sufficient time and resources to carry out evaluations. Her delegation agreed that senior managers should receive in-depth training in self-evaluation techniques and should be actively involved in reviewing the results of evaluations.
Her delegation was disappointed that the CPC was not able to agree on the programmes for disarmament, human rights, trade and development, internal oversight, jointly financed activities, and public information. Despite having ample time to negotiate those programmes, the Committee deferred them to the substantive Committees without providing any strategic input, diminishing the role of the CPC. Noting that the UNCTAD working party met in July to review programme 10, on trade and development, that the First Committee recently completed its review of the disarmament programme, and that the Fourth Committee recently completed its review of program 23, on public information, she expected those fascicles to be approved in the Fifth Committee.
KAREN LOCK (South Africa), associating her delegation with the statement made by the Chairman of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, commended Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services, Dileep Nair, and his staff for their efforts to instil a greater sense of accountability throughout the United Nations. The large number of OIOS reports submitted to the General Assembly during the period under review, the wide range of issues they covered, and the $26.6 million in savings realized from the implementation of OIOS recommendations were testimony to the importance of having effective oversight mechanisms.
She took note of the self-evaluation done by the OIOS and commended the Office for attempting to effectively rationalize its allocation of resources and improve the targeting of its oversight assignments by applying a risk-management framework to its annual work plan. She was also encouraged by the efforts made to improve coordination between various oversight bodies and the measures taken by the bodies to ensure that they continued to meet the highest auditing and investigating standards. She encouraged the Office to continue its efforts to increase collaboration with the Board of Auditors and the Joint Inspection Unit.
She welcomed the improved format of the OIOS annual report, which provided Member States with a useful and indispensable opportunity to evaluate the performance of the Organization and monitor the effective use of its resources. She appealed to relevant OIOS clients to implement recommendations without delay and to take the necessary steps to prevent recurring problems. The Fifth Committee should carefully consider the proposal of the OIOS for a high-level coordinating mechanism within the Secretariat with responsibility for ensuring that managers were held accountable for the implementation of OIOS recommendations.
She attached great importance to oversight activities and recommendations, particularly regarding safety and security, procurement, management of peacekeeping operations, and humanitarian activities. She continued to view with concern findings that pointed towards instances of sexual abuse and exploitation, poor management controls, inadequate staffing of units in peacekeeping operations, weaknesses in administrative oversight, unreliable accounting practices, and alleged fraudulent activities, among other things. She reiterated that remedial action should be taken to ensure that such incidents did not hinder the effective functioning of the Organization at Headquarters and in the field.
Regarding the OIOS audit of the regional commissions, she hoped it would contribute to the positive role that the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) played in advancing the development agenda. She noted that the Commission in 2002 received the additional and very important mandate of overseeing coordination and collaboration among United Nations entities at the regional level concerning the New Partnership for Africas Development (NEPAD). The Commission had subsequently made considerable progress in aligning its activities with the priorities of NEPAD and internationally agreed development goals. Trusting that the findings of the OIOS would contribute to further improvements in the management and efficiency of the Commission, she sought clarification concerning the rationale for, and modalities of, the implementation of some of the recommendations made.
NORMA GOICOCHEA (Cuba) said that resolution 48/218 B, by which the OIOS had been established, struck an important balance, which needed to be preserved, including in the upcoming review, which should strengthen the Office within the existing framework. She did not support extending the term of the Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services, believing that there was no grounds to justify that proposal.
The Office had come to the end of its first decade with a positive record, she continued. Its work enhanced the effectiveness of the Organization and the use of the resources allocated to it. She was interested in the results of the self-evaluation conducted by the Office and took note of the proposal to carry out an independent review of the OIOS by a panel of external experts. She wondered about the need and objectives of such a review and asked for further details. Should the recommendation be adopted, the study should be requested from the JIU. As for Member States entities carrying out reviews of the Office, she wanted to know under what intergovernmental decision or rule they could be carried out and how many had been done. Operational independence of the Office should be looked into in detail.
The Offices annual report reflected countless activities undertaken by the Office, she said. She noted that the OIOS had issued over 1,500 recommendations in the year under review, and some 36 per cent of those were regarded as essential. She asked how that category was defined. A number of recommendations pointed to a deep lack of efficiency and effectiveness within the Secretariat and reflected a lack of integrity on the part of some officials. In that connection, she wanted to know what measures had been taken vis-à-vis the officials involved.
She also referred to the incredible nature of the case referred to in paragraph 42 of the report, according to which a cockpit voice recorder found to have been stored at the United Nations since 1994 was not from the presidential aircraft carrying the Presidents of Rwanda and Burundi, when it crashed that year and did not contain any relevant information about the crash. How was such a mistake possible? The issue needed to be studied by the Secretariat, for it seriously undermined the credibility of the United Nations.
The shortcomings referred to in the report demonstrated a vital need to establish an accountability system, particularly at the time of reform within the Organization, she said. She noted with interest the information on the audit of security procedures in peacekeeping missions and regretted that it had not been concluded before the Committee had started its consideration of the safety and security of the United Nations premises and personnel. Her delegation was also extremely concerned over the audit of the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management, which noted that the Departments staffing table had been set at a level lower than required. That was in breach of a recognized principle that the level of resources had to be commensurate with the mandate. She asked for answers in connection with that important question.
In conclusion, she noted that some of the OIOS recommendations departed from the mandate of the Office, including some of the recommendations on regional commissions and the NGO Committee. She regretted that the Office continued to make such recommendations, despite the criticism by the Assembly in that regard and in violation of resolution 54/244.
HITOSHI KOZAKI (Japan) said that his Government attached great importance to the work of the OIOS, which played a crucial role in the efforts of the United Nations to establish and maintain budgetary discipline, managerial prudence and a culture of accountability. The Offices recommendations not only warned of high-risk areas, tasking managers to take immediate preventive actions, but also, when implemented, produced actual savings and recoveries. He urged the Organization to take concrete action to ensure full implementation of the OIOS recommendations.
In particular, he noted that the OIOS had identified management of peacekeeping operations as one of the high-risk areas. Surely, with an annual budget of over $4 billion, the role of robust oversight was absolutely essential in monitoring how Member States taxpayers money was being utilized. Safety and security had also been identified as a high-risk area. In that respect, he wanted to know what the findings would be from the global horizontal audit of field security procedures at 14 peacekeeping and six political and peace-building missions.
He welcomed the work of the OIOS on programme performance for the biennium 2002-2003, he said. Since that report was important in strengthening the role of evaluation and making the organization more results-oriented, he encouraged the OIOS to continue to improve that useful document, focusing even more sharply on results, rather than outputs. He also welcomed the self-evaluation conducted by the OIOS and its proposals for strengthening the functions contained in the annual report. While needing to study some proposals further, his delegation stood ready to discuss that important issue in a positive manner, so that the General Assembly could provide clear guidance on ways of enhancing transparency and operational independence of the Office.
He also asked for clarifications as to why the Secretary-General had suggested an external expert panel at this point. As was clear from resolution 54/244, a review of OIOS activities was now under way in the General Assembly at the current session. As for the audit of the regional commissions, he urged the Organization to implement its recommendations in an expeditious manner, so that the work of the commissions would become more effective and efficient.
Mr. AL-ZAABI (Oman) aligned his delegation with the statement made by Qatar on behalf of the Group of 77 and China.
He drew attention to the section of the OIOS annual report on management of peacekeeping operations, which found that strategic deployment stocks (SDS) had not been established by the deadline of 30 June 2003. Only $88.5 million of the $141.5 million approved by the General Assembly had been committed by that date -- and $5 million of the approved budget for those stocks had been diverted to expenses not mentioned in the budget itself. It was necessary to take into account the recommendations of the Office to ensure compliance with General Assembly resolutions -- and, in this case, to ensure that the SDS programme was implemented quickly and that the expenses earmarked were used in the right way.
The OIOS review of the Organizations administrative operations highlighted dangers concerning human and financial resources management, double-standard policies and procedures, and an inability to update the rules. The Secretariat did not make use of the advantages of technology, and many administrative operations were still manual, cumbersome, ineffective, and costly. The Secretariat had to cope with new developments and make use of innovations in the information technology field, so that Member States could achieve their desired objectives.
Regarding the OIOS audit of the United Nations Compensation Commission, he noted that the Office had found several deficiencies that resulted in overcompensating claimants. Accounting mistakes had cost approximately $2.55 million, yet the Secretariat did not admit to the mistakes pointed out in the audit. The Secretariat and the OIOS should ask the Compensation Commission to commit fewer mistakes, so that resources would not be wasted. The OIOS recommendations regarding the regional commissions, if implemented, should lead to improving consistency within the budgets, as well as improving the quality of outputs. The recommendations to the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) and the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) regarding their statistics subprogrammes should lead to better strategic work.
Mr. NAIR thanked delegates for their very encouraging words, noting that the Offices achievements depended on great teamwork from OIOS staff and colleagues. He gathered that most of the questions raised were for the Secretariat to answer, but looked forward to the opportunity to provide any necessary clarification during the informal consultations.
The Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources Management, ROSEMARY McCREERY, responded, on behalf of the Secretary-General, to a statement by the United States representative in connection with the investigation of sexual harassment charges against the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and another senior manager in the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), mentioned in paragraph 87 of the OIOS annual report. In that context, clarification had been requested on the apparent contradiction between the description of the investigation and the decision of the Secretary-General to take no further action on the matter.
The Secretariat could confirm that there was no contradiction, she said. The Secretary-General had broad discretion in determining what constitutes misconduct by a staff member and in imposing disciplinary measures. To assist the Secretary-General in exercising his discretion, preliminary fact-finding investigations were conducted. In the case in question, such an investigation was conducted by the OIOS. On completion of any investigation, the staff member concerned was given an opportunity to respond. Based on the comments of the staff member, the Secretary-General could then decide to close the case, refer it to the Joint Disciplinary Committee for advice, or to summarily dismiss the staff member.
In this case, the Secretary-General had evaluated the OIOS recommendations and the responses of the staff members against whom the allegations had been made, taking into account all the circumstances of the case, she said. The Secretary-General decided, within the discretionary authority afforded to him, that the allegations could not be sustained. On 4 November, the Legal Council to the complainant in the case stated that she was withdrawing her appeal to the Joint Appeals Board.
THOMAS A. REPASCH (United States) thanked the Assistant Secretary-General for reading the statement on behalf of the Secretary-General and asked that a copy of the statement be provided in writing to Member States.
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