12/05/2003
Press Release
GA/AB/3563



Fifty-seventh General Assembly

Fifth Committee (Resumed)

49th Meeting (AM)


PEACEKEEPING SUPPORT ACCOUNT, ROLE OF OVERSIGHT SERVICES

AMONG ISSUES TAKEN UP IN BUDGET COMMITTEE


As it took up a new series of reports on various administrative and budgetary aspects of peacekeeping financing, the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning focused on the functioning of the peacekeeping support account; the role of oversight services; and the participation of women in peacekeeping operations, both at Headquarters and in the field.


Canada’s representative, speaking also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand, emphasized that with the major capacity-building stage nearly over, it was now important to focus on improving the management of the overall peacekeeping programme and the resources provided to it.  The resources requested by the Secretariat last May were meant to establish a support-account capacity robust enough to effectively backstop peacekeeping operations.  With a few exceptions, that capacity now existed and a new baseline had been set.  He expected the general level of the support account to roughly mirror the operational tempo of United Nations peacekeeping.


The 2003/2004 budget proposal at $115.86 million, for the support account, which was established to allow the Secretariat to plan and deploy peacekeeping operations in a coordinated manner, is a $14.97 million increase, due mainly to changes in standard salary costs and the inclusion of posts for resident auditors.


Yet, said Canada’s representative, some key support requirements remained unfilled, including management-level direction in the information technology framework within the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.  Given the scope of the information technology infrastructure, strong executive leadership was paramount.  Another requirement yet to be filled was a United Nations capacity for addressing the different needs of women and men in conflict and post-conflict situations in the context of peacekeeping operations. 


Also emphasized in today’s discussion was the importance of effective oversight in strengthening the management of the peacekeeping programme.  Several speakers agreed that it was a wise investment, and supported creating several additional posts for the Investigations Division of the Office of Internal Oversight Services and moving to the support account the posts for resident auditors, which had previously been funded under individual peacekeeping mission budgets.


Several speakers welcomed the gender strategy contained in the Secretary-General’s report on the matter, and supported the establishment of a dedicated capacity in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.  The representative of Peru (on behalf of the Rio Group) said that gender mainstreaming would increase women’s participation in peacekeeping activities both at Headquarters and in the field, particularly in leadership positions. She, therefore, supported the recommendation of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) regarding the establishment of a P-4 level gender adviser post within the Department at Headquarters.  The representative of Norway, however, expressed regret that neither the proposed post at a P-5 level nor a General Service position had been recommended by the ACABQ.


Also this morning, the Committee took up several reports related to the salary of the Secretary-General and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator, as well as compensation and conditions of service of other than Secretariat officials of the United Nations.  The United States’ representative questioned why the proposal to adjust the salaries of senior International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) officials and the Chairman of the ACABQ was linked to the salaries of Assistant Secretary-General and Under-Secretary-General.  Over the years, he said, it had been understood that conditions of service of those officials were separate and distinct from those of the Secretariat.


Numerous reports before the Committee were introduced by:  the United Nations Controller, Jean-Pierre Halbwachs; Chairman of the ACABQ, Conrad S.M. Mselle; Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services, Dileep Nair; and Director of the Specialist Services Division, Jan Beagle.


The Committee will continue its consideration of the reports, introduced today, at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 13 May.


Background


The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning was expected to take up various administrative and budgetary aspects of United Nations peacekeeping operations, including the role of resident investigators, gender mainstreaming, and provision of death and disability benefits.


The Committee had before it several reports related to the financing of the support account, which was established in the last decade in order to allow the Secretariat to plan and deploy peacekeeping operations in a coordinated manner.  It is financed through assessments on all active missions, according to their size, as is the United Nations Logistics Base (UNLB) at Brindisi, Italy.


At $115.86 million, the 2003/2004 budget proposal for the support

account (document A/57/732) largely maintains the 2002/2003 resource level of $100.9 million, as the 14.8 per cent increase ($14.97 million) is due mainly to changes in standard salary costs ($4.5 million) and the inclusion of posts for resident auditors ($3.8 million), which had previously been funded under individual peacekeeping mission budgets.  Other factors contributing to the increase in the level of resources for the support account include proposals for the establishment of a regional investigator capacity in Nairobi and Vienna ($1.9 million), additional posts at Headquarters to augment the guidance and support provided to peacekeeping missions ($2.3 million), and the upgrading of information and communication technology support ($1.6 million).


While a direct link between the size and complexity of peacekeeping operations and the level of the support account is difficult to establish, the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) in its report (document A/57/776) states that the overall level of financing of the support account and of the Logistics Base at Brindisi, Italy, is still a matter of concern.  The ACABQ is of the opinion that if the decrease in peacekeeping operations were to continue, it would be difficult, during the next period, to justify the current levels of the support account and the UNLB.


At a time when the Organization is investing increasing resources in communications and information technology, as well as in training for peacekeeping activities and support, the ACABQ expects that consequent greater efficiency and productivity, combined with decreases in peacekeeping operations, should lead to lower demands for staff and non-staff resources, including travel costs for the support account.  Under the circumstances, the ACABQ sees no justification for requesting resources for electronic data-processing services that are far in excess of what was estimated for 2002/2003.


The Advisory Committee recommends, therefore, that the request for services be reduced by $800,000, to $2 million.  For training, the Advisory Committee recommends approval of an amount of $1.5 million -- a reduction of $253,000.  The resources for official travel would be reduced from $841,500 to $522,500.  For information technology, communications and facilities and infrastructure should also be adjusted downward, to $65,600, $31,400 and $33,000, respectively.  The estimate for consultants, however, should be increased to $329,300, in view of the fact that the Committee was not persuaded by the argument to establish the three additional posts for the availability of full-time military expertise within the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and recommended using expertise on the “as and when required” basis, instead.


The support account resources for the DPKO for 2003/2004 amount to some $77.33 million -- an increase of $4.39 million (6 per cent) over the appropriation of $72.94 million for the current year.  The Advisory Committee was informed that, of the 537 posts currently approved for the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (334 Professional and 203 General Service), as at 24 February 2003 there were 46 vacancies (43 Professional and three General Service).  The ACABQ believes that the delay in filling the D-2 post for the Director of Management in the Office of the Under-Secretary-General and the D-2 post in the Office of Mission Support is unacceptable, and points to the continuing problem of unnecessary delays in the recruitment and placement of personnel.


The Advisory Committee recommends approval of the proposal to transfer the 27 resident auditor posts for consolidation and funding under the support account for 2003/2004.  This recommendation, however, is made on the understanding that whenever a mission’s mandate is terminated, the number of audit posts should be adjusted accordingly.  The Advisory Committee also recommends suspending a request for four new posts for the establishment of an audit capacity at the United Nations Iraq-Kuwait Observation Mission (UNIKOM).


Total ACABQ recommendations for reductions amount to some $4.37 million. Accordingly, the Advisory Committee recommends that the General Assembly approve total requirements of $111.49 million gross for the support account for the period from 1 July 2003 to 30 June 2004.


According to the Secretary-General’s performance report (document A/57/725), the total support account resources approved for the period from 1 July 2001 to 30 June 2002 amounted to some $89.75 million gross, including a total establishment of 687 posts.  The expenditures for the period amounted to $84.34 million gross, resulting in an unencumbered balance of some $5.4 million gross (6 per cent of the resources approved).  The Advisory Committee notes that the unencumbered balance was attributable essentially to the fact that the actual vacancy rate for the reporting period was higher than the budgeted rate.  The related savings amounted to $2.53 million, out of resources of some $70.04 million approved for posts. 


The Advisory Committee was also informed that expenditures for 2002/2003 as at 13 March 2003 totalled $594,859, but it was expected that the balance of the appropriation would be spent.  However, the Committee is not convinced that the balance of $1.16 million can be entirely spent in the remainder of the period ending 30 June 2003.  The ACABQ recommends that the miscellaneous income of $3.13 million for 2001/2002 be applied to the resources required for the period from 1 July 2003 to 30 June 2004 and that the balance of $108.37 million gross be prorated among the individual peacekeeping operation budgets to meet the requirements of the support account for the period from 1 July 2003 to 30 June 2004.


As for the UNLB (documents A/57/671, A/57/670 and Corr.1 and A/57/751), its proposed budget of $23.26 million shows an increase of $8.9 million (62.8 per cent) due to the maintenance and operation of uninterrupted year-round communication network; renovation of premises, supplies for maintenance, refurbishment and repair of equipment for the strategic deployment stocks; and office furniture and equipment for the training facility.


The ACABQ (document A/57/772/Add.9) recommends that the Assembly approve the cost estimates for the Logistics Base in the amount of $22.21 million gross for 2003/2004.  (For a more detailed summary of the report and the explanation of the expanded role of the UNLB, see Press Release GA/AB/3560 of 5 May.) 


Also before the Committee was the Secretary-General’s report on gender mainstreaming in peacekeeping activities (document A/57/731).  It maintains that, for gender mainstreaming in peacekeeping activities to be effective, from the initial stages of negotiating peace agreements to post-conflict reconstruction, it is necessary to have a full-time and securely financed capacity at Headquarters in the DPKO to provide the required support and overall policy guidance.


The report further states that the Department of Peacekeeping Operations has a twofold responsibility for gender mainstreaming:  incorporating gender perspectives into its own work in all phases of peacekeeping operations; and assisting the efforts of the affected population in post-conflict situations to incorporate gender perspectives into work on reconstructing administrative structures, institution-building, combating organized crime, enforcing the rule of law and implementing other post-conflict activities, including nation-building.


In this connection, the Advisory Committee (document A/57/776) recalls that two new posts are proposed to be established under the Peacekeeping Best Practices Unit -- a P-5 post for a senior gender adviser and a related General Service post.  The Advisory Committee was informed that the Professional post would enable the Peacekeeping Department to implement an integrated, coherent gender-mainstreaming programme and relevant activities in peacekeeping missions.


While agreeing that a post should be provided for the gender adviser functions, the ACABQ is not convinced that it needs to be at the P-5 level. Accordingly, it recommends that the post be set at the P-4 level.  Moreover, as there are currently 21 General Service posts in the Office of the Under-Secretary-General, of which two are funded under the regular budget, the Advisory Committee does not recommend the establishment of the additional General Service post. Accordingly, non-staff resources for this Office should be reduced by $9,600.  In making these recommendations, the Committee points out that the role of the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women in gender mainstreaming is still not clear.  The Committee intends to follow up on this issue in the context of its regular budget review.


As for resident investigators, the Committee had before it a report by the Secretary-General (document A/57/494), which identifies the pros and cons of using resident investigators versus regional investigators in addressing allegations of violations of rules and national laws by peacekeepers.  Having analysed the situation, the Secretary-General makes a case for the use of regional investigators via the provision of 12 additional posts for the Investigations Division of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS).


The need for regional or resident investigation capacity is being explained by the surge in the number of reports alleging violations in peacekeeping missions since 2000.  Previously, such investigations had been conducted by the Oversight Office.  One of the ad hoc arrangements that were made to alleviate the impediments to timely investigation of the most serious cases, resident investigators have proven to be a very successful tool over time.  In the light of the view of the Advisory Committee that investigations should be done on a case-by-case basis by investigators based at Headquarters or in regional offices, however, that alternative has been explored, as well.


The Secretary-General concludes that regional investigators, rather than mission-based ones, would be the preferred option, based on geographic proximity and timeliness.  It would also facilitate the management of investigations.  Regional peacekeeping investigators would be placed in Nairobi and either Geneva, where the Office already has a presence, or in Vienna, a location that is convenient to mission areas.  It should be noted, however, that all investigative activity would involve travel of inspectors to various peacekeeping missions, thus, entailing additional costs. 


In its report on peacekeeping financing (document A/57/772, paras. 86-95), the ACABQ expresses concern that the growth in cases in missions may have resulted in part from an increasing number of administrative cases referred by mission management to the OIOS.  The ACABQ believes that it is necessary to further refine the methodology for determining the cases to be investigated by the Office, so that cases related to administrative issues would be resolved in an expeditious manner by the mission management itself.


In related paragraphs of its support account report (document A/57/776), the Advisory Committee recalls that the Investigations Division currently has 27 posts (18 in New York and three each in Geneva, Nairobi and the Tribunals).  Instead of 12 posts requested, the ACABQ recommends approval of four posts (three P-3 and one General Service) for the Nairobi hub.  The Committee expects, however, that they will also be used for investigation work elsewhere, as appropriate.


The Committee also had before it six documents on matters relating to contingent-owned equipment, including reports of the Secretary-General on the implementation of recommendations of the Brahimi Panel on peacekeeping operations (document A/56/732), the processing of claims for equipment contributed and self-sustainment undertaken at peacekeeping missions (document A/C.5/56/44), the reform of the procedure for determining reimbursement to Member States for contingent-owned equipment (document A/56/939), and the practical aspects of various arrangements with troop and equipment providers, including so-called “wet-” and “dry-”- leases and self-sustainment arrangements (document A/57/397). 


Having considered numerous documents on the matter, the Advisory Committee, in its peacekeeping financing report (document A/57/772), requests that in the future, all the issues relating to contingent-owned equipment be dealt with in the overview report.  The Secretariat is strongly urged to ensure that the United Nations has the staff and expertise in the field to manage the contingent-owned equipment system.  While the DPKO is still seized of the matter, the ACABQ insists that further progress needs to be made on this matter.


According to the reports, the new arrangements have simplified the method for determining amounts to be reimbursed and the procedure for processing claims. In view of the Member States’ concerns over timeliness of reimbursement for contingent-owned equipment, steps have been taken to streamline the process. Claims for all missions up to 31 December 2001 have been processed, and claims from January to June 2002 will be processed by the end of June this year.  Pre-deployment visits are now an integral part of the Secretariat’s role in the deployment of troops to missions, and 25 such visits have taken place in the past two years.  Standard operating procedures have been drafted in the areas of claims policy, procedures and processing. 


The Advisory Committee trusts that these measures will improve the timeliness of certification of claims.  It reiterates, however, that there are serious flaws in the management of the new arrangements.  For example, the Board of Auditors in its current report (document A/57/5/Vol.II) highlights persistent problems in the conduct of inspections and the transmittal and processing of verification reports in compliance with the requirements of the Contingent-owned Equipment Manual.


Significant expenditures can arise from delays in the approval and signing of memorandum of understanding (MOU) and status-of-forces agreement, which provide the legal framework governing the relationships between the United Nations and troop-contributing countries in the provision of equipment, service and personnel.  The ACABQ recognizes the need to streamline the process of negotiation and approval of MOU, which currently involves 24 steps, as shown in document A/56/939, annex I.  Also, as of 30 April 2002, a total of 214 MOUs had been signed, of which only eight had been concluded before deployment.  The ACABQ recommends analysing this experience and making suggestions for possible changes at the next meeting of the Working Group on Reimbursement of Contingent-Owned Equipment in February 2004.


According to the report on various lease arrangements (document A/57/397), since the implementation of the new contingent-owned equipment methodology, 298 contingent units have been deployed in 23 peacekeeping operations, of which almost all have been negotiated under the wet-lease arrangements, which determine the cost of major equipment on the basis of standard rates.  The report also addresses the cases where the equipment negotiated in MOU with troop-contributing countries is not the same as what is actually deployed.


In this regard, the ACABQ recognizes the importance of pre-deployment inspections, which improve the content of the MOU, reduce the possibility of variances in equipment and improve claims processing.  Having been informed that the pre-deployment inspections would become mandatory, the Advisory Committee notes that a country that provides troops or equipment for peacekeeping for the first time would be required to receive a visit from a pre-deployment team.


The ACABQ welcomes the steps taken to implement electronic submission of arrival and inspection reports prepared by mission personnel.  The Advisory Committee trusts that a reduction in the frequency of reporting requirements will not affect the quality of reports and consequent certification and payment of reimbursement for contingent-owned equipment claims.  As monthly reporting is too laborious and potentially inefficient, alternative reporting cycles should be suggested to the Working Group on Contingent-Owned Equipment.


With regard to the progress report on the processing of claims for equipment contributed and self-sustainment undertaken at peacekeeping operations (document A/C.5/56/44), the Advisory Committee was informed that the plan to process all claims for major equipment and self-sustainment with a turnaround period of three months from the date of receipt would be implemented in June 2003.  The ACABQ looks forward to the implementation of this plan.  All efforts should be made for early reimbursement of troop costs and amounts held under accounts payable, subject to availability of funds.


On the subject of death and disability benefits, the Committee had before it a note by the Secretary-General (document A/C.5/56/41), in which he questions the need for continued annual reporting on the matter.  According to the document, a new death and disability methodology, which was introduced in 1997, is working well.  The Secretariat has carried out an analysis of claims rejected over the past seven years in order to better administer and improve the processing of claims.  To facilitate that process, the Claims Section was restructured in 2001. Except for the United Nations Peace Forces (UNPF) headquarters, where a cash shortage delayed payment, almost all claims are paid within three months from the date of submission.


While 78 claims were pending as at 31 December 2001, according to the latest annual report (document A/C.5/57/37), during 2002, 82 claims were received, bringing the total number of claims available for processing to 160.  Of these 160 claims, 126 were processed, with 34 pending as at 31 December 2002. Those 34 pending claims include 21 for which documentation from the troop contributor is lacking.  All claims based on the old methodology have been processed.


As he did last year, the Secretary-General reiterates that the Assembly may wish to consider whether there is a continuing need for annual reports. Currently, there is no longer any backlog of claims. The new death and disability methodology is working well, as is well understood by all parties concerned, and the Claims and Information Management Section has been able to process claims in a timely manner.


In this connection, the Advisory Committee (document A/57/772, paras. 137-138), recommends that, in the future, information on death and disability benefits be included in the overview of the general report on peacekeeping.


OIOS Reports


Also before the Committee was a note by the Secretary-General transmitting a report of the OIOS on the results of its audit of policies and procedures for recruiting staff for the Peacekeeping Department (document A/57/224).  Focusing on appointments of professional staff for one year or longer against vacancies in the DPKO in 2001, the audit was conducted from February to April 2002.  Most of the vacancies filled during that time had arisen as a result of new posts authorized on an emergency basis by General Assembly resolution 55/238 in order to implement the recommendations made by the Panel on United Nations Peace Operations.


While the Secretary-General's report on human resources management reform (document A/55/253) had envisaged the shortening of the recruitment time to a maximum period of 120 days, the OIOS review indicated that the average recruitment time frame for filling regular DPKO vacancies was 362 days, and for new vacancies that were authorized on an emergency basis by resolution 55/328, 264 days.  In the opinion of the OIOS, the Office of Human Resources Management (OHRM) needs to take a proactive role in ensuring that vacancies are filled in a timely manner.  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 OHRM had not fully implemented the Oversight Office recommendation concerning the use of numeric scoring methods for evaluating candidates, made in its report on the follow-up audit of the recruitment process (A/55/397).  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 and balanced.


The OIOS made a number of recommendations.  Aside from better monitoring of the recruitment time by the OHRM, the OIOS also recommended that it should ensure that the criteria for evaluating applications are established prior to the issuance of vacancy announcements.  Programme managers should be encouraged to make use of numeric ratings established prior to issuance of vacancy announcements.  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 review the current composition of its staff in terms of geographical distribution and take appropriate steps, with a view to further improving the situation during the next phase of recruitment for additional posts approved by the General Assembly in February 2002.  


Also before the Committee was the Secretary-General’s note concerning the status of recommendations of the OIOS on mission liquidation activities at the United Nations (document A/57/622).  It states that, of the 13 recommendations issued, eight have been fully implemented, three have been adopted but not yet implemented, and one has been withdrawn.  One recommendation, which called upon the DPKO to establish a detailed action plan setting out specific tasks and implementation time frames, has not been adopted.


Currently, six of the seven missions in the process of liquidation have been undergoing liquidation at Headquarters for at least three years.  They include: the United Nations Operation in Mozambique (ONUMOZ); the United Nations Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM); the United Nations Observer Mission in Liberia (UNOMIL); the United Nations Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium (UNTAES); the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR); and the United Nations Peace Forces (UNPF).  The delay has resulted mainly from the absence of systematic planning and monitoring mechanisms, the establishment of which was previously recommended by the OIOS. Additionally, those missions are consuming nearly all of the staff resources the DPKO allocated to liquidation.


In response to the proposal related to the establishment of an effective mechanism to strengthen the implementation of audit recommendations, the Peacekeeping Department states that there is now a focal point within the Finance Management Support Service of the Field Administration and Logistics Division, which monitors the implementation of audit recommendations of oversight bodies on a quarterly basis.


A further recommendation suggested that the Controller should review the current write-off procedures for accounts receivable to ensure that the additional cost and time associated with ineffective collection efforts were avoided in the future.  In response, the Office of Programme Planning, Budget and Accounts acknowledged that it might be important to consider possible changes to the write-off procedures, especially for small amounts, but that the most important aspect should be the adherence to and strengthening of established mechanisms that would preclude the need for such write-offs in the first place.  According to DPKO, write-off cases had already been significantly reduced in closed missions. Additionally, actions had been taken to ensure the recovery of accounts receivable from personnel prior to their departure from the missions. 


The document also notes that, in spite of a recommendation that the DPKO should routinely review the assets and liabilities of liquidating missions before assets are disposed of and liabilities discharged, the Department’s approach, focusing on ad hoc exchanges of correspondence with the field missions, does not constitute a thorough review.


Also before the Committee was the Secretary-General’s note on the report of the OIOS on the procurement of goods and services through letters of assist (document A/57/718).  According to the note, during the period from February to April 2002, the OIOS conducted an audit of the procurement of goods and services by the DPKO through the use of letters of assist.  The main objectives of the audit were to determine the effectiveness of that procurement method and the Department’s compliance with the relevant Financial Regulations and Rules of the United Nations.


The audit showed that the Procurement Division of the Office of Central Support Services had not yet prepared revised guidelines for administering letters of assist, although such guidelines were expected by March 1998.  The Peacekeeping Department had also not drawn up a comprehensive list of goods and services considered to be of a strictly military nature, which are not available through commercial sources.  Additionally, DPKO’s Finance Management and Support Service made payments totalling $11.6 million before the relevant letters of assist were completed and/or signed by the providing Government, in contravention of financial rule 110.22, which requires that payments be based on written contracts. Furthermore, the criteria used by the Department for selecting Governments to provide the required goods and services were unclear.


The Secretary-General’s note documents recommendations made by the OIOS to solve the cited problems and acknowledges that DPKO has accepted them. Nevertheless, in the case of the recommendation for DPKO to ensure that the issuance of letters of assist is based on adequate cost comparisons and analysis of competitive offers obtained from the largest possible number of Member States, it notes DPKO’s response that there were other factors that guided the selection of troop-contributing countries, some of which were beyond the Organization’s control.


Programme Budget for 2002-2003


The first report before the Committee on this agenda item is a report on the conditions of service and compensation for officials, other than Secretariat officials, serving the General Assembly (document A/C.5/57/35).  It outlines changes that would be required in the salaries of the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the International Civil Service Commission (ISCS) and the Chairman of the ACABQ following the Assembly’s decision to revise the salary scale for staff in the Professional and higher categories from 1 January 2003. [By its resolution 57/285, the Assembly decided to approve an increase in the salary scales for certain grades in the Professional and higher categories, with an increase of 6.3 per cent for the D-2 grade and above.]  The compensation for the three senior officials, which was last reviewed in January 2000, is subject to a comprehensive review at least every five years.


To maintain “salary relativity” of 97 per cent with other senior officials, the Secretary-General proposes applying a 6.3 per cent increase to the net compensation of the three officials, the report says.  As of 1 January 2003, the pensionable remuneration of the Chairmen of the ICSC and the ACABQ is $204,446 per annum.  The pensionable remuneration of the ICSC Vice-Chairman is $193.493 per annum.  Should the Assembly decide to increase the salary of the three officials by some 6.3 per cent, the pensionable remuneration of the Chairmen of the ICSC and ACABQ would become $217,326 per annum and that of the Vice-Chairman would become $205,683 per annum, effective 1 January 2003.


Approval of the proposals would require an estimated additional requirement of some $20,800 for the 2002-2003 biennium, the report says.  That amount would represent the full cost of provision for the ACABQ Chairman and the net cost to the United Nations of provisions for the two ICSC officials, which are jointly financed with other organizations of the United Nations system. 


Also to be presented today was an ACABQ report, which focuses on the salary and retirement allowance of the Secretary-General and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator (document A/57/7/Add.25).  The Secretary-General currently receives a gross salary of $269,194.  The UNDP Administrator receives a gross salary of $213, 892.  The Secretary-General and the Administrator also receive representation allowance of $25,000 and $10,000, respectively.  The last comprehensive review of their salary and retirement benefits took place in 1990.  The Secretary-General’s retirement benefit currently amounts to some $129,548.


Following the Assembly’s approval in December 2002 of a 6.3 per cent increase in salaries for staff at the D-2 level and above, if applied to the net remuneration of the Secretary-General and the UNDP Administrator, their net remuneration (base salary plus post adjustment) would be $275,420 and $222,098, respectively.  The Secretary-General’s retirement benefit would increase from $129,548 to $137,710.  The Administrator’s pensionable remuneration would increase from $251,827 to $267,692.  The Advisory Committee recommends that those changes be made effective 1 January 2003.


Since the Administrator’s salary moves in tandem with the salary scale of Professional level staff, including in those cases when a change in the scale results from consolidating post adjustment points into base/floor salary scales, this leads to more frequent changes than was the case before the revised approved methodology, the report says.  To alleviate the need for frequent changes in  annex I of the Staff Regulations, the ACABQ proposes amending the text of the annex by deleting the last sentence in the first paragraph, which currently indicates the exact gross salary figure for the Administrator.  This would avoid recurrent inconsistencies between the amount specified in the text and the amount resulting from the application of the revised methodology.


On the financial implications of the recommendations, the ACABQ notes that the change in the Secretary-General’s gross salary would result in an increase of expenditure of staff assessment under section 32 of the 2002-2003 programme budget of some $18,000.  Should his total net salary be increased, there would be an increase in expenditure of some $16,400 under the 2002-2003 programme budget.   The increase in the maximum retirement allowance for the three former Secretaries-General would result in a total additional cost under section 30, Special expenses, of the 2002-2003 programme budget of some $24,900 at the rate of $8,300 per former Secretary-General for 2003.


By the terms of a draft resolution annexed to the report, the Assembly would concur with the ACABQ’s recommendations concerning the Secretary-General’s salary and retirement allowance.  It would also concur with the Advisory Committee’s recommendation concerning the salary and pensionable remuneration of the UNDP Administrator.  The Assembly would also approve the amendment to annex I of the Staff Regulations with effect from 1 January 2003.


And finally, the Committee had before it a Secretary-General’s report on the conditions of service and compensation for officials other than Secretariat officials, namely, members of the International Court of Justice and judges of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (document A/C.5/57/36). Under the pension scheme regulations applicable to the judges of those bodies, there is no provision that would bar payment of a retirement pension to judges who have previously served in any one of those organs while serving as judges of another one. 


Should the Assembly decide that a person who was formerly a judge either of the International Court of Justice or of the two Tribunals should also cease to receive payment of his or her retirement pension under the applicable set of pension scheme regulations during such time as he or she might subsequently serve as a judge of another of those organs, the Secretary-General proposes that the respective pension scheme regulations of the Court and the two Tribunals be amended to implement such a decision.  Suggested amendments to the respective pension schemes of the three bodies, attached to the report, have been designed to reflect the Assembly’s earlier decisions with regard to former members of the Court and former judges of the Tribunals who might be appointed to serve as ad litem judges in two Tribunals.


Introduction of Reports


The United Nations Controller, JEAN-PIERRE HALBWACHS, introduced the Secretary-General’s reports on the support account, gender mainstreaming, UNLB, strategic deployment stocks, resident investigators, contingent-owned equipment and death and disability benefits.


On gender mainstreaming in peacekeeping operations, he clarified the mandate of the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women. The Office had an advisory and supportive role, with a strong focus on monitoring and reporting on progress made in gender mainstreaming at the global level, but it did not undertake gender-mainstreaming activities in specialized areas of each entity of the United Nations system.  On request, it did provide advice and support, within its resources.  Gender focal points had been appointed in many parts of the Secretariat.  Those designated staff members were expected to carry out their work in support of gender mainstreaming in various departments and offices over and above their other areas of responsibility. 


He added that the need for a dedicated gender advisory capacity within the DPKO was justified by the fact that unlike other substantive functions performed in peacekeeping operations, gender advisers in field missions currently had no Headquarters point of contact.  A senior gender adviser in the Peacekeeping Best Practices Unit in the immediate office of the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations would be in a position to ensure that gender perspectives were reflected in all phases and all aspects of the Department’s work.


Regarding the OIOS requirements, he said that the resources for posts related to 43 continuing and 22 new posts.  The 43 continuing posts included 27 posts for resident auditors and auditing assistants currently approved under the relevant peacekeeping operation budgets, to be consolidated under the support account.  In that connection, three posts (one P-3 in the United Nations Mission of Support for East Timor (UNMISET), and one P-4 and one General Service in the United Nations Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNMIBH)) had been abolished as a result of the drawdown of UNMISET and the closing of UNMIBH.  The Executive Office currently had no posts funded from the support account, and that anomaly had to be rectified.  Also, in connection with the inclusion of the 27 resident auditors posts under OIOS, it was necessary to provide for their administration.  Three posts (one P-3 and two General Service) were proposed for the Executive Office to administer the human and financial resources funded through the support account for peacekeeping operations.


He went on to say that, in his report, the Secretary-General had explained the need to establish a regional investigative capacity, and 12 posts (two P-5, four P-4, four P-3 and two General Service) were proposed to establish a regional investigative capacity of the OIOS in Nairobi and Vienna covering peacekeeping missions in Africa and South-East Asia, on the one hand, and in Europe and the Middle East, on the other.


Among the posts proposed for the staffing of the Department of Management, he mentioned the posts of a legal adviser (P-4) and an assistant (General Service) to advise the Under-Secretary-General, to ensure the clearance of continuing backlogs in respect of recommendations made by the Joint Appeals Board, the Joint Disciplinary Committee, and the United Nations Administrative Tribunal in relation to mission staff, to ensure the implementation of the Secretary-General’s decisions on appeals and disciplinary cases and to update the Electronic Case and Jurisprudence Digest of Judgements of the Administrative Tribunal.  The addition of those two posts would also prevent situations in which financial compensation was awarded by the Tribunal because of delays in the disposition of cases by the Organization.


Regarding the implementation of the newly introduced strategic deployment stocks, he presented the report of the Secretary-General (document A/57/751), according to which the General Assembly had recently approved $141.5 million to meet requirements related to implementation of that concept, which was intended to provide for the Organization’s ability to quickly deploy traditional and complex missions.  The Peacekeeping Department had developed a detailed project plan for the phased establishment of those critical stocks at the UNLB at Brindisi, Italy.  So far, one of the initial phases of the plan had been met, with sufficient strategic deployment stocks assets positioned at the Logistics Base to rapidly deploy a headquarters for a traditional peacekeeping mission.


In January of this year, a pilot exercise in rapid deployment at UNLB had been undertaken with the participation of staff from existing peacekeeping operations, he continued, as well as from Headquarters.  The current strategic deployment stocks holdings at UNLB exceed $32.5 million in value.  The approved resources were expected to be fully utilized.  Detailed specifications for some complex equipment in areas such as communications were now being finalized and would be purchased in the coming months.  Every effort was being made to complete the procurement process for the strategic deployment stocks within the current financial period.


However, since it had taken longer than foreseen to find the contractors needed to furnish the three new warehouses at UNLB ($3 million) and to select vendors for the humidity-controlled shelters required for storing some 300 vehicles (another $3 million), the report proposed that the validity period in respect of the resources approved by the General Assembly in its resolution 56/292 be extended to 30 June 2004.


Among the main issues related to reimbursement of States for contingent-owned equipment, he pointed out the absence of a standard reimbursement rate for a particular size of equipment, as well as variances in standards for self-sustainment of troops.  Another issue that the Secretariat consistently faced concerned the categorization of major equipment.  The Secretariat was now compiling data on various major equipment issues and their frequency, with the intention of further analysing them and proposing solutions to modify future contingent-owned equipment methodology.  Also considered by the Secretariat were various options for self-sustainment arrangements in preparation of a position paper for the meetings of the Working Group on Reimbursement of Contingent-Owned Equipment in 2004.


Related ACABQ reports were introduced by the Chairman of the Advisory Committee, Conrad S.M. Mselle.  Regarding regrets expressed by the delegates at the opening of the second resumed session on the late publication of the ACABQ reports, he said that as of 5 May all the reports approved by the Advisory Committee had been published.  Twelve reports were sent between 2 and 8 April for processing, which was completed between 23 April and 1 May. 


Statements


DIMITRIOS ZEVALKIS (Greece),on behalf of the European Union, asked that a copy of the comprehensive statements made, especially by the United Nations Controller, be made available to the Committee.


MARIA ARCE DE GABAY (Peru), on behalf of the Rio Group, said no two peacekeeping operations were the same and any action to ensure peace and reconstruction must be studied prior to implementation.  Also, the consequences of armed conflict varied according to the society.  In that regard, when defining the concepts of an operation, it was necessary to understand the different repercussions on women and men.  Incorporating a gender perspective in peacekeeping activities was important for planning and evaluating the participation of men and women, and would also highlight the significant contribution of women in peace processes. 


Gender mainstreaming would increase women’s participation in the peacekeeping activities in both Headquarters and in the field, particularly in leadership positions, she said.  The Rio Group, therefore, supported the Secretary-General’s report on gender mainstreaming and recognized the Advisory Committee’s recommendation regarding the establishment of a P-4 level gender adviser post within DPKO at Headquarters.


PETER HAMMERSCHMIDT (Canada), also speaking on behalf of Australia and New Zealand, said the level of peacekeeping arrears remained high and was a source of concern.  He urged all Member States to pay their assessments on time, in full and without condition.  The period of the major strengthening of the Peacekeeping Department and other support account functions was drawing to a close.  With the major capacity-building stage nearly over, it was now important to focus on improving the management of the overall peacekeeping programme and the resources provided to it.


The resources requested by the Secretariat last May were meant to establish a support-account capacity robust enough to effectively backstop peacekeeping operations, he continued.  With a few exceptions, that capacity now existed and a new baseline had been set.  He expected the general level of the support account to roughly mirror the operational tempo of United Nations peacekeeping.


Some key support requirements remained unfilled, however, including management-level direction of DPKO’s information technology framework, he said.  Given the scope of the information technology infrastructure and the volume of projects under implementation, strong executive leadership was paramount.  The impact of effective leadership in that area would not be limited to field communications, but would also improve recruitment, logistics and budgeting activities in New York.  He welcomed more specific information on how DPKO’s information technologies activities fit within the United Nations information technology strategy.


Another requirement yet to be filled was a United Nations capacity for addressing the different needs of women and men in conflict and post-conflict situations in the context of peacekeeping operations, he said.  The case for a Headquarters-based capacity to support gender mainstreaming in peacekeeping activities in the field had been made more solidly than ever this year.  He welcomed the gender strategy contained in the Secretary-General’s report and strongly supported the establishment of a dedicated capacity in the DPKO. 


Effective oversight, which helped to strengthen the management of the overall peacekeeping programme, was a wise investment in protecting the even larger investment Member States made in assessed contributions to peacekeeping missions.  He supported moving the OIOS peacekeeping oversight resources to the support account, as it should improve the transparency and administration of those resources.  During the session, he saw real opportunities to improve financial flexibility, streamline administration and to clean up the books.  In that regard, three items had to be considered.  The issue of consolidating the peacekeeping accounts was of particular interest.  The potential benefit in switching to such a system was significant and the Committee should seriously consider the issue. 


Also, he added, given the establishment of the strategic deployment stocks and pre-mandate commitment authority, the purpose and level of the Peacekeeping Reserve Fund had to be reviewed.  If some or all monies were no longer in the Reserve Fund, they should be returned to Member States.  The United Nations must redouble its efforts to close mission accounts and return unneeded funds to Member States.  Special attention must be given to improving the liquidation and claims reimbursement process once missions closed.  He fully supported the Board of Auditors’ recommendations on the matter. 


Finally, he commended the Secretariat’s continuing work to bring peacekeeping activities into a results-based framework.  He looked forward to seeing future budgets demonstrate stronger links between resources, expected accomplishments and outputs.  He also looked forward to seeing the combination of budget and performance reports.


ARNE B. HONNINGSTAD (Norway) said maintenance of peace and security was a core United Nations task.  Norway remained committed to United Nations peacekeeping.  He welcomed the Secretary-General’s report on the overview of the administrative and financial aspects of peacekeeping operations.  The report provided background for an assessment of past budget performance, as well as for future budget proposals.  It also ensured transparency and provided a better basis for future planning.


Regarding the support account, he said adequate resources at Headquarters were vital for proper planning and implementation of peacekeeping operations.  The Secretariat’s efforts to maximize the use of scare resources were important in that regard.  One remaining hurdle was the problem of delays in the recruitment and placement of DPKO personnel.  Norway attached great importance to the existence of a coherent policy on gender mainstreaming in all United Nations peacekeeping activities.  For gender mainstreaming to be effective, a full-time capacity at Headquarters in the Peacekeeping Department to provide overall policy guidance was necessary.


In the Secretary-General’s report, he had indicated that two additional posts would be sought for DPKO’s Best Practices Unit, he said.  Norway had been actively engaged in contributing to the establishment of a gender focal point within the Unit.  He welcomed, therefore, the ACABQ’s support for the establishment of such a position.  He regretted, however, that the Advisory Committee was not convinced of the need for the post to be at the P-5 level, or that a General Service-level post was needed.  High seniority was an important means of attracting top qualified candidates, as well as a way of signalling the priority attached to the issue.  To ensure that gender perspectives were identified and acted on, he asked the Committee to recommend a P-5 level post.


He said the Brindisi Base with the strategic deployment stocks played a crucial role for increasing the rapid deployment capacity of peacekeeping operations.  He concurred with the ACABQ that the report on the implementation of the strategic deployment stocks should be consolidated with the report on the budget and performance of the Logistics Base.


THOMAS A. REPASCH (United States) said that his delegation attached particular importance to the issue of oversight, particularly in the field, where risks for fraud and mismanagement were higher.  Over the years, very good results had been achieved in that respect.  In particular, OIOS recommendations on mission subsistence allowance had resulted in millions in savings for the United Nations.  Another example of the value of effective oversight in peacekeeping missions was the investigation in travel fraud in Bosnia and Herzegovina.


Regarding the proposal to establish a regional audit hub in UNIKOM, for which four posts had been requested, he had noticed that the ACABQ had come to a conclusion that, in view of the current circumstances, the request should be suspended.  It seemed that the need for audit capacity in that region remained, however, and he hoped that some alternatives could be pursued to ensure that audit capacity was in place there.


As for the proposal to create a regional investigation hub in Kenya, he continued, the ACABQ seemed to approve the recommendation, but did not recommend in favour of all of the proposed posts.  The ACABQ expected that those posts would be used for investigations somewhere else, as appropriate.  It seemed, however, that the request had been made to cover the needs in Africa, and he wanted to know how the investigators could be expected to travel the world investigating elsewhere.


Turning to the request for several administrative posts in the OIOS Executive Office, as a result of transferring auditor resources to the support account, the ACABQ had recommended approval of two posts out of three proposed, he said.  The audit posts proposed for transfer were all existing posts, however, and he was curious why additional resources were needed to provide for them.   The Advisory Committee had also come to the conclusion that the proposal to establish a hub in Vienna was not fully justified.  He wanted to know what effect the Advisory Committee’s recommendations would have on general oversight functions within the support account.  So far, sufficient resources had not been always provided for investigating cases in peacekeeping missions.  Only recently, he had been informed that several allegations of sexual exploitation in peacekeeping missions had not been investigated due to the lack of resources.  Why then was the proposal for additional resources unjustified?


Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services DILEEP NAIR introduced that body’s report on the follow-up review of the status of its recommendations on mission activities at the United Nations.  The objective of the review was to confirm whether DPKO and the Office of Programme Planning, Budget and Accounts had completed the implementation of OIOS audit recommendations since the initial update transmitted to the Assembly by the Secretary-General in April 2002.  For six out of seven missions currently in the process of liquidation, liquidation activities had been going on at Headquarters for at least three years.


Although DPKO had reported that it had completed the liquidation of one mission, OIOS had noted that Headquarters Property Survey Board cases valued at some $806,000 pertaining to that mission had not been properly resolved, he said.  As a result of the review, OIOS had closed nine of the original 13 audit recommendations and had reiterated four of the recommendations, three of which had been accepted by DPKO.  The Department had not, however, accepted the audit recommendation calling for a detailed liquidation plan setting out specific tasks and implementation time frames.  The Oversight Office was currently collaborating with DPKO on the establishment of a recommendations monitoring system, which would greatly facilitate DPKO’s monitoring of OIOS recommendations.


Introducing the OIOS report on the procurement of goods and services through letters of assist, he said the report summarized the results of an OIOS audit that reviewed a sample of 35 letters of assist issued by DPKO during 2000-2001 with a total value of $71 million.  The Oversight Office had made eight recommendations as a result of the audit, all of which had been accepted.  The Peacekeeping Department was establishing an interdepartmental working group to study current letters of assist procedures and implement revisions.  The working group would develop revised letters of assist guidelines, which would meet the needs of troop-contributing countries, field missions and DPKO, and incorporate OIOS recommendations.


Mr. MSELLE, Chairman of the Advisory Committee, introduced the report of that body on the salary and retirement allowance of the Secretary-General and salary and pensionable remuneration of the UNDP Administrator.  The ACABQ had provided in its report a draft resolution for that purpose.  The same procedure had been followed in the past regarding the Secretary-General’s salary, as well as that of the UNDP Administrator. 


Regarding the conditions of service and compensation on members of the International Court of Justice, and the Yugoslavia and Rwanda Tribunals, he said the Advisory Board had recommended that the Assembly approve the amendments to article 1 of the pension scheme regulations of the three bodies, as set out in the Secretary-General’s report on the matter (document A/C.5/57/36) in annex 1, paragraph 7; annex 2, paragraph 5; and annex 3, paragraph 5.


JAN BEAGLE, Director of Specialist Services Division, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on compensation for members of the International Civil Service Commission and the ACABQ Chairman.  She said that the last review had been carried out in 1990 and, as such, there was no relevant precedent.  As the next review would not take place until 2005, a significant lag would result between the salaries of those officials and Secretariat officials, unless the matter was addressed.


She also introduced the Secretary-General’s report on compensation for members of the International Court of Justice, and the Rwanda and former Yugoslavia Tribunals. 


Mr. REPASCH (United States) said that he would limit his comments to the report on the Chairman of the ACABQ and full-time members of the ICSC (document A/C.5/57/35).  He asked if the Secretariat could provide the Committee with the mandate for the report.  As for the proposal to adjust the salaries of those officials, following the Assembly’s decision to revise the salary scale for staff in the Professional and higher categories from 1 January 2003, he wondered why it was linked to the salaries of Assistant Secretary-General and Under-Secretary-General.  Over the years, it had been understood that conditions of service of those officials were separate and distinct from those of the Secretariat officials.


JERRY KRAMER (Canada) asked if there was a clear statutory basis for the proposed changes in the salary of those officials.  He also understood the concept of adjusting the annual net compensation of the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the ICSC and Chairman of the ACABQ in January each year by 90 per cent of the movement in the consumer price index for New York, provided that it had increased by at least 5 per cent.  The intention for such adjustment was that, over time, there would be a progressive lag in the relative rates of compensation, which could be addressed during the review.  To what extent was that concept reflected in the proposal?  Also, when comparing the salaries of other than Secretariat officials with senior Secretariat officials, what was the basis for it being at the level of Under- or Assistant Secretary-General?


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