28 October 2003



Series of Texts Approved on Auditing, Oversight, Related Issues

NEW YORK, 24 October (UN Headquarters) -- Possible sales of books and gifts via the Internet and relocation of United Nations bookshops and gift centres to increase their visibility, as well as distribution of best on-line marketing practices, were among the measures recommended by the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning for improving profitability of revenue-producing activities of the United Nations system.

Acting on the report of the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU), the Committee also agreed with its recommendation to identify public information materials with marketable value -- especially audio-visual productions -- that could be purposely developed for the twin objectives of advocacy of the Organization’s goals and income-generation, without affecting existing practices of free distribution of information materials.

At the same time, by the terms of the text recommended by the Committee today, the Assembly would agree with comments of members of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination, who emphasized that the potential of the United Nations to generate revenue from publications should be viewed realistically.  The text noted the need for improved inter-agency coordination on publication and dissemination activities, as mentioned in the JIU report.  Also endorsed by the Committee were the paragraphs of the report recommending studying ways of enhancing the visitors’ experience in Geneva and Vienna and operating guided tours, bookstores and gift shops in Nairobi.

The draft resolution on revenue-producing activities was one of 10 texts approved by the Committee today without a vote.

By another text, the Assembly would accept the 2002 financial report and audited financial statements of the Board of Auditors, as well as the audit opinion of the Board regarding the voluntary funds administered by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).  [Without qualifying its opinion, the Board modified it to draw attention to its findings on the inadequacy of assurance obtained by the UNHCR that funds had been properly used for the purpose intended, and on the understatement of $70 million in the disclosure of non-expendable property.  Among its other findings was the fact that, while the official staffing table of the Office included 4,553 posts as of  1 July 2002, the actual staff roster was over 6,600.]


The Assembly would note with concern the shortcomings identified by the Auditors in the management of financial and human resources of the UNHCR.  Noting the efforts to implement the Board’s recommendations so far, it would urge the High Commissioner to continue doing that.  To avoid further depletion of the UNHCR’s reserves, the High Commissioner would be requested to examine the causes of continued operating deficits in order to ensure the Office’s functioning within its income for each financial year. 

Another draft resolution approved today was prepared on the basis of the Joint Inspection Unit report on the management audit review of outsourcing in the United Nations funds and programmes.  By its terms, the Assembly would endorse the Unit’s recommendation aimed at reinforcing existing outsourcing guidelines.  The Secretary-General would be requested to share the experience of the United Nations Procurement Division in the use of its new formats for monitoring, evaluating and certifying supplier performance under outsourced contracts with the membership of the Inter-Agency Procurement Working Group and to report to the Assembly thereon.

Acting on another JIU report -- the one on reforming the Field Service category of peacekeeping personnel -- the Committee also recommended approval of six recommendations of the Unit, including those related to the need to provide a clear definition of the occupational groups, as well as criteria for the identification of staff members to be retained, redeployed, or phased out.

By a draft decision on the JIU’s report on support costs in connection with extrabudgetary activities within the United Nations system, the Assembly would request the Unit to provide clarifications on several of its recommendations and decide to continue its consideration of the matter at the first part of its resumed fifty-eighth session.                                                                                                      

By a draft resolution on the Secretary-General’s outsourcing practices report, the Committee recommended that the Assembly take note of the document and endorse its recommendations regarding information to be included in future reports on the matter.

By another text, recommending that the Assembly take note of the report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) on the audit of mission subsistence allowance rates, the Committee also suggested that the OIOS be entrusted with preparing an updated report on the matter to be submitted during the second part of its resumed fifty-eighth session.

The Committee decided to continue its consideration of the JIU report on common and joint services of United Nations organizations at Vienna, upon the issuance of a related report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) at its fifty-ninth session.

Also this morning, as the Committee concluded its consideration of a series of reports introduced yesterday, speakers applauded the Oversight Office for the strides it had made in fulfilling its mandate.  However, it was said, there were still too many examples of waste, inefficiency and mismanagement in a number of areas.

Participants in the debate agreed on the need for the Department of Public Information (DPI) to reassess its approach to its information centres, especially in developing countries, where the vast majority of the population had no access to information technologies.

Responding to concerns expressed by several delegations in connection with the audit of the Investment Management Service of the United Nations Pension Fund, the Under-Secretary-General of the Department of Management, Catherine Bertini, pointed out that 21 out of 26 recommendations of the Oversight Office had been implemented.  A global accounting and consulting firm had been engaged in order to see how to proceed.

The Representatives of Nigeria and South Africa stressed the importance of the effective functioning of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the United Nations Office at Nairobi.  They hoped that the implementation of the OIOS recommendations in that regard would contribute to the positive roles that the Commission and the Office played in advancing the development agenda in Africa.  Some speakers, however, regretted that there had been a 10-month delay in the construction of additional office facilities at ECA.  They stressed the need for all United Nations offices to be treated equally and fairly.

Speakers also highlighted the importance of strengthening the United Nations Web site in all official languages, the main objective being complete parity among the six languages.

Statements were also made by representatives of China, Switzerland, United States, Japan, Morocco (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Saudi Arabia, Trinidad and Tobago, Sierra Leone, Syria and Italy (on behalf of the European Union and associated States).

The Committee meets again on Tuesday, 28 October, at 9:30 a.m. to begin its consideration of the budget of the United Nations for 2004-2005.



The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met this morning and was expected to take action on 10 draft decisions and resolutions, and to continue its consideration of the activities of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) and reports related to the 2002-2003 budget of the United Nations.  (For background information of the reports before the Committee, see Press Release GA/AB/3579 of 23 October.)

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