5 October 2004
Budget Committee Discusses Reasons for Delayed Documentation, Adopts Work Programme for Initial Two Weeks
NEW YORK, 4 October (UN Headquarters) -- The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning analysed the delays in the issuance of documentation for the current session, which, according to some speakers, represented a major crisis this year. It also approved its programme of work for the initial two weeks and took up requests for exemption from sanctions for non-payment of dues to the Organization, which are envisioned under Article 19 of the Charter.
Several high-level Secretariat officials told the Committee that the reasons for late issuance or non-availability of documentation included the high volume of work, time needed to collect data and receive feedback from relevant departments, and the need to accommodate unforeseen projects.
On the latter, the Assistant Secretary-General for Programme Planning, Budget and Accounts and United Nations Controller, Jean-Pierre Halbwachs, said that some of the 80 reports that his Department was supposed to prepare this year would have to be postponed due to the decisions by the Security Council, which were dictated by developments on the ground. For example, work on a new report following last weeks decision by the Council to expand the mandate of the Democratic Republic of the Congo Mission could delay publication of some other documents.
Detailed information on all stages of documents processing was provided by the Assistant Secretary-General for General Assembly and Conference Management, Angela Kane. Recommending adjustments in the proposed time of consideration, she said that the Board of Auditors reports alone comprised close to 2,000 pages and were difficult to process. Approximately two months were needed to process them internally. In many cases, reports were submitted during the session itself, making planning and managing of the workload problematic.
She added that compliance with submission deadlines was down for the General Assembly this year -- 56 per cent for the fifty-ninth session, as compared to 80 per cent at the same stage of the session last year. That could be related to changes in the system. For example -- and that was the fact Mr. Halbwachs referred to, as well -- the Department no longer adjusted projected submission dates, or re-slotted. It based its analysis on the originally projected submission schedule, which was the basis for advance planning. All documents for all intergovernmental bodies converged in the Department, and measures to organize a coordinated approach in that respect would be considered by an interdepartmental task force of her peers throughout the Secretariat, which she would chair in the near future.
The Departments reform had been under way for more than three years, she said. Under the reform process, the Department was treading a fine line between chaos and control, overprogramming resources to take into account the fact that planning would, on occasion, have to be set aside in the higher interests of the Organization.
In the fight between chaos and control, chaos appeared to be winning, Indias representative said, expressing his agreement with those who pointed out the lack of coordination and the inflexibility of the slotting system as two of the reasons for delays.
Although reasons had been given, many delays were avoidable, Qatars representative, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, insisted. The Assembly should consider additional measures to ensure compliance by the Departments with the provisions for timely issuance of documentation. In cases of non-compliance, accountability measures should be in place. In addition, the representative of Trinidad and Tobago suggested that a mechanism should be established to monitor documents processing. He also supported last weeks proposal advocating greater discipline in requesting documents by the Committee itself.
Explanations were also provided to the Committee by the Assistant Secretary-General for the Office of Human Resources Management, Rosemary McCreery; Officer-in-Charge, Capital Master Plan, John Clarkson; Director of the Office of the Under-Secretary-General for Management, Jessie Mabutas; and Director of Internal Audit Division I, Office of the Internal Oversight Services, Patricia Azarias. Also participating in the discussion were representatives of Cuba, Syria, Nigeria and Canada.
Also this morning, the Committee agreed to prepare a draft that would grant 11 exemptions from sanctions for a number of countries under Article 19 of the Charter, by which Member States lose their voting rights in the General Assembly when the level of their arrears equals or exceeds two years assessed contributions, unless the Assembly decides that non-payment is a consequence of factors beyond a States control.
Speakers supported the recommendations by the Committee on Contributions (document A/C.5/58/40) to grant exemptions, through 30 June 2005, to the Central African Republic, Comoros, Guinea-Bissau, Iraq, Niger, Republic of Moldova, Sao Tome and Principe, Somalia and Tajikistan. Regarding Burundi, the Committee noted that it did not, in fact, fall under the provisions of Article 19 in 2004, and, therefore, no action was required by the Assembly.
While emphasizing the need for all Member States to pay their assessments in full, on time and without conditions, members of the Committee advocated an understanding approach to the countries unable to meet their obligations to the Organization due to genuine economic difficulties.
While supporting the recommendations, several speakers, including Nigeria (on behalf of the African Group), Trinidad and Tobago and Cuba, however, cautioned against linking requests for exemption under Article 19 with the submission of multi-year plans, which should remain voluntary and not be tied to other measures. The Committee on Contributions should give due consideration to the economic situation of individual countries, some of which might not be in a position to submit a multi-year payment plan.
An additional request for exemption was presented to the Committee by the representative of Georgia, who said that, although with a delay, his country had recently made a contribution to the budget of the United Nations, as envisaged by the schedule of payments approved last year. Unfortunately, however, his Government had not presented the appropriate information to the Committee on Contributions. His country had recently gone through radical changes in its supreme leadership and was undergoing fundamental reforms. Miscommunication and miscoordination among the relevant bodies of the Government in the time of profound restructuring had resulted in an ironic situation -- his country had made an even larger payment than it was supposed to, yet risked losing its voting rights.
In that connection, while reluctantly supporting Georgias request, the Netherlands (on behalf of the European Union), stressed the importance of following the existing rules and procedures. That position was supported by several other speakers.
Statements on this agenda item were also made by representatives of Qatar on behalf of the Group of 77, Syria, Pakistan, Argentina, Uruguay, United States, Yemen, Morocco, India, Romania, Japan, Venezuela and Guatemala. Support for exemptions was also expressed by the representative of Brazil (on behalf of the Rio Group), who made a statement on the organization of work of the Committee.
The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Wednesday, 6 October.
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