8 March 2005
Procurement Reform, Outsourcing Practices, Peacekeeping Air Safety Vital to Current, Future UN Operations, Budget Committee Told
Resumed Session Begins at Headquarters; Capital Master Plan, Peacekeeping Finance, Among Other Issues on Agenda
NEW YORK, 7 March (UN Headquarters) -- Three subject areas before the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) -- procurement reform, outsourcing practices and safeguarding air safety standards for United Nations peacekeeping -- were vital to current and future United Nations operations, stressed the United States representative as the Committee began its resumed session this morning.
Without accountable, cost-effective, efficient and transparent procurement practices, the Organization would not have its essential goods and services, billions of dollars of contributions would be ill-spent or not properly accounted for, and the safety of United Nations peacekeeping air operations would be jeopardized, he said. His Government would always insist on effective and transparent procurement as an ongoing management priority. All personnel involved in procurement must be trained. They needed to understand procurement practices and procedures, adhere to ethical practices and be held accountable for their actions. If mismanagement, fraud or theft was alleged, it should be investigated as soon as possible and those found guilty punished accordingly.
Commenting on the achievements and shortcomings of the ongoing reform of the Organizations procurement system, several speakers welcomed strengthened cooperation through the inter-agency and common services procurement working groups, which had been established to avoid duplication and increase efficiency. Recognized in the debate were such initiatives as the comprehensive agency agreements, streamlined vendor practices and greater use of technology, with the goal of harmonizing and streamlining procurement practices throughout the system. Many noted the launching of an Internet-based vendor registration system -- the United Nations Global Marketplace -- last year, as well as a number of measures to improve quality of procurement, particularly for peacekeeping missions, which now shared over 80 per cent of the Organizations total procurement expenditures.
The procurement service had effectively addressed many of the concerns previously raised by Member States, said the representative of Belgium, who spoke on behalf of the European Union. One of the initiatives to increase efficiency allowed electronic processing of presentations to the Headquarters Committee on Contracts, thereby speeding up the procurement process. Stressing the need to regularly update the revised Procurement Manual and information relevant to procurement on the web sites in all six official languages, he also agreed that training programmes could be focused on a train-the-trainers approach. It was also important to meet specific training needs of staff, including at field missions.
Introducing the Secretary-Generals report on procurement reform, Joan W. McDonald, Director of the Facilities and Commercial Services Division, noted that over the last six years the volume of procurement had gone from $318 million to $850 million, an increase of nearly 300 per cent. Although procurement service had become more efficient, there was a limit to how long staff could continue to handle that large volume within currently available resources.
Jamaicas representative, speaking for the Group of 77 developing countries and China, argued for more diversity in the sources of procurement. Welcoming progress in creating opportunities for vendors from developing countries and countries with economies in transition, the Group noted that only 27 per cent of the procurement volume had gone to developing countries. At the same time, as pointed out by the representative of Cuba, developing countries represented more than one third of the Organizations membership and should be taken into account more assertively in the procurement processes.
That concern was shared by the representative of South Africa, who insisted that more needed to be done to address the imbalance, as illustrated by the fact that 10 countries had supplied 42 per cent of the goods and services procured by the United Nations system in 2003. The increase in procurement from developing countries was still largely limited to host countries of peacekeeping operations and their neighbours. A more sustainable approach would ensure that vendors in those countries were able to conduct business with the United Nations system long after peacekeeping operations in their regions had been implemented. The share of procurement by developing countries, particularly those in Africa, had to increase further in order to reflect the international character of the United Nations.
Among other needs, the representative of Turkey outlined the need to establish clear rules and regulations and firmly establish authority without duplication throughout the United Nations system. Currently, the Inter-Agency Procurement Working Groups relationship with the legislative organs of its member organizations and the Assembly was not clear, even though it had been the main information exchange forum for procurement professionals. Its inter-agency cooperation mandate had a certain ambiguity. Another entity, the Inter-Agency Procurement Services Office, had a broad range of inter-agency functions, as well. Organizations, departments and units should have clear duties and responsibilities. It would be wise to review units with blurred, conflicting and duplicative functions and reorganize them, establishing ownership and accountability for every task and responsibility.
Statements were also made by representatives of the Russian Federation, Republic of Korea, Syria, and Venezuela.
Approving its programme of work for the session, which is scheduled to conclude on 30 March, the Committee also agreed to address such important issues on its agenda as administration of justice at the United Nations, human resources management, the capital master plan for the refurbishing of the Headquarters complex in New York, and financing of several peacekeeping missions. The programme was approved on the understanding that it would be adjusted, as necessary, during the session. Statements on the Committees organization of work were made by representatives of Jamaica, on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, Belgium, on behalf of the European Union, Argentina on behalf of the Rio Group.
Numerous reports before the Committee were introduced by Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services, Dileep Nair; Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), Vladimir Kuznetsov; Chief of the Political, Legal and Humanitarian Service of the Programme Planning and Budget Division, Dennis Thatchairchawalit; and Chief of the Common Services Unit of the Programme Planning and Budget Division, Vladimir Belov.
The Committee will continue its work at 10 a.m., Tuesday, 8 March.
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