Press Releases

    13 November 2002


    NEW YORK, 12 November (UN Headquarters) -- The focus of attention of the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning was on the post structure of the Secretariat as the Committee concluded its consideration of a series of reports related to the programme budget for the biennium 2002-2003.

    The representative of Japan commented on a report of the Secretary-General prepared in response to a request by the General Assembly, to address the top-heavy post structure of the United Nations. The report concluded that the current post structure and post distribution in the Secretariat did not indicate any apparent anomalies that could be characterized as top-heaviness. Japan’s representative wondered how the Secretary-General had implemented the provisions of resolution 56/253, which reaffirmed that "the senior management structure should be considered in the context of the overall structure of the Organization, desired lines of authority and decision-making" and that "the Organization shall have a clear pyramid structure".

    He went on to express his delegation’s concern that in the United States Federal Government, the ratio of supervisors to other staff members was one to seven, namely, one supervisor for every seven staff, whereas in the Secretariat it was one to 10 for the regular budget. The report of the Secretary-General on post structure seemed to be based on the assumption that D-1/D-2 was equivalent to the Division Director level in the United States Government, while in the case of the International Civil Service Commission’s comparison of salaries, D-1/D-2 could be equivalent to the Assistant-Secretary level in the Federal Government. If that inconsistency was true, it could not be overlooked.

    On the same report, the representative of Bangladesh said that the document did not provide statistics or graphs that could substantiate its conclusion that there was "no anomaly that could be characterized as top-heaviness" within the Secretariat. He would appreciate further elaboration on that matter.

    The Director of the Office of Programme Planning and Budget Division, Warren Sach, said the report was an executive summary of a very detailed report prepared by a consultant, who had analysed a large volume of statistical material. In informal consultations he would elaborate on the statistical base of the conclusions drawn by the consultant.

    He then responded to several questions posed by the representative of Japan yesterday afternoon. He said that paragraph 4 of the Secretary-General’s report on cases in which incumbents of posts were being paid at a level other than the one provided for the post, referred to one case of a post encumbered by a staff member whose personal grade was higher than the budgeted level of the post. Indeed, such a situation had continued for more than 10 years at the Office of the Director-General in Geneva.

    The promotion of the staff member in question had not been regularized in the budget since 1990 owing to the lack of an available post, said Mr. Sach. The post was proposed for reclassification in the biennium 1992-1993, as well as in 2002-2003, but those proposals were never approved. That situation was an exception, and the Organization was trying to resolve such cases through normal recruitment and vacancy management by the Office of Human Resources Management.

    The representative of the United States said he was surprised that such a situation had been allowed to go on for such a long time. In the United States civil service there was a safe pay provision, which would allow someone to get paid at a higher level for a maximum of two years. Why did the United Nations not have such a system?

    Conrad S. M. Mselle, Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), responding to questions, said that if an individual was to be promoted, there had to be a post. If that post was not approved, then the Secretary-General would have to find other ways to reach the requirements -- and that was the problem. He believed that in this case the Secretary-General had requested a post but it had not been approved by the General Assembly.

    Mr. Sach confirmed that in the budget proposals for 2002-2003 there had been a request for a post classification which would have taken care of the situation. He was, however, surprised to find the Committee spending time on the question of one anomaly out of 9,000 posts. If a safe pay provision was introduced in the United Nations, he said, there would probably be more than one in 9,000 such cases. With the current system the United Nations had more control.

    Taking into account oral modifications proposed by the representative of Japan, the Committee decided to ask the Secretariat to prepare a draft decision whereby the Assembly would take note of the Secretary-General’s reports on the conversion of some temporary posts, cases in which incumbents of the posts were being paid at a level other than the one provided by the post, and the presentation of estimates and staff assessment.

    The Committee will meet again on Monday 18 November at 2:30 p.m.

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