30/09/2002
Press Release
GA/AB/3516



Fifty-seventh General Assembly

Fifth Committee

3rd Meeting (AM)


FIFTH COMMITTEE STUDIES REPORTS OF OFFICE OF INTERAL OVERSIGHT SERVICES


A series of reports related to the activities of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) were introduced in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning.  [Established in 1994, the OIOS is part of the Organization’s oversight system, providing a comprehensive range of services, with particular emphasis on strengthening internal controls and improving management performance.]


The reports before the Committee are related to the inspection of management and administrative practices in the Department for Disarmament Affairs (DDA); Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC); recruitment by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO); and implementation of the Integrated Management Information System (IMIS) at Headquarters. 


Introducing the documents, the Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services, Dileep Nair, said that the inspection of ECLAC had reaffirmed the Commission’s reputation as a leader in research and analysis.  Overall, it had managed to produce more with less.  Even by conservative estimate, the volume of its implemented outputs increased by at least 40 per cent over the last decade despite the overall complement of staff decreasing by about one third.  He was also pleased to say that two weeks ago OIOS had received the initial implementation report from ECLAC on its own initiative.


The inspection of DDA management and administration practices had resulted in a positive assessment, he continued.  However, it had also shown that while revitalization of the regional centres was on track, their continuity and longer-term viability were far from being ensured.  The DDA had accepted 24 of the Office’s 25 recommendations, but took exception to the recommendation to discontinue the Department’s Regional Disarmament Branch, in the belief that a better option would be to entrust the Branch with additional responsibilities that would revitalize it.


During the seven months since the issuance of the report, four recommendations had been fully and five partially implemented; 13 recommendations were currently in progress, while only three had not been acted upon.  The OIOS would continue monitoring the implementation of the recommendations of the report.


Turning to the audit of recruiting for the DPKO, he said that under the new staff selection system effective May 1 2002, selection of staff was to take place within 120 days.  The average time taken to fill regular vacancies in the DPKO, however, greatly exceeded that goal.  There were other shortcomings in the

Department’s recruitment process.  The integrity of the recruitment process should be maintained by fully adhering to the eligibility requirements specified in vacancy announcements.


On the IMIS, he said that the audit had identified a number of governance issues that still needed to be addressed.  [The IMIS is the Organization’s principal electronic data processing system, enabling users to process and access information related to human resources, staff entitlements, financial applications and payroll.]


The OIOS attached high priority to full implementation of a governance framework as proposed by the IMIS Common Services Working Group in 1999, updating of the IMIS Common Services Agreement, and development of an IMIS strategic plan, he said.  He also emphasized the need to consolidate IMIS data; fully integrate the System; and provide appropriate funding for such integration.  The report highlighted the need to address the question of funding and personnel resources required to make continuing modifications and technological enhancements to the IMIS, and for dealing with the number of outstanding requests for System changes. The Department of Management had accepted all of the report’s recommendations, as well as others of a more technical nature that were included in a separate report to management.  The Department had also already begun to implement some of OIOS’s recommendations.


In a statement that followed the presentation of reports, China’s representative expressed particular interest in the audit of the policies and procedures for recruitment to the DPKO, noting that the Department’s recruitment time was too long.  The audit showed that it had taken 264 days to fill new posts authorized by the Assembly on an emergency basis.  The OIOS review also indicated that the average recruitment time frame for filling regular vacancies in the Department was 362 days.  She hoped that in using the new staff system, which took effect on 1 May, this situation should fundamentally improve.  Under the new “Galaxy” staffing system, the vacancies should be filled in 120 days.


She also stressed the need to establish an effective system of selecting high-quality staff.  Although the Secretary-General’s human resources management report had envisaged the establishment of numeric scoring methods for evaluating candidates, there was no evidence of their use in recruiting peacekeeping staff in 2001.  To guarantee the fairness of recruitment, it was highly necessary to implement such an evaluation system.  Finally, regarding the geographic distribution and gender balance, she said that in recruitment of new posts, the DPKO should adopt some special measures, paying particular attention to the employment of nationals from under-represented and troop-contributing countries.


The Committee will continue its discussion of the OIOS reports at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 1 October.


Background


The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met this morning to begin consideration of the Report of the Secretary-General on the activities of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS).


Before the Committee was a note by the Secretary-General (document A/56/817) transmitting a report by the OIOS on the inspection of programme management and administrative practices in the Department for Disarmament Affairs (DDA).  The Secretary-General (document A/56/817) notes that measures are being taken to correct the issues addressed in the review.  The primary focus of the OIOS inspection was to assess DDA’s performance in fulfilling the goal of the Secretary-General of responding effectively to the priorities of Member States in the area of disarmament.  The inspection resulted in the overall positive assessment of the Department’s programme management and administration, and provided 29 recommendations regarding management of programme delivery and the regional dimension of the Department’s activities.


According to the report, the OIOS was impressed with the strength of the Department’s leadership, transparency of its management, and professionalism of its staff.  The Office concludes that the biggest challenge facing the Department is the disparity between the scale and complexity of its responsibilities and the limited staff resources for carrying them out comprehensively.  This situation puts on the agenda the need to make the most efficient use of the Department’s resources, mobilize extrabudgetary means and use partnerships with other actors in order to achieve its programmatic objectives more effectively.


With regard to the programme of work, the main thrust of recommended actions was to foster the reliability of planning, to make monitoring of delivery more comprehensive and to take a proactive stance in mainstreaming disarmament throughout the Organization.  It was recommended to enhance the Department’s Internet presence, to strengthen public outreach through both conventional and electronic means, and to take specific measures towards advancing internal and system-wide coordination and cooperation.  Concerning the regional dimension, decisive measures were proposed to mobilize Member States’ material support for, and to ensure the long-term viability and effectiveness of, the regional centres.


Another note by the Secretary-General (document A/56/930) transmits the report of the OIOS on the inspection of programme management and administrative practices in the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). The inspection revealed that the Commission maintains its historic standing of intellectual excellence, pertinent policy advice and effective technical assistance.  Many of its products and services are not only considered within the region as standard references in specific subject areas, but have received recognition worldwide.


The print and electronic dissemination of outputs, public outreach and information, the report continues, are among the best in the United Nations system. It is generally a well run organization with a healthy institutional culture and staff morale.  The recent modernization process enhanced initiative, flexibility and multidisciplinary teamwork.  It would remain unbalanced, however, until and unless a reliable accountability system was put in place to complement the decentralization. The responsibilities delegated to middle management have to be subject to effective oversight to prevent their neglect or abuse.  Furthermore, the formal channels for communication and coordination should be given due attention and not allowed to break down.


Several recommendations are provided, aimed at improving programme planning and performance monitoring, strengthening personal accountability, improving coordination and collaboration throughout the Commission and addressing specific issues of human resources management.  Measures to address some of these issues have already been initiated.


The Fifth Committee also had before it a note by the Secretary-General (document A/57/224), transmitting a report of the OIOS on the audit of the policies and procedures for recruiting staff for the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO).  The audit focused on appointments of Professional staff for one year or longer against vacancies in the DPKO that were made after obtaining the advice of the appointment and promotion bodies during 2001.


The Secretary-General's report on human resources management reform (document A/55/253) envisaged the shortening of the recruitment time frame by filling vacancies within a maximum period of 120 days.  The OIOS review indicates that the average recruitment time frame for filling regular DPKO vacancies is

362 days.  The Office of Human Resources Management needs to take a proactive role in ensuring that vacancies are filled in a timely manner, says the report.  The new staff selection system being implemented with effect from 1 May 2002 (the "Galaxy System") should enable the Office to attain this goal.


The audit noted that the Office of Human Resources Management had not fully implemented the OIOS recommendation concerning the use of numeric scoring methods for evaluating candidates.  The OIOS also noted several inconsistencies in the competencies and skills specified in the vacancy announcements issued by the Office.  With regard to geographical distribution and gender balance, the OIOS review indicated that this was generally equitable.


The Office of Human Resources Management, the report stresses, should effectively monitor the recruitment process to ensure that the recruitment time frames are achieved.  The Office should also ensure that the criteria for evaluating applications are established prior to the issuance of the vacancy announcement.  In order to eliminate inconsistencies in the eligibility requirements for posts at the same level, the Office should prepare generic job profiles and ensure that vacancy announcements are consistent with such profiles.  The DPKO should take appropriate steps to improve geographical distribution during the next phase of recruitment for additional posts approved by the General Assembly in February 2002.


The last document before the Fifth Committee was a note in which the Secretary-General transmits the report of the OIOS on the post-implementation review of the Integrated Management Information System (IMIS) at United Nations Headquarters (document A/56/879), in which numerous concerns are voiced about a number of policy and governance issues.


The IMIS Steering Committee, the report continues, should take immediate steps to ensure that the governance framework for IMIS maintenance and development is fully implemented and that the common services agreement is redrafted to reflect the change in the level of participation by the United Nations funds and programmes.  A governance framework is an essential element in managing the IMIS programme and ensuring the sustained development and maintenance of the System.


With the completion of IMIS as a project at an identified cost of

$78 million and its establishment as a programme, the Steering Committee needs to clearly identify the source of funding for future modification and enhancement of the System.  Funding required within the Secretariat may be included in the programme budget for the IMIS.


Although the development of IMIS is complete in terms of its original plan, the report continues, much work remains to be done to consolidate data and integrate the System across all duty stations.  Furthermore, IMIS has not yet been implemented in any of the active peacekeeping missions or in the two international Tribunals.  This has implications for real-time consolidated reporting, transferring of staff records from one duty station to another, and processing of inter-office vouchers.


Furthermore, there is no formal strategic plan articulating the Organization’s vision for IMIS in the long term.  Replacing IMIS in the short term is not feasible.  It is, therefore, important for the Organization to have a strategic plan setting out its vision for IMIS over the next two bienniums.  The IMIS Steering Committee also needs to identify, secure and assign resources so that consolidation and integration of all the IMIS databases are completed in the shortest possible time.  The Committee should also finalize its evaluation of the viability of implementing IMIS in the peacekeeping missions and Tribunals and propose a specific plan of action.


Moreover, the OIOS believes that the existing resources of the IMIS may not be adequate to process the outstanding requests for system modifications and enhancements.  This matter should be addressed in the IMIS strategic plan and the revised common services agreement.


The review by the OIOS of the controls aimed at protecting IMIS data from unauthorized access shows that a sound framework is in place.  However, the OIOS  is concerned that the current audit trail and security reports are largely ineffective since they are based on redundant concepts and the fact that few of the available reports are being reviewed.


The Organization’s dependence on the IMIS, the report concludes, has grown to a point at which basic operations and processes cannot be completed if the system is not available.  The Information Technology Services Division should take the lead in developing a formal business continuity plan that would ensure that the Organization is able to continue to provide core services in the event of a disaster.


* *** *