27/11/2002
Press Release
GA/AB/3542



Fifty-seventh General Assembly

Fifth Committee

28th Meeting (PM)


FIFTH COMMITTEE ADOPTS 15 DRAFT TEXTS, FOCUSING ON ENHANCED

PROCUREMENT PRACTICES, NEW FINANCIAL REGULATIONS


Delegates Also Discuss Rental,

Maintenance Cost of UN Institute for Training and Research


Simplifying vendor registration processes utilizing the Internet and placing particular agencies’ procurement information on their respective Web sites were among the measures recommended by the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this afternoon for the improvement of procurement practices within the United Nations system.


Further by that draft resolution, the Secretary-General would be requested to encourage procurement opportunities for vendors from developing countries and countries with economies in transition, and to ensure that air-safety standards were met for all United Nations air-transport operations.


The text on procurement reform was one of two draft resolutions and 13 draft decisions approved by the Committee without a vote this afternoon.


The Committee also approved the donation to the Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina of assets of the United Nations Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNMIBH), which is expected to complete its mandate on 31 December 2002.  [Based on July inventory records, the assets of UNMIBH were established at approximately $58.8 million. It was proposed that 12 per cent of that amount (some $7.1 million) be donated to the Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina.]


By two other draft decisions, the Committee recommended that the Assembly adopt revised Financial Regulations of the United Nations which would become effective on 1 January 2003, and note with appreciation the efforts made to date in implementation of the recently adopted results-based budgeting methodology, taking note of several related reports.  By other action, the Assembly would take note of the reports related to the proposed increase in the regular budget component of the United Nations Office in Nairobi and urge the Secretary-General to increase the regular budget component of the Office in future bienniums. 


The Committee also recommended that the Assembly take note of reports related to the United Nations Fund for International Partnerships; revised administrative arrangements for the International Trade Centre United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)/World Trade Organization (WTO);


implementation of projects financed from the Development Account; framework for accountability for the field security management system; and cooperation between Headquarters and regional commissions.


The Committee decided to continue at the main part of its fifty-eighth session (in the context of the proposed programme budget for 2004-2005) its consideration of additional expenditures deriving from inflation and currency fluctuations, as well as the question of the post structure of the Secretariat.


As the Committee concluded its consideration of the financial situation of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), the representative of Venezuela (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, stressed great importance of the Institute’s continued functioning, and supported the proposal whereby UNITAR would be provided with free rent and maintenance by the United Nations.


The representative of the United States, however, emphasized that under the Institute’s mandate, rents should be paid though voluntary contributions and not from the regular budget of the Organization.  She wanted to know on what basis UNITAR had decided to withhold its legally due rent to the United Nations.  In the light of UNITAR’s positive financial situation, when could the United Nations expect payment?


Several delegations sought clarification on a procedural question with regard to UNITAR, pointing out that the issue had been introduced simultaneously in the Second and Fifth Committees.  Discussion of the issue was accordingly suspended.


[According to the reports before the Committee, UNITAR currently does not benefit from rental rates and maintenance costs similar to those enjoyed by other United Nations organizations.  If the Assembly were to approve free rent and maintenance for UNITAR, an additional biennial appropriation of $293,000 would be required.  To provide such benefits, the Assembly would need to override the existing provisions under which the funding of the Institute’s administrative costs should be covered from voluntary contributions, donations, special-purpose grants and executing agency overheads.]


Also today, the Director of the Programme Planning and Budget Division, Warren Sach, and the Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), Conrad S.M. Mselle, introduced reports on the proposed construction of additional office facilities for the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean at the United Nations compound in Santiago.


Also participating in today’s discussion were representatives of Bahrain, Denmark (on behalf of the European Union), Pakistan, Nigeria and Iran.


The Committee will hold its next formal meeting at a time to be announced.


Background


This afternoon, the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) was expected to conclude its consideration of the rental rates of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) (see Press Release GA/AB/3540 of    18 November), and begin consideration of the proposed construction of additional office facilities at the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.  It was also scheduled to act on a number of draft resolutions and decisions, the summaries of which are contained in the Action on Drafts section of this press release.


In his report on the construction of additional office space for the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) at the United Nations compound in Santiago (document A/57/467), the Secretary-General is proposing to add three new modules to the existing building, which would provide an additional space capacity of 733 square metres.  The $736,900 project could be funded from the available unutilized balance of the construction-in-progress account.


In a related report (document A/57/7/Add.8), the Advisory Committee for Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) notes that the balance of the construction-in-progress account amounted to some $8.75 million as of 30 June 2002.  As an amount of some $7.71 million has been approved for the construction of office facilities in Addis Ababa, the unutilized balance in the construction-in-progress account amounts to $1.04 million.   Since the ECLAC project is relatively small and well defined, it would only require broad oversight by the Office of Central Support Services to ensure observance of United Nations construction standards and procedures.  The ACABQ recommends that the Assembly authorize the construction of three new modules as an extension to the existing building of the Santiago complex.  In that connection, the Advisory Committee recommends authorizing the funding of the total estimated cost of $736,900 from the available balance of the construction-in-progress account.


Statements


ASDRUBAL PULIDO LEON (Venezuela), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, pointed out the problem resulting from delayed publication of reports before the Committee, reiterating that Member States should have enough time to analyse them.  Furthermore, it was regrettable that the Secretariat had submitted the same report simultaneously to the Second and Fifth Committees, thereby creating confusion. 


Continuing, he recognized the work of UNITAR in the development of academic activities, training and organization of seminars, conferences and workshops.  Despite the fact that its work was pertinent for the United Nations and benefited developing countries, UNITAR was facing financial difficulties due, in principle, to decreased developed-country contributions, as well as high rental and maintenance rates.  Therefore, the Assembly had requested the Secretary-General, by resolution 56/208, to clarify why UNITAR did not benefit from rental rates and maintenance costs similar to those enjoyed by other organizations affiliated with the United Nations, and to submit proposals on how to waive or reduce those expenses.

The Secretary-General had explained in his report the privileges enjoyed by the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) and the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) from reduced rental rates and maintenance costs, he said.  The ACABQ had pointed out that even though UNITAR had been able to pay its expenses until 30 September, it now had a debt amounting to $310,974, and that was only for rental and maintenance.  For the Group of 77 and China, the continued functioning of the Institute was of utmost importance, and he supported the wish of Member States that UNITAR be provided with rent- and maintenance-free space by the United Nations.  The Group requested the Assembly to approve the recommendation contained in paragraph 25 of the Secretary General’s report, contained in document A/57/479.


SALAH ALI HASAN HELAL AL-MALKI (Bahrain) said that training and research were of paramount importance, as was the existence of UNITAR as an independent institution within the United Nations system.  Its role needed to be fully recognized, he said, especially in the field of capacity-building for developing countries, which would not otherwise be able to provide such training.  He hoped that UNITAR could positively contribute in helping developing nations realize economic and social development.  It was also important for UNITAR to benefit from the rental rates and maintenance rates given to other organizations, and UNITAR should be given free rental space in the future.  His delegation reiterated its commendation of UNITAR’s work and called on the international community to provide it with the necessary resources.


MELANIE ATTWOOLL (United States) supported other delegations’ kind words about UNITAR, which provided important services in the area of training.  Its guidance was very useful to Member States.  From the annex to the Secretary-General’s report before the Committee, she was pleased to note that UNITAR’s financial situation had been looking good in recent years.  At a time when many other institutions were struggling for voluntary contributions, UNITAR’s contributions were actually increasing.  She was concerned, however, that UNITAR was saying it was in a difficult financial situation and could not pay its rent.


The Institute’s mandate specified that the rents should be paid through voluntary contributions and not from the regular budget of the Organization, she noted.  In that connection, she wanted to know on what basis UNITAR had decided to withhold its legally due rent to the United Nations.  In the light of UNITAR’s positive financial situation, when could the United Nations expect payment?  What activities had been affected by the rent and maintenance difficulties?  She also inquired about United Nations policy concerning non-payment of legal obligations.


THURE CHRISTIANSEN (Denmark), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that before the Committee could proceed to discuss the substance of the matter, he wanted to clarify a procedural issue of great importance.  The question was, which Committee was dealing with the issue?  The European Union agreed with paragraph 2 of the Secretary General’s report on UNITAR’s rent, to the effect that the request in resolution 56/208 mainly related to administrative and financial questions.  However, the issue had been introduced in the Second and Fifth Committees at the same time.


In its previous resolutions, he recalled, the Assembly had expressed concern over the tendency of substantive committees and other bodies to involve themselves in administrative and budgetary matters.  If the issue was before two Committees at the same time, it was necessary to take the matter up with the President of the General Assembly and inform the Committees involved regarding their respective responsibilities.  The procedure defined the rules the Committees “played by”, and it was important to clarify those rules before discussing the substance of the matter.


WARREN SACH, Director of the Programme Planning and Budget Division, said there was a report that had been mandated under Assembly item 112, as a result of resolution 56/208 regarding UNITAR.  The Secretary-General had had no option but to issue the mandated report.  In parallel, the Second Committee had an agenda item, 90b, which had also taken up the substantive work of UNITAR.  In the context of that work, a new resolution had been tabled calling for rent relief.  As things stood, he said, it was possible that the plenary could receive two separate requests pertaining to rent relief.  The Second Committee could perhaps be asked to suspend action on the resolution while the Fifth Committee was dealing with it.


Mr. PULIDO LEON (Venezuela) said that the whole problem had arisen because the Secretariat had presented a document to both the Fifth and the Second Committees.  Who would indicate to the Second Committee that the draft resolution should be withdrawn?  Was the Secretariat aware that a decision would be taken in the Fifth Committee and, if so, why had they presented the document to the Second?


AIZAZ AHMAD CHAUDHRY (Pakistan) said the situation had become no clearer. His delegation had already expressed its support for UNITAR, but wished to focus on procedural issue.  The matter had not been clarified to his delegation’s satisfaction.


Mr. CHRISTIANSEN (Denmark) thanked Mr. Sach for his explanations, and said that, of course, Committees were interrelated and should work accordingly. However, the issue appeared to be a confusion, and time should not be wasted by Committees carrying out duplicative work.


NONYE UDO (Nigeria) associated herself with the position of the Group of 77 and China and supported the statements by the representatives of Denmark (on behalf of the Eastern Union) and Pakistan.  Her delegation supported the important work that UNITAR was involved in.  She wanted further clarification regarding the procedure to be followed.


ALIREZA TOOTOONCHIAN (Iran) associated himself with the statement by Venezeula’s representative on behalf of the Group of 77 and China.  Nobody questioned the importance of UNITAR and the benefits of its work to Member States.  The financial difficulties of the Institute should be addressed through an increase in the level of voluntary contributions, as well as rental and maintenance rates similar to those enjoyed by other institutions affiliated with the United Nations.  The UNITAR should be provided with office space free of rent by the United Nations.  He believed the proposals put forward in response to resolution 56/208 should be positively considered by the Fifth Committee.  Consideration of the matter by the Second Committee should not cause the Fifth Committee to waive its prerogative of dealing with administrative and financial issues.


Mr. PULIDO LEON (Venezuela) agreed that, first of all, it was necessary to get clarification regarding the procedure to be followed.  The United States had referred to annexes to the report, and he wanted to hear an assessment of the situation by representatives of UNITAR.  As far as he understood, the contributions process was irregular.  Overall comparison of income received and outgoing amounts demonstrated that a rather scanty balance remained to cover maintenance costs and rent.  The UNITAR was carrying out training, which was of great importance to the Organization, and if it had to pay for maintenance and rent, that money could not go towards training.


Responding to questions, the Director of the Programme Planning and Budget Division, Mr. SACH, said that UNITAR’s financial situation was summarized in the document before the Committee.  In general, it could be considered relatively healthy, and non-payment of rent was not a sign of UNITAR’s financial fragility. No official indication of the basis for non-payment had been received, however.  He was not aware of the matter being discussed at UNITAR at the Board level.  The list of agencies paying rent included the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations Compensation Commission, the Pension Fund, the United Nations International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP), and the International School.


As for the consideration of the matter by the Second Committee, he added that substantive interests of UNITAR were covered there.  Only one Committee should make recommendations to the Assembly on the matter of rent, however, and he believed that the issue could be resolved between the Second and Fifth Committees.


Following further discussion of the issue, the Committee decided to suspend consideration of the matter.


Introduction of Reports


Mr. SACH then introduced the Secretary-General’s report regarding construction of additional office facilities at the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.


A related report of the ACABQ was introduced by the Advisory Board’s Chairman, CONRAD S.M. MSELLE.


Action on Drafts


Turning to the issue of procurement reform, the Committee adopted without a vote a resolution (document A/C.5/57/L.22), whereby the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to encourage the organizations of the United Nations system to improve their procurement practices.  That could be done by simplifying the registration process for vendors already registered with another body of the United Nations system, utilizing, among other things, the Internet, and by placing procurement information on their respective Web sites.


Further to the draft, the Secretary-General would be requested to encourage procurement opportunities for vendors from developing countries and countries with economies in transition, and to ensure that air-safety standards were met for all United Nations air-transport operations and, where feasible, for freight forwarding.  The Assembly would also request the Secretary-General to continue to ensure that the United Nations Secretariat and affiliated funds and programmes fully implement all recommendations of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) and the Board of Auditors regarding procurement.


Finally, the Assembly would ask the Secretary-General to submit to it, through the OIOS, no later than at its fifty-ninth session, a report on safeguarding air-safety standards while procuring air services, in particular in the area of cargo airlifts, for United Nations peacekeeping missions, and would request him to report on the implementation of the present resolution.


The text was introduced by the representative of Argentina.


The Committee then adopted without a vote a draft decision on cooperation between Headquarters departments and regional commissions (document A/C.5/57/L.15), which would have the Assembly decide to take note of the note by the Secretary-General on such cooperation and the related ACABQ report.


A draft decision on the United Nations Fund for International Partnerships (document A/C.5/57/L.16) was also adopted without a vote.  By its terms, the Assembly would take note of the related reports of the Secretary-General and the ACABQ.


Also adopted without a vote was a draft decision on inter-organizational security measures (document A/C.5/57/L.17), by whose terms the General Assembly would take note of the report of the Secretary-General, as well as the related report of the ABACQ.


A draft decision was also adopted without a vote on the reports of the Secretary-General, considered under item 112 (programme budget for the biennium 2002-2003) (document A/C.5/57/L.19).  By its terms, the Assembly would take note of the related reports of the Secretary-General and the ACABQ.  It would also reiterate paragraph 7 of resolution 56/253, which reaffirms the role of the General Assembly in carrying out a thorough analysis and approval of posts and financial resources, as well as of human resources policies, with a view to ensuring the full implementation of all mandated programmes and activities and the implementation of policies in that regard.


Turning to the Development Account, the Committee adopted without a vote a draft decision (document A/C.5/57/L.20), which would have the Assembly take note of the report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of projects financed from the Development Account, and request the Secretary-General to indicate clearly the role of projects funded from section 21 (regular programme of technical cooperation).


The Committee also adopted without a vote a draft decision on experience in applying the revised administrative arrangements approved by the General Assembly for the International Trade Centre UNCTAD/WTO in its decision 53/411 B (document A/C.5/57/L.21).  By the terms of that decision, the Assembly would take note of the related reports of the Secretary-General and the ACABQ.

By a draft resolution adopted without a vote, on plans to increase the regular budget component of the United Nations Office in Nairobi (document A/C.5/57/L.23), the Assembly would take note of the related reports of the Secretary-General and the ACABQ, and urge the Secretary-General to increase the regular budget component of the Office in future bienniums.


The Committee also adopted without a vote a draft decision on proposed revisions to the Financial Regulations of the United Nations (document A/C.5/57/L.24).  By its terms, the Assembly would take note of the related reports of the Secretary-General and the Advisory Committee, adopt the revised Financial Regulations as set forth in the report of the Secretary-General, and decide that the revised regulations shall become effective on 1 January 2003.


A draft decision (document A/C.5/57/L.25) on the comprehensive review of the post structure of the United Nations Secretariat was also adopted without a vote. By its terms, the Assembly would take note of the related reports of the Secretary-General and the ACABQ, and decide to continue consideration of the question of the comprehensive review of the post structure during its fifty-eighth session under the items “Human resources management” and “Proposed programme budget for the biennium 2004-2005”.


The Assembly would also request the Secretary-General to include, in the context of the proposed programme budget for the biennium 2002-2005, more information on the question of the post structure of the United Nations Secretariat, in particular, providing a comparison of the Secretariat’s post structure with that of other multilateral organizations not covered in his report, as well as with those of some Member States, and the percentage share of each grade.


A draft decision on results-based budgeting (document A/C.5/57/L.26) was also adopted without a vote.  By its terms, the Assembly would take note of the related reports of the Secretary-General, the ACABQ and the OIOS.


Turning to a draft decision on additional expenditures deriving from inflation and currency fluctuations (document A/C.5/57/L.28), the Committee adopted it without a vote.  By its terms, the Assembly would take note of the related reports of the Secretary-General and the ACABQ.  It would also decide to continue the consideration of the question at the main part of its fifty-eighth session, in the context of the proposed programme budget for the biennium 2004-2005.


A draft decision on the proposed donation of assets to the Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina (document A/C.5/57/L.18) was also adopted without a vote. By its terms, the Assembly would take note of the related reports of the Secretary-General and the ACABQ and approve the donation of assets to the Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina as proposed by the Secretary-General.


Explanation of Position


EVA SILOT BRAVO (Cuba), speaking in explanation of vote after the vote on draft decision L.20, said that her delegation had approved the draft on the understanding that the budgetary savings achieved would continue to be transferred to the Development Account.